1902-03 Team Photo
A pre-season shot taken in August 1902 by local photographer Everard Cuzner, who had premises on the town's Oxford Road. The photo was taken next to Elm Park's original main stand, with the camera looking west towards Wantage Road. Reading had a fine season, finishing runners-up in the Southern League First Division behind perennial champions Southampton.
1951-52 Magazine Photo
Reading 'only' finished second in Division Three (South) despite scoring a club record 112 league goals, so missed out on promotion as only the two regional champions went up. The home crowd certainly got value for money as they saw their team notch an incredible 73 goals at Elm Park, with four or more being scored on ten occasions. So why didn't we win the league that season? Simply put, too many away games were lost. This photo was taken before a cup match at Southport, a week before Christmas 1951.
1975-76 Team Photo
This is the first team picture I've been able to add to the site for a while, and my thanks go to John Persson for scanning it for me. It's an incredibly nostalgic photo for me as I remember, at the age of 13, some fantastic games that season as we won promotion from Division Four. Notable players were Steve Death, John Murray and Eamon Dunphy. Oh, and some bloke called Robin Friday (third left, back row).
One of Reading's finest pre-war players was left-back Billy McConnell, who signed for the club in 1924. He was virtually ever present for the next three seasons, being part of the famous team that won Division Three (South) and reached the FA Cup semi-final. In 1927 McConnell scored his only goal for the club against Middlesbrough, but suffered a broken ankle in the process. He made a comeback the following season but never fully recovered, and played his last game for Reading at just 26. Shown here is Billy's Division Three (South) medal, sadly not mine but very kindly photographed for me by his granddaughter Alex.
1983-84 Team Photo
In a controversial move, Reading ditched the hoops and went with a design that harked back to the pre-war stripes era. In case you're wondering, we were first with the hoops - but there have been several different designs over the years, which you can track the via the Team Groups galleries. This season, however, a more shocking event occurred in the new year when popular manager Maurice Evans was unexpectedly replaced by his assistant Ian Branfoot - despite the team sitting third in Division Four. The Royals did go up though, that being the last time we played in the bottom tier of English football.
1920 Newspaper Supplement
These are the players who took part in the club's first match as a Football League club. Reading were one of the Southern League teams that formed the new Third Division (the only change being Cardiff, who joined the Second Division and were replaced by Grimsby Town). The Biscuiteers got off to the perfect start with a 1-0 win thanks to a goal by Joe 'Bubbles' Bailey, but the team generally struggled and finished third from bottom.
New finds have been a bit thin on the ground lately, so I was delighted to get hold of this fantastic postcard, especially as it's one that's rarely seen. Reading were involved in some big FA Cup ties at Elm Park just before the Great War, and we took on Blackburn, a club with a proud cup history, on February 22nd 1913. This is the game when the Biscuit boys' goalkeeper 'Daft' Rab Bernard famously rushed from his goal to celebrate Reading taking the lead with the other players - only to be lobbed straight from the kick-off for Blackburn's equaliser as he was still way off his line! The best thing for me is that this card is postmarked from that very day, with the sender saying he'd seen a good game despite Reading losing 2-1, and was just off to the Palace Theatre!
1929 Newspaper Photo
A great shot of the Reading players and officials (along with the soon-to-be town Mayor), which appeared in the pages of the Berkshire Chronicle during the 1929-30 season. The team only escaped relegation from Division Two by goal average, but the writing was on the wall and they went down the following season. Included here is director James Royle (third left in the middle row), whose grandson kindly donated a fantastic large framed photo a year or so ago. I would be more than happy to accept anything similar!
Player Of The Season
Reading FC's 'Player of the Season' award has been an annual event since 1964. The then-Chronicle Sports Editor, Roger Ware, set the ball rolling, and a couple of years ago uncovered a picture of himself presenting the first-ever award to Colin Meldrum. Roger explains: "Then, as now, the football club was the biggest thing in town, and having been given the position at a fairly young age (!) I was keen to repay the Editor's faith by making an impact with some promotional ideas.
"As a sports reporter close to the club, I was asked many times towards the end of that season who I thought had been the best player. Most of the fans who asked me about it came up with different answers, and it was clearly a healthy 'pub conversation' topic.
"I thought the best way to get a definitive answer was to ask all the fans - and the high-ups at the Chronicle did not take much persuading that to have a Player of the Season vote could be a relatively big promotional return for a relatively small outlay. It was agreed we would print voting forms and provide a trophy.
"We distributed the 'ballot papers' at the turnstiles on the last day of the season, and more than 3,000 were returned - around half the crowd at the game that day. The result was announced in the next edition of the Chronicle, but it meant there would be no opportunity to present the trophy at a match in the relevant season. In the end we performed the 'ceremony' in the Editor's office, with just Colin and myself, and the photographer, Neil Lofthouse."
Roger is now semi-retired, but is a life-long Loyal Royal who still keenly follows the fortunes of the club. He has kindly sent me this superb photo of Meldrum and himself taken back in 1964.
2011-12 Virtual Cards
For this set I've included all 27 players who appeared in at least one league game that season, however limited that time may have been. This includes striker Shane Long, who only appeared in the first match of the season before his big money move to West Brom, along with a few players that maybe people would have forgotten about. It was a real challenge putting this one together, but I'm pleased with the result, and the full set can be seen via the 'Biscuitmen Originals' menu.
2016-17 Virtual Cards
It's early days yet, but Reading, with new manager Yaap Stam, have surprised many with their good start to the season and sit third in the Championship table going into Christmas. Many people tipped the Royals to struggle after a couple of mediocre years, but they seemed to have found a bit of the old team spirit. Players making an impact this season include academy graduates Dominic Samuel and Liam Kelly, along with seasoned pros Chris Gunter and Ali Al-Habsi. The full 2016-17 set can be seen by clicking on the 'Biscuitmen Originals' menu to the right.
1902 Newspaper Photo
Until Berkshire's local newspapers carried regular photographic illustrations (from about 1905 on), action shots featuring Reading FC were few and far between. They did, however, occasionally appear in national periodicals such as The Tatler, which included this photo from a Southern League game in November 1902. The camera is positioned next to the main stand at Elm Park, looking towards the Tilehurst End. It's quite tough to tell which team is which, but I think Reading's kit is slightly the darker!
1878-79 Team Photo
A classic team photo that I found (and coloured) a couple of years ago, which appeared in the pages of the Reading Observer in 1919. The team's kit from that era is fairly uncertain due to the lack of photographic evidence (other than this), though the description was always 'dark blue and white'. Reading's captain Henry Rogers (holding the ball) sadly collapsed and died during a match on the club's home pitch at Reading Cricket Ground in 1879.
Legendary goalkeeper Joe Duckworth in action for Reading during a Division Two match at West Brom's Hawthorns ground in January 1928. Joe arrived at Elm Park from Abedare in 1924 and went on to make 225 league and cup appearances for us until he left for Brighton in 1929. He was as brave as they come, often diving in to retrieve the ball amidst the flying boots. Famous fan John Arlott waxed lyrical about Joe's exploits as Reading pulled off a famous cup victory against the league's top side Sheffield Wednesday in 1929.
1959-60 Team Photo
The Reading first team pictured at Elm Park during early December 1959, during a season which saw the Biscuit team finish 11th in Division Three. The highlight of the season was a 2-0 home victory over leaders and eventual champions Southampton on Easter Monday, in front of a 23,692 crowd - a figure that would never be bettered for a league game at Elm Park. Goalkeeper Dave Meeson was distracted when a Saints fan threw a hot cross bun at him, but he saw the funny side by taking a bite out of it!
The role of a football manager has changed vastly over the decades, and even though the responsibilities of James Sharp more than a century ago would have been very different than those of current boss Jaap Stam, I've included all the men who have at least held the title.
1930-31 Team Photo
Centre-forward Arthur Bacon created his own piece of history on Good Friday 1931, when he hit a club record six goals against Stoke in a 7-3 win at Elm Park. He actually scored 29 league goals that season, all coming in the space of 24 games. Impressive stats at any level, but remarkable when you consider Reading were relegated from Division Two.
1913 Team Photo
The Reading team line-ups for the five match tour of Italy have never been certain, but I've had another look and I think I've worked them out. For the game against Casale Reading suffered a shock 2-1 defeat (it's worth pointing out that Italian football was very much in it's infancy), but this can maybe be explained - it was the the third game in four days and the players were tired from the 'constant travelling and feasting'! Key players Allen Foster, Ted Hanney and captain Jack Smith were rested from the team that thrashed Milan 5-0 two days earlier, and the pitch was much smaller than English teams were used to. To prove the defeat was a freak result, the next day a full-strength Reading beat Italy's best team Pro Vercelli 6-0. This is the side that lost to Casale, and I'm fairly certain it's correct: (left to right) Bartholomew, Brown, Lofthouse, Willis, Burnham, Burton, Stevens, Comrie, Bailey, Dickenson and Morris.
1912 Cigarette Card
From a series of 16 cards and one of the scarcest football sets there is, the legendary centre-half Ted Hanney is one of the great names in our pre-league history. By the start of the Great War he had transferred to Manchester City before joining the Footballers' Battalion. In 1916, after he'd been wounded in action and was recovering in a Portsmouth hospital, he wrote a letter to a Reading friend, where he says: "I am going on A1. Yes, 'Bart' and Allen Foster were quite alright when I came away (sadly Foster was killed shortly after). I got hit the night of the 28th of July, about 10.30 p.m. but did not leave the trenches until the next morning about 8.30. The Germans counter-attacked that night three times, and as I felt quite alright I stopped and gave them a few extra rounds of ammunition. The battalion came out that same afternoon. The fighting was in ---- Wood. By gum! I saw some sights there! I shall never forget them."
I was going through a shoebox of RFC bits and pieces (as you do) and realised I had several fixture lists. They were never something that I actively collected, but I've now decided to do so. Has anyone got any, and if so, would you be willing to part with them? The ones I have so far can be seen here, with a small selection shown below.
1967-68 Newspaper Special
When Third Division Reading were drawn away to Manchester City in the Third Round of the F.A. Cup, few gave us much hope, as City were on their way to the League Championship title that season. So Reading's gutsy display in holding their opponents to a 0-0 draw, aided by Tony Coleman's late penalty miss (below), was a great achievement, and many fans fancied an upset in the replay. However, the crowd of over 25,000 that packed Elm Park saw what many believe to be the finest attacking display the old ground ever witnessed, as City turned on the style and inflicted Reading's record home defeat of 7-0.
These are things I've always tried to save as they are issued, but occasionally I miss them. Reading have achieved eight promotions since 1976, and these Evening Post specials appeared either as giveaways with the main paper or as separate issues. For some reason I haven't got the supplement from the 1983-84 season, so if anyone had one spare I'd love to hear from them.
1978-79 Team Photo
This great shot appeared in an Evening Post supplement in the lead up to a League Cup 4th round tie against Southampton, which was played at Elm Park on the 8th November 1978. Reading were on their way to the Division Four title and had already accounted for three higher ranked teams in the competition, so they fancied their chances against the Division One side. The Royals bridged the gap in class and were unfortunate to only draw 0-0, with the Saints winning the replay 2-0.
This is something I purchased today, and there's a nice coincidence in the timing. The Reading Chronicle issued these signed posters to mark the Royals record run of wins from the start of a season, and it's 31 years to the day, 19th October 1985, that the thirteenth and final victory was achieved.
I recently read an old newspaper article from February 1909 concerning one of the players here: 'Walter Rogers, a professional footballer, sued the Reading Football Club at the Reading-court for £1 a week for life for injury received by him while training with the other players on August 18 last. He lost the sight of his left eye, and has been totally incapacitated from playing football since. The action was brought under the Workmen's Compensation Act. He was to receive 50s. a week in the close season, and 70s. a week during the playing season. The accident was caused by a cricket ball striking him in the left eye. The judge held that he played cricket for his own relaxation and dismissed the case.' I find this a very moving and poignant story given that a paltry £1 a week would have made a difference to this poor chap's life.
After the outbreak of war in 1914, football received a lot of criticism around the country as league and cup competition continued as normal until 1915. No doubt it was good for public morale but many felt that fit young sportsmen should be among the first to volunteer for active service. Of course many did, and by April 1916 the number of Reading players signed up for the Army stood at 18, the latest of which were Jimmy Lofthouse and George Goodman. Football was still played, but on a far more localised basis, with Reading competing in the London Combination. The team was a mixture of their own players along with guests, the make up of which depended on where they were stationed during their Army training. Here, for instance, in the Reading team we can see Private Goodman (middle right) and Lance Corporal Lofthouse (front left) along with a couple of famous guests, international players Private Harry Hampton of Aston Villa (front middle) and to his right, Trooper Joe Cassidy of Celtic.
Reading full-back Tommy Clinch earned the nickname 'Terrible Tommy', and it's not difficult to see why. Immediately after a Southern League match at Brentford on 1st February 1902, which was littered with foul play, the Bees captain Bob Stormont was kicked by Clinch. During the game Stormont had also been threatened by Reading players Cotton and Watts, as well as Clinch. After the final whistle an angry mob gathered outside Reading's dressing room, and had to be dispersed by the police. The following month Tommy found himself in court charged with assault, which he denied. A witness claimed that Reading had played "very dirty," but Clinch did not think it was rough - in fact, "it was just right." This drew cries of "Oh!", followed by laughter from the courtroom. In the event, the magistrates dismissed the case due to insufficient evidence, but the player was dealt with severely by the FA and received a six month ban. In spite of this, Tommy was actually one of the club's most consistent performers, making more than 100 appearances over four seasons at the start of the century.
1985 Newspaper Photo
Reading's record start to a league season is secure for at least another year after Manchester City were beaten by Spurs, having won their first six games. The Royals' feat in winning the first thirteen league games in the 1985-86 season seems more astonishing as time goes by - it's the best start by any team in almost 130 years of league football. There was no great secret to the success; a more direct approach was introduced by manager Ian Branfoot when he took over in 1984, putting opponents under more pressure and allowing the team to grind out results. The 1984-85 season had seen Reading become a much tougher proposition away from home, with the team winning an impressive eleven times on their travels, a new club record. We also had something priceless - a genuine natural goalscorer in Trevor Senior. The centre forward had joined Reading in 1983, and scored an incredible 99 goals in his first three seasons.
A few of the team from the 1911-12 season that 'staggered humanity' in drawing a cup-tie at Aston Villa. Reading were in the Southern League then (the equivalent of League One today), and their opponents had finished as champions and runners-up in Division One the previous two seasons. The Biscuit team did even better in the replay at Elm Park, and when Allen Foster volleyed the only goal of the game the roar of the crowd was such that players on the local golf links knew that Reading had at least scored.
2016-17 Squad Photo
The players paid a surprise visit to the town's Forbury Gardens today for the annual photo shoot. The result is possibly the best team photo ever, taken in front of one of our most famous landmarks, the Maiwand Lion. I happened to be walking past the gardens as they were setting up - I glanced across and could see something was going on, but didn't think anything of it. I'm gutted that I missed it having been so close, but hats off to the club for a brilliant idea.
The Reading Chronicle introduced the annual Player of the Season award at the end of the 1963-64 campaign, and the initial prize, based on the players' ratings through the season, was won by defender Colin Meldrum. Since then the winners have been chosen each year by the fans, and many of the club's best loved characters have come out on top. This is a work in progress and finding suitable photos from the correct season can be tricky, but I've now done nearly all and they can be seen here.
I was contacted by a lady who told me she had an original drawing depicting her great-grandfather, former Reading full-back Fred Wilkes, and she kindly asked whether I'd like it. I received it today and it shows Fred, who played nearly 50 games for us over two seasons, about to depart for Tottenham Hotspur in 1909. The chap behind the desk is in chefs whites, a reference to the club's nickname. Fred returned to Reading as trainer after the Great War for a couple of seasons, before taking over the stewardship of the town's Curzon Club. The cartoon was drawn on thick card by artist Fred Ford, to be published in the Reading Observer.
c1940 Newspaper Photo
Maurice Edelston followed his father Joe to Elm Park in 1939 after the latter had been appointed manager, and both proved to be important figures int he history of the club. After the Football League had had been abandoned just three games into the 1939-40 season due the outbreak of WWII, Joe set about making sure Elm Park was well used, with first-class football continuing alongside other events, helping to keep spirits in the town high. Maurice, meanwhile, was a fine inside-forward who played for England during the war whilst still an amateur, and after turning professional in 1947 became a key part of Reading's high-scoring forward line under Ted Drake.
1919 Newspaper Photo
Reading's last season before becoming a Football League club saw a seventh place finish in the Southern League. A good start had seen the Biscuitmen reach the top of the table, helped by a 2-1 win over eventual champions Portsmouth. This terrific shot of Elm Park shows the old 'Chicken Run', a covered terrace built in 1905 but destroyed during a storm 20 years later.