Reading FC History
1975-76 Press Photo
In the official history of Reading FC 'Heaven on Earth', this photo is captioned for the 1976-77 season, but I'm fairly sure it was taken at the end of the previous campaign to mark the team's promotion from Division Four.
1982-83 Club Photos
Kerry Dixon, top centre, achieved the notable feat of ending as top scorer in the Third, Second and First Divisions in consecutive seasons. Having signed for Reading from non-league Dunstable in 1980, Dixon's third and final season with the club in 1982-83 saw him hit 26 league goals (32 in total) despite his team being relegated – even his four goals away at Doncaster weren't enough as the Royals crashed to a 7-5 defeat. Chelsea snapped up Kerry at the end that season, and his prolific form continued in the top two divisions, eventually earning him eight England caps (four goals).
1901 Magazine Article
At the turn of the 20th Century, the Southern League was reckoned to on a par with the Second Division of the Football League. One reason was that transfer fees were only applicable between Football League clubs, meaning that a modest Southern League team such as Reading could pick up great international players for nothing. An example was centre-half Johnny Holt, who explained how he ended up at Elm Park in this article published in 'The Sphere' in 1901: The case of John Holt, the old international and Everton player, shows how hardly the transfer system may bear upon a brilliant and deserving player. In a letter to the writer Holt says: "It cost Everton nothing to secure my services. I played for them for nine years, and then when I wished to make a change they asked £300 for my transfer. This practically barred me from playing in the north, for naturally a man could not be worth that to any club having played so long. I may state that New Brighton offered £135 for my transfer, and Burnley were prepared to pay £200, but neither offer came to anything. Consequently I had to come south out of the reach of transfer fees. Directly I had signed for Reading I received a telegram from Everton to come and meet the secretary of the Clyde Football Club. The two clubs had agreed about my transfer. It had been arranged without my consent, and by then it was too late."
1909-10 Football Album
I collect all sorts of stuff connected to Reading FC, but my main interest over the last few years has been team photographs. So it's a treat when I find one that's new to me, and this is from the 'Daily Graphic Football Album 1909-10'. That was a terrible season for the club though as they finished bottom of the Southern League, with a description on a contemporary cigarette card stating they had 'fallen upon evil days'... sounds familiar...
1975 Press Photo
It would be fair to say that Charlie Hurley's managerial career didn't reach the heights he achieved as a player. As a centre-half at Sunderland Charlie earned legendary status – so much so that he was voted the fans' 'Player of the Century'. When he finished playing he was given the chance to manage Fourth Division Reading, taking over in February 1972. He was the man in charge as the club moved from the Biscuitmen-to-Royals era, and he led the team to its first promotion for 50 years in April 1976. The star of that side was talented but unpredictable striker Robin Friday, signed by Hurley, who was the only manager to get the best out of him. Charlie's five year stint ended when, with the team heading for relegation, he quit at half-time during a home defeat against Bury in February 1977.
1901 Newspaper Photo
Reading's incredible 9-0 result at Exeter had many people claiming it was the club's record win. It's a new mark away from home, but our record victory is in fact an 11-0 thrashing of Chesham Generals in the FA Cup, played at Elm Park in November 1900. In the league we've had two wins by an eight goal margin, 10-2 against Crystal Palace in 1946, and 8-0 versus Southport in 1970. This team photo was published in March 1901, and contains nine of the team that beat Chesham Generals.
1975 Press Photo
Taken in October 1975, here is a wonderful shot of Elm Park with the autumn sunshine casting its long shadows over the pitch. The photo features the great Robin Friday challenging for the ball during a 2-1 win for Reading over Bradford City in the promotion season of 1975-76.
A recent addition to the collection, this lovely postcard-size photo is difficult to date, but it's sometime between 1937 (when the penalty arc 'D' was introduced) and the late 1940s. A covered section known as 'Spalding Avenue' ran the length of the South Bank; this was built after the Great War, and the section we can see was replaced when the new roof had it's second section built in 1949. This is a terrific view of Elm Park looking towards the Town end, with (probably) the Reading Temperance Band entertaining the crowd before kick-off.
1998 Press Photo
25 years ago today on 22 August 1998, Reading played for the first time at their brand new home, the Madejski Stadium. After a dismal final season at Elm Park ended in relegation, the Royals started life at the new stadium with a 3-0 win over Luton Town. Midfieldsr Grant Brebner spent just one season with the club, but he had the distinction of scoring the Mad Stad's first goal. The photo below was taken by Mark Evans, and was among a batch I was given by STAR last year.
I class myself as a collector rather than historian but still do a fair amount of research on the British Newspaper Archive site. Also, the two books shown below have proved invaluable over the years; David Downs has been considered Reading FC's official historian for decades, and it was his wonderful 'Biscuits & Royals' book that got me interested in the club's history when I received it as a gift back in 1984. Alan Sedunary's 'Heaven on Earth' was published two decades later and has a comprehensive season-by-season account, plus an excellent statistics section which I constantly refer to.
1967-68 Rule Book
These little booklets were given to the playing staff each season, with this one kindly donated to me today by Pat Letch. The first instruction states: 'Players must carry this pass and produce it to the Commissionaire at the Office entrance at all home fixtures.' Slightly confusing is that the name written inside is 'R. Gardiner', who was a Reading player – but in the 1920s! I'm sure there's a logical explanation, and I'll post an update if I discover what that is.
1966 Newspaper Photos
From a cup special produced by the newly established Reading Evening Post, these rare (for the time) colour action shots were taken at Elm Park during the Division Three match against York City in December 1965. Goals from Dougie Webb, Brian Knight and Pat Terry gave the home team a comfortable 3-0 win, a week after Reading had thrashed Brentford 5-0 in the FA Cup second round. That victory had earned The Biscuitmen a home tie against top-flight Sheffield Wednesday, and this was the match for which the Post's special was published.
Picture postcards featuring Reading Football Club from the early part of the 20th century were issued by a few local photographers. William Henry Dee and Everard Cuzner published cards in the Edwardian era, with Dee in particular designing some beautiful examples. Phillip Collier produced them from the following decade, and he was joined by Eric Guy in the 1920s. I collect all kinds of memorabilia but vintage cards are the things I look out for most, so If you have any for disposal I'd love to hear from you via the Contact Form.
One of Reading's most gut-wrenching defeats happened 28 years ago today when they blew a 2-0 lead in the Division One play-off final at Wembley. The defining moment in the eventual 4-3 defeat against Bolton occurred when Royals striker Stuart Lovell had a penalty saved, which would have given his team a surely unassailable 3-0 lead at half-time.
Reading have been drawn to play Manchester United eleven times over the years in the FA Cup, but have only gone through on one occasion. That solitary win came in January 1927 after a second replay at Villa Park. The tie looked to heading into extra-time when centre-forward Bill Johnstone scored a last minute winner after a 'delightful bout of passing', much to the joy of the 3,000 travelling fans. This was thoroughly deserved as Reading dominated the game throughout, keeping their opponents under constant pressure. The reporter for the following day's 'Daily Mirror' reckoned that had they won by four goals it wouldn't have over-emphasised their superiority. Interesting to read that the teams changed around at half-time without leaving the field, no doubt because the light was fading.
I've seen many reports of Reading games from that period, and almost without fail Alf Messer is singled out for particular praise. Our correspondent notes: 'One man stood head and shoulders above the others. I refer to Messer, the Reading centre-half. He gave the best display I have seen from any centre-half this season. His tackling was certain and effective. His kicking to his forwards was always along the turf and accurate. He has the physical advantages too, and it will take a big centre-forward who gets the better of him when the ball is in the air.' In my opinion, Messer would have to be in the conversation for Reading's best ever player.