Reading FC History
1903 Newspaper Photos
Reading continued their unbeaten start to the Southern League season with a 1-1 draw at West Ham in September 1903. The competition was the third tier of English Football, behind only the First and Second Divisions of the Football League, and around the turn of the century it was largely dominated by Southampton. Reading finished as runners-up a couple of times, but never quite managed to clinch the Championship.
Very sad for me with Reading's relegation finally confirmed yesterday, but deserved because it was self-inflicted. That won't put me off collecting though, and here is my latest addition, an Albert Wilkes postcard-size team photo. There are at least three Reading pictures that I know of issued by Wilkes & Son (of which I have two), but the studio was highly prolific meaning there could be more to be found.
Reading fan Terry Green gave me some bits and pieces today that included this 'Football Chronicle' paper. Not in the best condition but it was printed on the day of a famous FA Cup tie against the great Arsenal team of the 1930s, so it's a fascinating timepiece. In front of Elm Park's second highest attendance of 30,621, the Gunners achieved the familiar 'one-nil to the Arsenal' result.
1986-87 Club Photo
It's been very quiet on the collecting front this year, so I'm pleased to have picked up this large club issue photo today. Reading are pictured in front of the South Bank at Elm Park prior to the club's first season in Division Two since before the war. Some well-remembered players are featured, including record appearance maker Martin Hicks, record scorer Trevor Senior, talented winger Paul Canoville, whose career was cruelly cut short by injury, plus fan favourites Dean Horrix and Kevin Bremner.
To mark Reading's Simod Cup final win at Wembley Stadium in March 1988, a series of 16 cards was issued. The size of classic cigarette cards, they were designed to mirror a set released by local tobacco firm Brigham & Co. back in 1912. The original Simod Cup drawings were completed by artist Dez Leeke, and the one below features winger Neil Smillie, who scored one and set up two more in the 4-1 win against Luton.
1975 Press Photo
One of the most popular figures in the club's history, Maurice Evans joined Reading at the age of 16 in 1952 and went on to make over 450 league and cup appearances as a half-back – without ever being booked! In 1967 Maurice became player-manager of Andover and then Shrewsbury, before returning to Elm Park as assistant to Charlie Hurley. When Charlie quit in 1977, Evans took over as manager and led the Royals to the Division Four title in 1978-79. After being replaced by Ian Branfoot in 1984 he joined local rivals Oxford, winning the League Cup with them at Wembley in 1986.
1921 Cigarette Card
Shown here on a scarce Pinnace 'Cabinet' card, Walter George 'Joe' Bailey was a highly decorated Great War hero who was awarded the Military Cross (plus two bars) and the Distinguished Service Order. Joe starred in Reading's forward line before the war and returned to Elm Park when it ended. During a train journey after an away trip, Bailey famously sold a ticket for his benefit game to the Prince of Wales ─ though there is no evidence to say the future King attended!
1976 Newspaper Photos
In September 1976, Royals midfielder John Murray missed the chance to complete a hat-trick of penalties when, having scored the first two in a 2-1 win against Walsall, his third was saved by Saddlers goalkeeper Mick Kearns. Republic of Ireland international Mick was the older brother of soon to be Reading striker Ollie.
In the third season since the regional Third Divisions had been restructured to form national Third and Fourth Divisions, Reading flirted with relegation to the bottom tier. They spent a couple of periods in 1960-61 in the drop zone due mainly to an abysmal away record, winning just once on the road. Thankfully, the form at Elm Park was decent with the team winning their final four home games to secure safety. The great Jimmy Wheeler (see post below) scored and incredible 31 league goals, a brilliant effort in a struggling team.
1956 Trade Card
Reading born forward Jimmy Wheeler spent his entire professional career at Elm Park after joining his home town club as a youngster in 1948. He went on to score 168 goals in 453 games before a broken leg effectively ended his playing days in 1964. Jimmy remained a keen Reading fan and was a regular visitor to the Madejski Stadium before his death at the age of 86 in 2020.
1934 Newspaper Photos
Reading enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 win against Wrexham in the FA Cup second round in front of an Elm Park crowd of more than 18,000 in December 1934. The four home ties played that season proved the enduring popularity of the competition, drawing an aggregate attendance of over 90,000. These photos are in a scrapbook I have.
1898-99 Newspaper Photo
The Reading team are pictured before a match at Elm Park sporting a kit they played in for just one season. The 'Berkshire Chronicle' reported from the club's meeting in July 1898 that 'with the present blue and white striped shirts being unsatisfactory, it was decided that in future white shirts and blue 'nickers' should be worn by the players.' However, a year later the same paper informed us 'it was decided to return to the old blue and white stripe pattern, a sample which was guaranteed to contain fast colours being handed round for inspection. The shirts worn last year came in for considerable criticism, though Dr Howes, amid laughter, said he thought they were pretty.' So the problem before wasn't the design, just the fact the old striped shirts ran in the wash!
This photo features Reading's new signing Johnny Holt, centre at the front, a famous England international and ex-Everton centre-half who arrived at Elm Park in October 1898. Johnny is the subject of a brilliant article on the Everton FC Heritage Society website.
2005-06 Signed Print
A lovely print issued to mark the club's first promotion to English football's top-flight. This was achieved with a record breaking points tally of 106, the Royals losing just two league games all season. To be fair, that record looks to be under serious threat from this season's Burnley team.
Six of these charming little booklets covering the English and Scottish Leagues were issued by the Amalgamated Press through their comic 'The Champion'. Reading finished as runners-up after going a second consecutive season unbeaten in the league at home, but, as in the previous campaign, poor away form cost them any chance of promotion. The Biscuit boys lost by the only goal in the FA Cup to Arsenal in front of Elm Park's second and last attendance to top 30,000.
1997-98 Player Photos
These were among a batch of photographs I was given towards the end of last year, but you never quite know what will be included. So I was delighted to find a near full set of player portraits from the club's last season at Elm Park (as bad as that turned out to be!)
This postcard was sent the same day Reading lost an FA Cup tie against Blackburn at Elm Park on the 22nd February 1913, with the writer mentioning he'd had a great time despite the home team's 2-1 defeat. Thousands of spectators brought tin rattles, others horns and bugles, and, according to the 'Berks and Oxon Advertiser' 'now and again there was a sharp staccato and a puff of blue smoke indicating the discharge of a pistol'! The same paper also notes that a 'cinematogragh operator' – film cameraman to you and me – was in attendance, though sadly I think the footage has long since disappeared. Incidentally, although the ground may be long gone, the house in the background with the distinct diamond pattern can still be seen today via Google Maps.
I've managed to get hold of some lovely stuff this year, and have been lucky that much of it has been donated to me. There's a wide variety including cigarette cards, trade cards, team and player photos, newspaper and magazine items etc dating from 1904 to the present day and these are dotted around the site, but all of the new additions can be seen here. If you have anything similar to dispose of, please get in touch via the Contact Form.
1990s Cards and Stickers
30--year-old Mick Gooding had already enjoyed a long Football League career when Reading signed him for £65,000 from Wolves in December 1989. After making his debut against Brentford on Boxing Day that year, the attacking midfielder flourished at Elm Park, his popularity with the fans evident in the fact that he won the club's Player of the Season award on three occasions. After boss Mark McGhee left Reading in 1994, Mick became joint player-manager alongside Jimmy Quinn, with the pair guiding the team to the Division One play-off final in May 1995. He made a total of 371 league and cup appearances for the Royals before retiring in 1997, and later became an engaging co-commentator on BBC Radio Berkshire's Reading FC coverage.
1975-76 Press Photo
Bruce Stuckey played nearly 100 games for Reading, helping us to promotion in 1976. Just after Christmas 1975, with his team trailing 2-1 at Brentford, Stuckey earned a point after scoring a last minute equaliser direct from a corner, which he admitted was a complete fluke. When Bruce's professional career finished, his line of work took an unusual turn – after returning to his native Devon he teamed up with his ex-Torquay United team-mate Dick Edwards to launch a Country and Western act! Bruce played locally for many years, but in April 1986 he was badly injured whilst returning home from a gig in Sidmouth. Then aged 39, his car was involved in a head-on smash with a Mini on a country lane, leaving him with concussion and head wounds requiring 28 stiches. He seems to have recovered well though as he was back playing the pub circuit by May that year.
1983-84 Press Photo
Lawrie Sanchez broke into Reading's first team in October 1977 just before he turned 18, whilst studying for his A Levels at the town's Presentation College. He played more than 250 games for the Royals before joining Wimbledon, ironically the team he made his Reading debut against, in December 1984. He went on to score the winning goal against Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final, and in 2022 Lawrie was inducted into STAR's Reading FC Hall of Fame.
1996 Press Photos
This week I was given another large batch of Reading FC press photos. Included are these from the 1995-96 season, which have been very nicely mounted and captioned. The Royals had secured safety in Division One by winning their final home game and ended the campaign with a 2-1 victory at Birmingham.