Reading FC History
1988 Signed Print
The 'Reading Chronicle' produced this lovely print to mark the Club's first ever appearance at the national stadium for the final of the Full Members Cup, which was sponsored by Italian sportswear company Simod. It was a competition that ran for seven seasons between 1985 and 1992 and was open to teams in the Football League's top two divisions, with Reading and Blackburn the only second division teams to win it.
Having been promoted the previous season, Reading's first home game in Division Two saw a resounding 4-0 win against Nottingham Forest, with the visitors, according to the 'Athletic News', being outplayed in every department. The home side's left-wing combination of Richardson and Robson each scored twice, but Reading's principal strength lay with the half-backs. Alf Messer played a 'wonder game' and dominated proceedings throughout in both defence and attack. The 'Athletic News' reporter said he really liked the Reading team, but complained about the players' 'useless chattering', reckoning it would be better if they concentrated on playing football rather than arguing about it! The squad is pictured here on a plain backed newspaper supplement, which is in poor condition but quite scarce.
1972 Press Photo
Former Republic of Ireland international Charlie Hurley had just been appointed Reading manager when I first visited Elm Park at the age of nine in 1972. During his five years in charge he guided the Club to its first promotion in fifty years when they went up from Division Four in 1976 - and famously quit at half-time during a game against Bury as the team headed towards relegation just a year later. The most memorable game of his tenure was a big promotion clash with Tranmere at Elm Park in March 1976, when Reading, led by the mercurial talent of Robin Friday, hammered their rivals 5-0. 'Charlie Hurley's Blue and White Army'... ahh, the memories!
These signatures are a million miles away from what you'd get today, which is basically a squiggle and a number. These have all been very neatly written and you can actually read the names. Most of Reading's first team players are present, though unfortunately Alf Messer and Frank Richardson are missing. I can pinpoint the season due to the presence of Herbert Batten, who was at Elm Park only for the 1927-28 season.
I'm quite short of stuff from this decade, so I was very pleased to pick up this superb little collection. The two team photos were given away with 'Sport' magazine whilst the fixture list is just the second I've found that dates from before the sixties. The FA Cup rosette is a lovely thing, and while Reading have never won it the competition, it doesn't mean we can't dream!
1985 Press Photo
An original press release photo of the Reading FC squad before the 1985-86 season.... little did we know what was to follow as the Royals went on to win their first 13 Division Three games, the best start for any team in English League history. They were on course to make it 14 against Wolves on a raucous night at Elm Park before the visitors grabbed a late equaliser, and in the next game lost their unbeaten league record against bogey team Bury.
I'm quite short of stuff from the 1950s, so I was delighted to get hold of this bundle. The two team pictures were given away with Sport magazine and the fixture list is the only one I have from this decade. The rosette harks back to the days when the FA Cup caused genuine excitement whoever the opponents were, and while Reading have never won the competition it doesn't mean we can't dream!
Reading's Fourth Division title win in 1979 was just the second time the Club had topped their table since joining the Football League in 1920, having previously been champions of the old Third Division (South) back in 1926. Unfortunately the wrong year is recorded on this pennant, but we all make mistakes...The Biscuitmen has occasionally been known to give false information, shocking as that seems!
2011-12 Club Photos
Some of the players that achieved the club's last promotion when the Royals won the Championship Title for the second time, pipping Southampton by a point. Reading pulled off a fantastic away win at their nearest rivals, with Adam Le Fondre scoring twice, and his brilliant finish that ended a flowing team move was an absolute classic. Pictured are Adam Federici, Noel Hunt, Le Fondre, Jobi McAnuff, Jimmy Kebe, Mikele Leigertwood, Brian McDermott and Jem Karakan.
1924 Trade Card
This is one of the rarest Reading cards out there, but the actual kit design is not particularly accurate. The set issuer Battock used generic designs for several different teams, and Reading, for one, certainly didn't have a striped and hooped combination on their shirts. As fellow card collector Roger Pashby says, Battock played fast-and-loose with their kit colours! A quite naively designed but lovely looking card in great condition considering its age and the purpose for which it was produced.
This superb team photo was taken before a 3-2 home win in the Southern League against Spurs in January 1905. Guest of the Club was local businessman Solly Joel, who had offered to donate 25 guineas annually to the Elm Park coffers, and he is pictured here with the players. After the match, Chairman J.B. Messer entertained a large party of Mr Joel's family and friends to tea in the Directors' room under the stand. Mr Joel, who had made his fortune from diamond mining, was renowned for being a generous man who purchased the first motorised ambulance for the Royal Berkshire Hospital. Another illustration of his generosity was exhibited when he gave Sol Joel Park, located close to his estate, to the Corporation of Reading in 1927.
Reading scored a Club record 112 league goals this season, including an incredible 73 at Elm Park. The Biscuit boys hit four or more goals at home on ten occasions, but fell short in the promotion race after finishing runners-up to Plymouth. Another scarce plain back supplement, this one was given away with 'Sport' magazine.
1934-35 Fixture List
To say Reading were a strong home team in those days would be a understatement – between April 1933 and January 1936 they went an impressive 55 league games at Elm Park unbeaten, which included two full seasons. Unfortunately, their away record was relatively poor which meant, while they finished near the top of the Division Three (South) table, they weren't able to claim the one available promotion spot.
Christmas Day and Boxing Day saw back-to-back matches against Millwall, though for some reason they have been anachronistically described as 'Millwall Athletic', which is a bit odd considering they dropped the second part back in 1903! Click below to see fixtures.
Royals' popular winger, who has left the Madejski after eight years, holds a unique place in the Club's history as the only man to score in an FA Cup semi-final for Reading, which happened when he netted the equaliser against Arsenal at Wembley in 2015. He scored some spectacular goals over the years, including a long range stunner v QPR at Loftus Road and an incredible shoulder-high volley against Burnley at the Mad Stad in 2014. Garath is pictured here on some official Club photos issued over the years.
One of Reading's best pre-war players, full-back Billy McConnell was part of the renowned team of the late-1920s. Born to the north of Dublin, the family relocated to Slough when Billy was four, and it was while playing for his local team that he came to the attention of of the Elm Park Directors. Signing professional terms in August 1924, McConnell played 162 league and cup games over the next four years, and was capped eight times by the country of his birth. His one and only goal came in a home win over Middlesbrough in 1927, when a hopeful lob from the halfway line bounced over the keeper into the net. Sadly Billy, who is pictured on this fantastic postcard, suffered a broken ankle during that match and he never fully recovered, being forced to give up full-time football the following year.
Among Reading's best and most popular goalkeepers, Steve Death won the fans' Player of the Year award in his first season with the Club, and went on to claim it a record four times. After initially joining from West Ham on loan, Steve played 537 games for the Biscuitmen-come-Royals between 1969 and 1982, which puts him second on the list of appearance makers behind Martin Hicks.
The Reading record goalscorer's Elm Park career coincided exactly with the period the team played without hoops (1983 to 1992 in two spells) so by complete coincidence he never wore them (other than a friendly). Trevor scored a total of 191 league and cup goals for the Royals and remains one of the club's most popular players of any era.
A non-descript 0-0 draw in Division Three (South) is something you'd usually take no notice of when scanning through the record books, but Reading's stalemate at Millwall in 1923 is brought vividly to life in this dramatic photograph that somehow made its way onto the front cover of Spanish paper 'The Sports Day'. Under the heading 'The Energy of English Football', an unknown Reading player flies through the air after a forceful challenge. In a low-key performance typical of the Biscuit team's early Football League days, the star of the show was goalkeeper Alex Kane, who pulled off several brilliant saves before a crowd of 12,000. I got hold of this thanks to English ex-pat John Howden, who spotted it and kindly arranged a deal with the Spanish vendor.
1932-33 Press Photo
I'm a very keen collector of Reading team pictures but they very rarely become available, so I was pleased to get hold of this terrific photo a few years ago. It was taken by Eric Guy, who was based in Waylen Street in the town centre. During the 1920s he was in partnership with Phillip Osborne Collier, and I have a few team postcards marked 'Collier & Guy'. Popular former defender Fred Bartholomew – 'Old Bart' – was by then groundsman, and he can be seen bottom right.
Going through some stuff and I'd forgotten I had this. It was published in 'The Tatler' in November 1902 and features a couple of shots taken at Elm Park during a Southern League match between Reading and Southampton, which finished 1-1. A ceremonial kick-off was quite often performed then by a local dignitary or celebrity, in this case a racehorse owner. Click photo for detail – Reading are in the darker stripes!