Earlier this week, Ben Waite took some time to sit down with Reading starlet Emma Harries to discuss a remarkable year for the 19-year-old striker.
‘Rewind a year, If I had said to you that this time next year, you would have played 20 times for the Reading first team, scored a goal, signed a professional contract at your childhood club and become one of the league’s brightest youngsters, what would you have said?’
“I wouldn’t have believed you,” Harries told Her Football Hub.
But that’s exactly what has happened in a whirlwind first senior season for Reading striker Emma Harries.
As an 18-year-old, Harries made her debut for the Royals in October 2020 as an 80th minute substitute for Amalie Eikeland in a 1-0 victory at West Ham and has pushed on ever since.
“When Kelly [Chambers] called me to get ready, I was so nervous, I never expected to play a part.”
Six games later, in mid-December, Harries lined up for her first senior start, against a then top of the table Manchester United. A game that would ultimately welcome her name to the world of women’s football.
“The debut at West Ham just gave me motivation to kick on. I’d played for my childhood team, the club I’d grown up with and I wanted more.
“Going from a few minutes at the end of games to a full 90 was a massive step-up and huge opportunity.”
Reading’s No.36 stepped up though. She caused experienced defenders trouble all match with her physical style, in a game the Royals were unlucky to lose.
The Kelly Chambers effect
If you listen to a commentator for a Reading game this season, one phrase will undoubtedly be repeated: ‘She’s been with the club since the age of 8’.
Harries has been with her childhood club since then. Therefore, it is a phrase that has a lot of meaning and helps her still to this day.
“The RTC pathway at Reading is amazing. The facilities, coaches, squad and development are all fantastic,” she said.
“At Reading, players come through the academy with the ideology that they will all play for the first team one day, this philosophy bleeds throughout the academy and whole club.”
Ultimately, one name is always mentioned: Kelly Chambers.
The current Reading manager has been at the club since 2007, the whole duration of Harries’ Royals career.
“Kelly has been brilliant, she’s well prepared and is critical of the young players, this encourages and allows us to develop.
“For me, everything is about listening and learning from her, her coaches and the experienced players around the club. Everyone respects Kelly.”
A whirlwind tale
On the 8th of March, live in front of the BT Sport cameras, Harries fulfilled a dream of every young footballer and Reading FC fan as she scored her first goal for the club.
“I was overjoyed when I scored at Bristol City. It capped a dream season. I had scored for Reading. It was such a proud moment for myself and my family.
“It was in that moment where I felt I had made my family so proud. I owe so much to them for what they have done over my early years.”
Across the past year, a process of change took place for Harries with her aspirations having drastically changed.
“I’m now happy to learn, learn, learn. I have the opportunity to work with some of the world’s best players. Fara [Williams] has been fantastic. I can’t speak highly enough of her off the pitch.
“I grew up watching the likes of Fara as a Reading fan in the stands, I grew up watching Fran Kirby here at Reading. Now I get to work with and face these players as a professional myself.
“I made it my goal as a youngster to watch as much football as I could, the likes of Katie Chapman and Rachel Yankey. It was and still is an obsession of mine to be the best.”
A season without fans
As a player, Harries describes herself as a hardworking, passionate striker with a powerful and fast approach in front of goal. However, fans have not yet been able to witness this with their own physical eyes.
It’s been an odd season to say the least. Harries is yet to play a senior game with a full set of fans. She made her full debut in one of the trial games but is yet to properly experience meeting the supporters.
“It’s a process of adaptation, we moved to the Madejski for the fans but it’s not been that unfortunately.
“We use the fans to give us that drive off the pitch, we want to make the stadium a fortress going forward.”
Harries urged Reading FC fans to come together to support the club as the game develops further.
“We all play for Reading Football Club, we’re one club with the same badge, same kit, same facilities and hopefully the same fans!
“It’s an opportunity to set a precedent for the game and sport going forward. Get behind us, drive us, support us.”
Ambition is key
In January, Harries signed her first professional contract with Reading. That keeps her with the Berkshire side until the summer of 2023.
The 19-year-old will look to push on to make her name in the game and has high ambitions.
“I want to start as many games as I can, I want more goals, I want to showcase what I can do and ultimately use this to help Reading.
“I want to become a senior Lioness, I want to challenge for the WSL goal record. Why not aim as high as possible?”
With time well on her side, Harries continues to aim for the stars. Yet, she still understands it’s a matter of listening, learning developing and taking her chance when it comes.
“I still pinch myself when training and facing the best players in the world. I give the staff here at Reading the upmost credit. Without them and my family, I would not be here today. I am extremely privileged to have the opportunity.”