Reading's Alex McCarthy has been named March's Young Player of the Month for the npower Football League in The Times newspaper's football supplement, 'The Game'.

McCarthy took over in goal from the injured Adam Federici and his fine form during March saw him keep a clean sheet in the FA Cup defeat of Everton at Goodison Park and perform strongly against Manchester City in the following round. He also helped Reading to victory in all three of their npower Championship fixtures, which saw the Royals climb into the Play-Off places.

A product of the Royals' Academy, McCarthy made 45 appearances for Yeovil Town last season in a successful loan spell and had a one-month stint at Brentford in August. Since 2007, he has also been loaned to Woking, Cambridge United, Team Bath and Aldershot Town.

In March, the 21-year-old celebrated his first start for the England U21 side in the 4-0 win over Denmark in Viborg and was picked as number one again four days later for the visit of Iceland.

In receiving the award, Alex McCarthy said: "This is a nice award to win. It has been a very special two months for me, breaking into the first team here and also starting to play for my country.

"I knew as soon as I got an opportunity that I wanted to take it and I feel like I have done that. We are in a great position now and hopefully we can make it up into the Premier League."

Each season, Football League clubs invest more than £40m on identifying, training and educating the next generation of football talent. Around a third of this money (£12.6m) is provided by the Football Association and Premier League. There are 8,500 young players registered with League clubs making Football League Youth Development the largest centrally co-ordinated young player programme in world football.

The Football League's Chief Operating Officer Andy Williamson said: "Alex has faced a big challenge in the last two months but has handled the pressure with a series of very strong performances in big games.

"The Football League is a breeding ground for young goalkeepers and Alex looks set to follow in the footsteps of David James, Joe Hart and Robert Green who all began their careers with League clubs."

Reading manager Brian McDermott said of Alex: "Alex is a solid, confident, good guy. He's got it all in front of him.

"We loan our young players out a lot and Alex has had that experience in the league - I never had a doubt that I was going to put him in when Adam Federici was injured. I knew he could do it, he has the right mentality - what you see is what you get with him."

Each month, the Young Player of the Month Award is awarded by The Football League to the young player who has made the most significant contribution and impact in first team football. To be eligible the player must be either under 21 years of age or be playing in the season during which he turns 21.

During the month of March 18 players aged 21 or under made their professional debuts in The Football League.

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