Roy­als star makes wel­come re­turn

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Joshua Richards

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.”

PIC­TURES: Pin­na­cle

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

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