RYAN AND KARA’S JEM OF ADAY
Royals star makes welcome return
AN EXCRUCIATING 570 days after popular captain Jem Karacan made his last Reading start, he returned last Saturday to lead the team out proudly wearing his armband.
Yet the fanfare that day was instead saved for 14-year-old Royals fan turned kit designer Ryan Duval, and Karacan insists there is no-one he would rather have shared the spotlight with.
Ryan has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which restricts his movement and requires him to use a wheelchair.
Teachers at his school challenged the teenager to design a new shirt for his beloved Reading in order to keep him motivated.
The result caught Karacan’s eye on his visit to the school and the 26-year-old midfielder suggested they try and bring Duval’s dream to life.
After attaining approval from the Football League and regular kit manufacturers Puma, Reading sported Duval’s design for last weekend’s goalless draw against Blackburn.
It meant the 73 minutes Karacan was able to complete after his own personal struggle against a knee injury perhaps went under the radar, but the former Turkey U21 international was not complaining.
“It was an amazing day,” he said. “A few of us went to meet Ryan a few months ago and his story really touched us.
“We saw he had designed a kit and so we sought the backing of the Football League and Puma to wear it for one game. I think it shows what a great caring community club Reading are.”
Karacan’s lengthy absence from the Reading team on occasion reduced him to tears.
While the club progressed to yesterday’s FA Cup semi-final with Arsenal at Wembley and battled gamely against the drop, Karacan was left stranded back in the gym or in the treatment room.
His mood got so low at times he admits he is indebted to the unwavering support shown by his family and girlfriend Laura to help him through.
He also sought help from a sports psychologist on the advice of former boss Nigel Adkins and admits when the ex-Southampton manager was replaced at the helm by Steve Clarke he was apprehensive, particularly knowing his contract is set to expire in the summer and the new gaffer had not seen him play.
Clarke, though, immediately put Karacan’s mind at ease, and he is expected to sign on at the Madejski before the end of the month.
“Steve Clarke came in and on his first day at the club he called me in for a chat and he said ‘I know what you can do, you
don’t need to worry’,” Kara- can added. “He was keen for me not to rush back and risk any more setbacks. He’s been absolutely brilliant with me.
“I had doubts. Nigel Adkins made me club captain and helped me massively. I was disappointed to see him go.
“He was the one who suggested I spoke to a couple of people while I was injured and it did really help me.
“I spoke to a sports psychologist after I had my first setback coming back into training. It’s so hard to take, you’re just watching the boys, you can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.
“I started to take my problems home, which is not fair, but when you have played football most of your life it is so frustrating. I am very fortunate that I have got a very close family and supportive girlfriend.
“Now I’m back and determined to have a good end to the season.”
ROYAL OCCASION: Reading skipper Jem Karacan leads the team out against Blackburn last week alongside fan Ryan Duval. Inset: Unfortunately the match failed to catch light and finished goalless
AGONY: Karacan was injured against Leeds in September 2013