Reading FC History
Seasons to be Cheerful
There's no doubt that following Reading has been tough for the last few years, but in May 2022 there was a reminder of better times when the Stadium hosted a Legends match between players from the Championship winning sides of 2005-06 and 2011-12, managed by Steve Coppell and Brian McDermott respectively. The younger side, not surprisingly, ran out winners 8-5, but it was a wonderful occasion and thoroughly enjoyed by all. Bellow are just a few of those who took part.
1970s Team Photos
I was very kindly given a box of Reading FC bits and pieces by Royals fan Bob Burrows, which included this superb run of large photos issued by the Club in the late Seventies. The middle shot is from 1975-76, when Reading won their first promotion in 50 years. Collecting team pictures is one of my passions, so I was delighted to receive these.
1948-49 Press Photo
When Reading lost both home and away games against League leaders Swansea over the Christmas period, they languished below halfway in the Division Three (South) table. However, from the new year until the end of the season, their form was so consistent that the Biscuit boys eventually finished as runners-up to the Welsh club. I was very pleased to pick up this scarce original picture, which has a 'Central Press Photos Ltd' stamp on the back.
2007-08 Club Photos
Czech Republic international midfielder Marek Matejovsky joined Reading halfway through the Club's second Premier League season and went on the play 56 games over three seasons. He scored just twice, but the first of those was a world class strike against Liverpool at Anfield, which gave the Royals an early lead in a game they went on to lose. I'm managing to find two or three of these photos a year (which I never bothered with at the time) so I'm very slowly building a collection.
Royals fan Clive McNelly kindly let me have a box of RFC stuff, which included four programme binders from the late 70s and early 80s. I've said before that I don't really collect programmes, and it's not that I don't like them – it's more a case of not having the room for a proper collection. The binder below contains a season's worth from 1978-79 when Reading won the 4th Division Championship.
1961 Newspaper Cutting
In an FA Cup First Round tie Reading were expected to see off their Third Division rivals Newport County, who sat bottom of the table. However, with the team recently struggling for goals, they laboured to a 1-1 draw at Elm Park, and the 'Reading Standard' was scathing in its criticism: 'Reading managed to cram into 90 minutes every fault possible in soccer'. They performed much better in the replay, often bewildering their opponents with 'tip-tap tactics', but still fell to a 1-0 defeat. Future Reading winger George Harris can be seen in the Newport line-up.
1930-31 Newspaper Photo
After five seasons in Division Two, Reading were relegated thanks mainly to a terrible away record, winning just once and conceding 63 goals on their travels. But there was plenty of entertainment on offer for the Elm Park faithful as the Biscuit boys put on several high scoring displays at home. Included was a 7-3 Good Friday win against Stoke City, when centre-forward Arthur Bacon scored a club record six goals. Witness to this game was one John Arlott, who described Bacon as having 'a shaving-brush tuft of hair growing from a shallow forehead above a mighty jaw'. The great cricket commentator remembered, for Bacon's sixth, how the ball, 'flying almost vertically into the goal, thrust the roof of the net high above the crossbar'.
1988 Press Photo
Hard to believe it was 34 years ago today that Reading first played at Wembley. A team heading for relegation from the Second Division shocked top-flight Luton Town with a comprehensive 4-1 victory in the final of the Simod Cup. The fact it was a low value competition is immaterial, it was all about a day out at the national stadium – we had the time of our lives, and the celebrations that evening at the Thatchers pub in Woodley weren't bad either! This press photo features full-back Linden Jones showing off the trophy.
1907 Cigarette Cards
I'm slowly adding stuff I have to various galleries. 15 cards featuring Reading players were issued as part of Taddy & Co's 'Prominent Footballers' series in 1907, with a further ten appearing the following year. The 25 Taddy cards can be seen here.
1948-49 Newspaper Photo
Published by the 'Weekly Telegragh' paper, this photo was taken before a 2-0 defeat at Walsall in September 1948. Reading were let down by the finishing of the normally reliable centre-forward Tony MacPhee, who wasted several good chances set up by the 'crafty' veteran Ronnie Dix. 36-year-old Dix had signed for the Biscuit boys in 1947, and ended his long career after two seasons at Elm Park. Ronnie sprang to fame two decades earlier when, at the age 15 years and 180 days, he became the youngest goal scorer in Football League history after netting for Bristol Rovers.
1984 Press Photo
Reading's all-time record appearance maker Martin Hicks, who played a total of 603 league and cup games between 1978 and 1991. The centre-back was part of three promotion winning teams and is the only captain in the Club's history to lift a trophy at Wembley Stadium. He won the Player of the Season award in 1989-90, a trick he repeated at new team Birmingham City two years later.
This photo shows the four Reading players left at the Club in 1991 who were part of the Simod Cup win three years earlier. Steve Richardson, Steve Francis, Michael Gilkes & Linden Jones are pictured during a period of odd kit designs. Mark McGhee was the new manager this season, and thankfully restored the hoops the following year.
1899 Magazine Photos
It's a shame these photos aren't clearer as they're the earliest action shots I've seen taken at Elm Park. Played less than three years after the ground opened, the match was between Reading and Millwall (not Southampton as stated in the 'Golden Penny' magazine) and took place in February 1899. The camera is positioned next to the Tilehurst goal, with Millwall defending. Note the penalty area markings, which were updated to what we'd know today in 1902. For just that season Reading played in white shirts and dark blue shorts.
1920s Cigarette Cards
These 'large' size Pinnace cards date from the early part of the decade and certain teams – including Reading – are incredibly hard to find in this format. Alec Christie appeared in the initial 1920 issue of cards as a Reading player, but by the time the second of these was released in 1922 he was at Southampton. He was photographed again in Saints colours, but luckily for me no team name is mentioned and the kits (at least in black and white) are very similar. So, even though not strictly true, I'm claiming it as a Reading card!
One of the more unusual stories I've discovered researching Reading FC over the years concerns Alf West, who spent just one season at Elm Park, skippering the team to relegation in 1910. Full-back Alf signed for us from Liverpool, and it was whilst at Anfield that he was accidentally shot! The incident occurred in 1904 while he was training for a sprint, as reported in Liverpool's programme:
Not having had much practice at starting with the pistol it was decided to adopt this method. Whilst the trainer was handling the weapon, it accidentally went off and West received a bullet under his right shoulder. He walked away some 200 yards, and then, staggering, fell into his trainer's arms. Fortunately the bullet did not penetrate the lungs, but spent itself by travelling along the outside of the ribs to the front part of the chest.
West was in a critical condition as he had actually been shot with two bullets just above the heart by trainer William Norman, who was 'naturally much upset'.
1986 Club Photo
Reading signed Terry Hurlock from Brentford in early 1986 to strengthen the midfield in a team on its way to the Third Division title. A tough tackling ball winner from the old school, Hurlock made his debut during a 3-2 win at Swansea and was selected for the PFA's Third Divisionn Team of the Year. Terry spent just a year at Elm Park before joining Millwall in February 1987.
1905 Illustrated Paper
Some lovely photos here of an FA Cup replay between Reading v Fulham played at Elm Park and published in 'The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News'. The camera is at the Tilehurst End looking towards the 'popular side', which later became known as the South Bank.
1927 Newspaper Photo
This striking photo was published a week after Elm Park hosted its record crowd of 33,042, who witnessed an FA Cup 5th round tie against Brentford. This is in a scrapbook I have, but unfortunately the original owner didn't feel it necessary to include a wonderful set of match photos that appeared in the same issue of 'The Reading Standard'. Easy to say with the benefit of hindsight of course – I rarely keep anything from the modern day myself!
2000s Cards & Stickers
Reading paid a then club record £700,000 to York City for the services of Graeme Murty in 1998, and he went on to make over 300 appearances over the next decade. Initially signed as a winger, Murty was hampered by injury early on in his time at the Mad Stad, but eventually settled into the team at full-back and captained the team during their most successful period. He famously scored the winning penalty against QPR on the final day of the 2005-06 season, which gave the Royals a record breaking total of 106 points as they won Championship title and promotion to the Premier League for the first time.
Some of you may have noticed I'm a bit obsessed with collecting team pictures and I'm always on the look-out for original press photos, supplements, postcards and club issues etc. If anyone has any to dispose of please contact me here.