It’s all kicking off as Nick makes his league premiere

Nick Blackman makes his Reading debut against Stoke (Picture: Getty)

Nick Blackman makes his Reading debut against Stoke (Picture: Getty)

Nick Blackman spent most of his youth cheering on the mighty Manchester United. But this week he found himself goal-hunting for a team fighting for survival in the top division.

The 23-year-old forward became the first English-born Jew to start a Premier League game when he played for Reading at Stoke City at the weekend.

Given his affiliations, it is perhaps fortunate that following his £1.5 million move from Sheffield United, Mr Blackman is cup-tied and so will have to sit out his new team’s FA Cup clash at Old Trafford on Monday night.

Mr Blackman, who attended the King David High School in Manchester and was a member of JLGB, had previously played just six minutes in the top flight as a substitute for Blackburn Rovers.

While many Jewish players have graced the Premier League, Israeli pair Yossi Benayoun and Tal Ben Haim among them, it was not until last week that an English Jew had started a match in the world’s most watched division.

It would not have happened if Reading boss Brian McDermott had not taken a punt on a player who netted 14 times in 33 games for League One side Sheffield United this season.

“When I played here for Sheffield United [in the Cup] there was nothing in the pipeline about a move, not to Reading anyway,” he said.

“It was a major surprise when I found out Reading wanted me, but as soon as I heard, there was only one place I wanted to come.

“It’s a shame about the cup-tie because I’m from Manchester and supported United when I was growing up.”

After starting off at Macclesfield Town, Mr Blackman joined then Premier League Blackburn, before loan spells at Blackpool and Oldham. He also spent time in Scotland with Motherwell and Aberdeen.

Sheffield United eventually signed him permanently and he helped the Blades push for promotion to the Championship, while attracting attention from higher league clubs.

Mr McDermott said of the striker, whose mother is Jewish: “We’re very pleased to get him. He knows that we try to develop our players and get them better. And he has so much more to come.”

Last updated: 2:08pm, February 14 2013