On Saturday 11th April against Blackburn Rovers, Reading’s first team will wear a special one-off shirt, designed and inspired by a 14-year-old Reading fan named Ryan Duval, who attends The Avenue School Special Needs Academy in Tilehurst.
This game will be the culmination of a very special community project, and the club are delighted to be able to give this opportunity to a very special Reading supporter.
Ryan will be the team’s mascot on the day and, to mark such a proud occasion – and to give Steve Clarke’s side a special send-off seven days before our FA Cup semi-final at Wembley – ticket prices for this fixture have been reduced to just £10 for adults and £5 for concessions.
Ryan’s very special kit design matches that of his school’s colours – please take a moment to read the full story of how #RyansRoyals came to fruition…
Ryan Duval is 14 years old and is a pupil at The Avenue School, a Special Needs Academy based in Tilehurst, Reading.
Ryan has been diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative condition which means he has relied upon the use of an electric wheelchair to go about all his daily activities for a number of years.
He finds it increasingly difficult to physically cope with the condition and maintain control over a range of movements which so many of us simply take for granted.
And, with Ryan finding it difficult to access the regular school curriculum and set personal educational targets, The Avenue School helped him lay out a series of goals that would help motivate Ryan, build on his interests and enrich his life. They wanted Ryan to work on projects that would allow him to create a legacy.
Ryan is also a Royal! Football mad and a massive Reading fan, he attends as many matches with his dad as possible and is rarely seen without a blue and white scarf around his neck or the crest on his chest.
So the project he explained he would like to embark on was designing a new football strip. This is where #RyansRoyals began…
When first team stars Jem Karacan, Simon Cox and Anton Ferdinand visited The Avenue School to see a special memorial the pupils had made to commemorate the centenary of the World War I as part of the Football Remembers initiative back in December, Ryan made a very big impression.
The lads then personally invited Ryan, his family and his schoolmates to our home game against Bolton that month, the club’s designated ‘Football Remembers’ fixture, and Jem and Anton came to say hello to him in the stands before kick-off.
Inspired by his story, his character and bravery, and impressed by the kit design that Ryan had drawn up for his school project, club captain Karacan suggested the club could look into turning his drawings into t-shirts for the first team to wear in his honour.
The club got to work and soon wheels were in motion. First team kit suppliers Puma heard about the concept and upon seeing Ryan’s artwork, they began to design some professional visuals of how the kit might look as a first team strip.
A special video message from the skipper then invited Ryan and his teachers to Madejski Stadium to meet the team from Puma, who having used his drawings to put together kit design boards, proceeded to show the young supporter how they turn shirt designs like his into real life kit for football teams across the country.
Little did Ryan know, but all this time plans were being finalised for his kit design to be made for the first team to wear in a Sky Bet Championship fixture this season.
On Thursday 12th March, all was revealed to Ryan and his classmates. Jem was announced as a surprise guest at the school’s assembly and he personally told Ryan that on Saturday 11th April, when his Reading team face Blackburn Rovers at home, the players would be wearing a one-off specially designed kit. His kit.
The shirt itself is in Royal blue and is based on the emblem of The Avenue School, featuring trees back and front that look not dissimilar to the Elm trees that formed a key part of the club’s previous crest.
Bearing the Reading badge on the front and The Avenue’s emblem on the back, the blue shirts will be accompanied by white shorts and blue socks, embodying a single hoop as a strip – and the club intend to auction the match-worn shirts after the Blackburn match with all proceeds helping to financially support the incredible work that goes on at The Avenue School.
This is a community project we are proud to have been a part of. From its embryonic stages, #RyansRoyals has been an enriching project to be involved in for both the players and staff of Reading Football Club.
Our huge thanks must go to our partners PUMA and Waitrose, as well as Sky Sports who have followed the story from start to finish, and the exceptional staff at The Avenue School who continue to provide an inspirational environment for boys and girls aged between 2-19 years with a range of complex special educational needs. Without their help, this project simply would not have been possible.
We would also like to mention our supporters’ trust STAR, who have helped us from day one and provided great backing for the initiative on our supporters’ behalf.
And of course our thanks also go to Ryan. The aim was for this young man to create a legacy and we believe, when the team walk out onto the Madejski Stadium turf led by him and sporting the specially-designed strip in three weeks’ time, #RyansRoyals will be that legacy.