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Reading FC History

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1920s Newspapers

These 'Football Chronicle' papers cover Reading's promotion to Division Two in 1926 and the run to the FA Cup semi-final the following season. I was given three of them by a work colleague – whose father had kept them – many years ago and picked up the one on the left more recently. They are fascinating time pieces, but I try not to handle them too often as the cheap newspaper stock used has become dry and brittle over time.


1936 Trade Card

Prolific centre-forward Ralph Allen had helped Charlton to back-to-back promotions when he joined Reading for £825 in June 1936 and proved his worth after hitting seven goals in ten games at the start of the new season. Within just four months he was on the move again after the club received a four-figure offer from Northampton Town, but was around long enough to be featured on this card.


1995 Press Photo

Reading skipper Adrian Williams coolly lobs the ball over former Royals goalkeeper Steve Francis to round off a flowing team move for the second goal against Huddersfield at Elm Park. James Lambert and Jimmy Quinn completed the scoring in a 3-1 victory in Division One, with this photo appearing in the 'Reading Evening Post' on 16th October 1995.  


2008-09 Player Photos

I recently added quite a few club issue player photos to the collection, some from the two Premiership campaigns of 2006-07 and 2007-08, plus several from the following season including these. I still have plenty to add which I will post to the site over time, but the ones I have from this season can be seen here

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1921 Cigarette Card

Shown below on a scarce Pinnace 'cabinet' card, Charlie Harbridge was an amateur international who joined Reading in 1919 and played for the team in its inaugural Football League season of 1920-21. He missed the club's very first League game at Newport in August 1920 as he was playing for the Great Britain team at the Olympic Games, but 'helped out when he could'. Charlie joined Charlton in 1921 and in October that year his team were playing away at Brentford when a spectator ran onto the pitch and attacked a Charlton player. Harbridge chased the culprit and, after leaping into the crowd, collared him before handing him to the police. 

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2022 Newspaper Pullout

I'm delighted to see that local papers 'Reading Today' and 'Wokingham Today' continue to publish Reading FC's annual team photo. I now have 50 of these 'pullouts' dating back to 1976, and they can be seen here. You may be wondering why there's a bus in the photo, and it's to do with the climate stripe initiative the club is involved with in partnership with the University of Reading.

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1929 Postcard


When Reading faced Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup fourth round at Elm Park in January 1929, they pulled off a result no one could have imagined two and a half months before. The Biscuitmen had started the season in woeful fashion, losing ten and winning just one of their first 14 Division Two games. But after a 0-7 loss at Blackpool in November 1928, they went on a 14-game unbeaten league and cup run, which included a third round win over Spurs. Wednesday were top of Division One and would go on to win the title, but, thanks to a single goal by centre-forward Bill Johnstone and some goalkeeping heroics from Joe Duckworth, Reading achieved one of their greatest cup wins in front of nearly 30,000 spectators. Some were up telegraph poles and trees, with others perched on rooftops. Before the game, there was an impressive sight when the band played the National Anthem and 'every head was bared'. 

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1950 Newspaper Photo

Reading put on an incredible performance against Brighton at Elm Park in November 1950. With the home team 3-0 up after 30 minutes, left-back Harry Kinsell went off with a serious knee injury and, in the days before substitutes, the Biscuit team were forced to play for an hour with ten men. Despite this, they were constantly on the attack and went on to score another four in the second half, with centre-forward Ronnie Blackman hitting a total of five. Bainbridge and Simpson completed the scoring in a 7-0 demolition.

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1899 Magazine Photo


Johnny Holt was a great player of the late Victorian era, with a long career with Everton and several appearances for England. So how did a player like that end up at Southern League Reading? In 1898, centre-half Holt made it known to Everton that he wanted to leave, and the club put a transfer fee of £300 on his head. The player was not happy with this as he reasoned he'd given Everton nine years' service and had cost them nothing to start with. In those days transfer fees were not applicable to non-league clubs, so his old friend James Sharp, who was then Reading's secretary/manager, offered Holt a chance to come to Elm Park. Johnny spent three seasons with the club, and his form was so good he earned his tenth and final England cap vs Ireland in 1900, before retiring in 1902. This photo was taken in front of the main stand at Elm Park before a match against the short-lived Brighton United, and appeared in the 'Golden Penny' magazine.


1912 Cigarette Card

When they were relegated from the Southern League First Division in 1910, Reading FC were in dire financial straits – so much so that it seemed certain the club would be wound up. This would certainly have happened had they failed to gain promotion the following season, so the top of the table clash with Stoke on Easter Monday 1911 was pivotal to the club's very existence. A bumper Elm Park crowd of over 10,000 cheered the team on to a well-deserved 2-0 win, and the Biscut team went on to pip Stoke for the Championship on goal average. Inside-left Len Andrews opened the scoring after just four minutes with a 'delightful drive' and he added a second before half-time. To mark the Championship win, local tobacconists Brigham & Co. issued a series of 16 cards with packets of their Gold Flake cigarettes. This one is in very poor condition, but the set is among the scarcest cigarette card issues out there.


1985 Pennant

37 years ago today Reading set a Football League record that still stands. On October 12th 1985, 4,000 Royals fans travelled along the M4 to see their team triumph 2-0 at Newport County to maintain their 100% start, with Stuart Beavon and Kevin Bremner scoring to ensure win number twelve. That mark eclipsed Tottenham's record that had been set in 1960, and a week later Trevor Senior scored the only goal at Lincoln to extend the run. The team finally dropped their first points in the next game, drawing 2-2 with Wolves at Elm Park.


1935 Newspaper Photos

After Reading were drawn to play Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round, there were confident predictions that Elm Park's record attendance of 33,042, set eight years earlier, would easily be beaten. The club stated that the ground could accommodate 35,000, though on the day itself 30,621 were present. The Gunners were on their way to a third consecutive League title, and Third Division Reading considered themselves unlucky to lose by the only goal. A five minute 'talking film' was screened at the town's Royal County Theatre at 9.30 the same evening, which was quite some feat – the cameramen had to return to London, develop and print the negative, record the commentary and print again, then dispatch to Reading by passenger train. The theatre, located on Friar Street, was destroyed by fire just two years later. The photos below were published in the 'Reading Standard', which also featured these crowd scenes.


1994 Press Photo

Although Reading eventually won the Division Two title, a poor run in March had seen them knocked off the top of the table for the first time in four months before they faced Hull City away from home. Centre-forward Jimmy Quinn duly stepped up with two goals, the first of which is shown here, as the Royals returned to top spot with a 2-1 win. Arriving from Bournemouth in 1992, Jimmy proved to be an inspired signing who, apart from being brilliant in the air, had a thunderbolt of a shot. The Northern Ireland international hit 40 goals for his club in 1993-94, including 35 in the League. When boss Mark McGhee left halfway through the following season, Quinn became joint manager alongside Mick Gooding, and the pair guided the team to the Division One play-off final in 1995. The photo appeared in the 'Evening Post' on the 21st March. 


1905-06 Postcard


A lovely card published by William Henry Dee, this features the Southern Charity Cup, of which the final between Reading and Spurs had finished 0-0 the previous season. With no replay – and certainly no penalty shootout – the clubs were allowed to hold the trophy for six months each! It was presented by the proprietors of the 'Evening News' in 1901 for competition between the leading professional clubs in London and the Provinces. The idea was that each of them took a third of the 'gate' from the matches they took part in, with the rest distributed to their chosen charities. The teams competing were Reading, Tottenham Hotspur, Millwall, Queens Park Rangers, West Ham United, Southampton, Portsmouth and Woolwich Arsenal. 


1972 Newspaper Cutting

When the winners of the drawn cup-tie between Reading and Blyth Spartans were picked to play league champions and cup holders Arsenal, chaos reigned at Elm Park before the replay. A game that would normally have been an evening kick-off was played on a Wednesday afternoon, not due to power cuts (as is widely thought) but because the amateur Blyth players didn't want to risk taking two days off work. Reading were not happy about this as they could have expected a 15,000 crowd and instead catered for just 4,000. This was badly misjudged as many thousands more turned up, and, after only half of the turnstiles were opened, hundreds got in without paying after breaking through an exit gate. Hundreds more were still queuing at half-time, with dozens of disgruntled fans demanding their money back after only catching the second half. Many people pulled a 'sickie' from work or bunked off school to get to the game, with Reading FC historian David Downs, who was a local teacher, managing to attend on the pretext of taking his class on a 'nature ramble'! Of the game itself, the home team cruised to a 6-1 win.

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1981-82 Press Photo

The last – at least for a few years – of the annual induction ceremonies for STAR's Reading FC Hall of Fame took place recently when the final names were added, bringing the total to 125. I was looking through my photos and realised an impressive eleven of those are included here. The team is as follows, with Hall of Famers in italics. Back: Martin Hicks, Michael Barnes, Kerry Dixon, Dave Shipperley, Lawrie Sanchez and Mike Kearney. Middle: Stewart Henderson, Mark White, Jerry Williams, Gary Heale, Neil Webb, Roger Joslyn, Steve Wood, Alan Lewis and Maurice Evans. Front: Ritchie Bowman, Stuart Beavon, Steve Death, Steve Hetzke, Ron Fearon, Pat Earles and John Cullen.

The event began in 2016 and was timed to end around Reading Football Club's 150th Anniversary. Roger at the team at STAR have done a brilliant job and I was pleased to be asked to contribute.


David Jones 1932-2022

The former Reading goalkeeper has sadly passed away aged 90. David arrived at Elm Park in 1953 and spent eight years with the club, often vying with Dave Meeson for the number one spot in the team. Jones played 234 league and cup games before moving to local rivals Aldershot in 1961, where he went on to make over 200 appearances. He is shown here on a Daily Express postcard and a News Chronicle card.


1926 Newspaper Photos

Just a few months after thrashing Brentford 7-1 to clinch promotion, Reading repeated the trick against Notts County in Division Two. Having started slowly at the higher level, the Biscuit team got into their stride in a season that saw them reach the FA semi-final. The prolific Hugh Davey and Frank Richardson, who had scored all seven between them versus Brentford, were back amongst the goals against County, with centre-forward Davey's strike included in these photos that appeared in the 'Reading Standard' in October 1926.

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1995 Postcard

Stuart Roy Clarke has been chronicling the beautiful game for many years with his often-quirky photos, building a unique archive of football images taken in this country and beyond. His touring exhibition 'The Homes of Football' reached the Museum of Reading in February 1996 and featured over 200 of his photographs. A series of postcards was printed, which included this striking shot taken at the old Wembley Stadium during Reading's play-off final defeat against Bolton.


1952 Press Photo

The Reading FC directors and officials pictured in May 1952. The team had just finished as runners-up to Plymouth after scoring a club record 112 league goals under manager Ted Drake, who is pictured back-left. His success hadn't gone unnoticed, and within weeks he'd moved to Division One Chelsea, where he led them to their first league title in 1955. Click photo to see the back, which lists 'The Management'. 

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