“Dear Danny Loader,
It’s been a long journey. Twenty-two years together. It was great and you were an incredible player to work with.
It all started in June 2016 when I became a new manager of Reading FC. I promoted you immediately from the U18s to the First Team despite you were only 15 years old.
One of the reasons why I started a save with Reading FC in FM17 was to play with young players who were in the club at the start of the game. Jordan Obita, Dominic Samuel, Liam Kelly, Jake Cooper and you – Danny Loader.
Your friends and teammates from the Under 18 squad stayed in the youth team and were released after some time. But you worked hard in the first team, I gave you a lot of time for developing and you played for Under 23s team and you scored a lot of goals. Just for fun.
You broke the Reading record for the youngest player to score in a match, at the age of 17 years and 22 days.
You were wanted by several Premier League clubs and you started the third season as our striker #4. We played with 4-3-1-2 and you were trained for Poacher role. You made great progress with some attributes, for example Off the Ball (8 to 11), First Touch (8 to 11), Acceleration (13 to 16) or Decision (7 to 10).
During the third season, you were outshined by Rob Harker surprisingly. Dominic Samuel was the number one and Harker became the number two during the season as he scored 16 goals in 22 matches (Harker was released in June 2021 after unsuccessful loan spells in Coventry and Newport County in previous two seasons).
You played just three matches in the starting XI in the Championship, scored two goals and made one assist. Despite a “bad” season, you went to FIFA World Cup U-20 with England and with 11 goals in six matches you became the best goalscorer of the tournament and England won it.
When we were promoted to the Premier League in the third season it was only the beginning. Dominic Samuel was injured during the pre-season before our first season back in the top-flight and I decided to make you our striker number one. And you delivered.
You played in 35 Premier League matches and scored 16 goals. You were voted Youth Player of the Month four times during this season. And you also signed a new contract until 2024.
We finished sixth in our first season back in the Premier League and the next season you were even better – 41 goals and 20 assists in 54 matches. We won the first Premier League title in this season (2020/2021) as well. You were still only 20 years old…
You were that good I had to write a short study about your development for my friends…
Two years later we won the Champions League for the first time in club history. It was our 1st Champions League trophy, the 1st of 12 in a row. It lasts three years when we won Premier League title again. And you helped the team to win it with 23 league goals and 13 assists in 30 matches.
The next season (2024/2025) was absolutely incredible. You made 60 appearances, scored 45 goals (34 in 37 Premier League appearances) and made also 25 assists. Before this season you were unhappy and you wanted to leave the club.
It was for the first and also for the last time you wanted to leave. It was because I refused to give you a wage around £200k p/w.
After this season I gave you £300k p/w even though you didn’t want this much…
As time went you became more and more popular thanks to your performances. My friends were interested only about your stats and your goals and the rest of the team was not important. When you were injured we all were sad and we just wanted to have you back in the lineup.
You, Liam Kelly, Josh Barret and Dominic Samuel. You all were absolutely perfect attacking players I could have in the squad. You were unstoppable.
As you were older, the 2030/2031 season was very bad. You were injured for a long period and you scored “only” 18 goals in 38 matches. In 2033/2034 season it was even worse. Only 13 goals in 39 matches and many injuries left you outside of the pitch.
During the 2034/2035 season, you turned 34 years old. I was afraid you will want to retire from professional football. After some tactical experiments and as you were not able to play as Complete Forward anymore I decided to create a new tactic just for you.
I decided to play you in Advanced Forward role, your favourite one. And you were like a ten years young version of yourself. You were everywhere despite you were not fast enough but you were able to score from every position. When we finally settled with the new formation you scored 12 goals in six matches and I was sure you were back.
In July 2034 you signed a new two-year deal with the club with a possible one-year extension but I was more and more prepared for that message: ‘Long-serving striker Danny Loader has decided to retire from professional football.’
Before the 2034/2035 season, Josh Barrett and Luke Southwood retired, same as defender Joshua Emmanuel who was in the club for a very long time.
And you were the last player from the original squad in the team. A lot of young players as we had to start a build a new team around you, some experienced players and youngsters.
We won fourth Premier League title in a row but our Champions League run ended after 12 wins in a row. And you became the club best goalscorer of the season like many times before…
It looked like you will retire when you were 34 years old but despite some other injuries and lack of playing time you decided to continue. We won some trophies between 2034 – 2037 and you decided to play another season meanwhile you also decided you will probably become a scout when you’ll retire.
Before the 2036/2037 season, we had a chat, you wanted to go for a new challenge but I refused to let you go.
I was selfish and I added to your contract a “One-Year Extension After League Matches”. You played a minimum of five matches in all previous seasons so your contract was extended every time and we reached the agreement you will play as a central midfielder.
It resulted in this goal for example…
Danny Loader’s goal against Liverpool (3/10/2037)
You also became our captain for this season as I thought it will be your last one…
…9th November 2037 was the date. I came to the office early morning and you came in before a training session and told me you will retire at the end of the season.
We secured the Premier League title two matches before the end of the 2037/2038 season after a 2-0 win over QPR. We beat also Derby 2-0 and in the last league match of the season, we played away in Southampton. You scored in the 37th minute to give a lead but the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
It was your last Premier League goal. It was your 323rd Premier League goal in your career.
The last two matches of this season and your career as well were against Chelsea in the FA Cup Final and against Barcelona in the Champions League Final. We beat Chelsea 2-1 and you played only the first half as you had a slight injury.
In the Champions League Final, we scored a perfect goal after the corner counter and you played the full 90 minutes. The last 90 minutes of your career.
Several weeks before I wrote these words about your professional career in the virtual world of Football Manager, you signed your 1st professional contract with Reading FC in real life. On the same day, you scored 4 goals in a friendly match against Queens Park Rangers’ 1st team.
And almost all Reading FC fans turned crazy and they look forward to your next performances and development. Same as me and my friends were crazy about your stats and performances in Football Manager 2017 and my save with Reading FC.
Good luck in your real life football career. I’m sure it will be a cracking journey for you and Reading FC…
Danny Loader’s Stats, 2016 – 2038:
- Appearances: 920
- Goals: 494
- Assists: 248
- Average rating: 7.24
- 23 appearances & 8 goals for England senior national team
- Championship: 1x → 2019
- EFL Cup: 14x → 2021 – 2026, 2028, 2029, 2031 – 2036
- FA Cup: 14x → 2022 – 2025, 2027 – 2034, 2036, 2038
- Premier League: 11x → 2021, 2024 – 2026, 2029, 2032 – 2035, 2037, 2038
- Community Shield: 13x → 2021, 2024 – 2028, 2030, 2032 – 2037
- UEFA Champions League: 14x → 2023 – 2034, 2036, 2038
- FIFA Club World Cup: 13x → 2023 – 2034, 2036
- UEFA Super Cup: 11x → 2023 – 2028, 2030 – 2033, 2036
I just wanted to pass on my best wishes for your retirement. 22 seasons of professional football at one club, winning the biggest trophies is what most players only dream about. You lived that dream. Scoring so many goals for the Royals. Well done.
I was lucky enough to visit you in the Summer of 2021. Seeing you on the training pitch, alongside your colleagues in that famous Dream Team, it will always remain in my thoughts.
Enjoy your scouting role at Reading FC.
Ángel of the House Bastardo. Inter Milan Manager
Thanks everyone for the continuing support and thanks for reading.
Many thanks to @FMGrasshopper for his help with proofreading ♥