Reading suffered maybe their worst season in finishing bottom of the Southern League, with a team captained by Alf West. The former Liverpool player, bottom right here, had endured worse a few years earlier however after he was accidentally shot! I mentioned this a while ago here but it's worth another look.
The club's star centre-forward sadly died from wounds suffered at the Battle of the Somme one hundred years ago today, on 8th August, 1916. He was best remembered for his brilliant winning goal against Aston Villa in a replayed cup-tie at Elm Part in 1912, hooking the ball first-time over his shoulder into the net. The cheers that greeted the effort 'defied description'. He was said to be an exponent of the open game, with his feeding to the wingers being a 'treat to witness', and a contemporary correspondent reckoned him to be the 'best centre-forward that ever donned the blue and white stripes of the Biscuiteers'.
1929-30 Newspaper Photo
Pictured in the week leading up to an FA Cup tie at Aston Villa, the Reading players here were on the end of a 5-1 thumping in Birmingham. This came just a week after a humiliating 6-1 home league defeat against Bristol City, part of an awful run which saw the Biscuit boys tumble down the Division Two table. The team had actually started the season in decent form with just two defeats in the first ten games, which was just as well as relegation was avoided only on goal average.
I've put together a mini-set featuring Reading's all-time record goalscorer Trevor Senior, who was a gentleman both on and off the pitch and remains one our most popular players. Trevor hit 191 goals for the club in two spells between 1983 and 1992. This set is part of the 'Biscuitmen Originals' series which can be seen here.
This was the scene on Broad Street as supporters traveled to Elm Park for Reading's FA Cup fifth round clash with Brentford in February 1927. The capacity at the time was estimated to be 35,000, and this was tested as our all time record home attendance of 33,042 packed into the ground. This was before concrete terracing was built, so many would have seen little more than the goalkeepers' clearances!
This match saw the highest home crowd I've seen Reading play in front of. During our first season in the bottom tier the team had battled their way to the FA Cup 4th round, drawing a plum home tie with reigning Double winners Arsenal. 27,000 tickets (Elm Park's then capacity) were sold, and 25,756 of those turned up. We saw a close game and maybe we deserved a replay in a 2-1 defeat - particularly as Reading scored all three goals! Not strictly true, but Arsenal scored thanks to an own goal and a deflection, so as good as! The photos come courtesy of Get Reading.
In preparation for the 2016-17 season Reading's Dutch manager Jaap Stam and the players have traveled to the Netherlands for a training camp and friendly. The club first visited the country just before WWI for a match against a local representative side in Amsterdam, which the Biscuit team won by ten goals to two. These photos feature action from that match plus a shot of the team at their hotel.
Reading played in white shirts and blue shorts for two seasons in the early fifties before thankfully reverting to the hoops in 1955. Among the players here is centre forward Sammy Chung, second left at the top, who played 25 games for the club before moving to Division Three (South) rivals Norwich. He was later manager of a top-flight Wolves team that were dumped out of the League Cup by Fourth Division Reading in 1978, a defeat that cost him his job.
Jack Mansell Video Slideshow
Reading's forward thinking manager had Elm Park buzzing in the 1969-70 season with his brand of pass and move attacking football. The Biscuit boys enjoyed a 15 game unbeaten run as they raced to the top of the Third Division early in the new year, but a poor run saw them tail off to finish eighth. The final game of the season, however, saw Reading equal their record league winning margin in thrashing Southport 8-0, thus qualifying for a prestigious pre-season tournament called the Watney Cup.
The Somme at 100
Today marks the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme on July 1 1916. The 17th (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment was formed at the end of 1914 with the core group being professional footballers, and it became known as the Football Battalion. This photo, which has been expertly coloured by George Chilvers, includes Reading FC's Allen Foster, fourth from right at the back, who would sadly lose his life whilst fighting on the Somme in August 1916.
The poor condition of this card just adds to its charm (well that's what I tell myself!) Reading lost 3-1 at home to Aston Villa in the fifth round of the FA Cup that season, having pulled off one of the club's finest results in the previous round - a 1-0 win at Elm Park against soon to be league champions Sheffield Wednesday. The great Alf Messer, centre of photo, had by then taken over the captaincy from Bert Eggo.
A postcard sized photo issued by A.Wilkes & Son, a company started by former Aston Villa and England wing-half Albert Wilkes, who began his photographic career whilst still playing. After his death his son continued the business, and he captured the Reading team before a league match at Walsall in 1947.
This is a wonderful card that I've been searching many years for, and I finally got hold of it after a tip from Liverpool fan Jim Donnelly. Reading Football Club was in real danger of folding after relegation to the Southern League Second Division in 1910, but survived largely due to the efforts of secretary-manager Harry Matthews. The Biscuit boys bounced back immediately by winning promotion, and the team and supporters are shown proudly posing with the trophy at the start of the following season.
I picked up 'The Book of Football' about a quarter of a century ago, and the 1906 publication is a real treasure trove. It is beautifully designed with numerous articles and illustrations, and Reading, already a club of many years standing, fare very well. Centre forward Jimmy Long can be seen here, and he was the subject of an early chant from the Elm Park faithful: 'He's small but he's wise, he's terror for his size, Jimmy Long, Jimmy Long!'
The writer says that Reading have a 'very decent team this year', and at the start of the last century the club were always somewhere around the top of the Southern League. The Biscuit boys never managed to win the competition, the best finish being runners-up on three occasions. The strength of the league can be gauged by the fact that two of it's teams, Southampton (in 1900 and 1902) and Spurs (who won in 1901) reached the FA Cup final. In fact, serious consideration was given to the possibility of creating a League Division Two (South) using the Southern League teams, and although that didn't happen, they eventually formed the new Third Division in 1920.
1978-79 Newspaper Photo
Taken from a souvenir special published at the end of the season, this great shot shows the Royals celebrating the Division Four title win following the last game at Port Vale. Reading finished the season in amazing style by not conceding a goal in the last eleven games. The success was built on the consistency of goalkeeper Steve Death, who alongside the back four of Gary Peters, Mark White, Martin Hicks and skipper Paul Bennett missed just two games between them all season.
1895-96 Team Photo
I was looking through the Chronicle archives from 1930, when they published a series of photos showing old Reading teams groups. One of those was undated, and from the grainy copy I saw on microfilm I thought maybe it was the only missing year I have going back to 1894, which is from the 1899-1900 season. I manged to get a slightly better version and identified the players, and although it wasn't what I'd hoped, this is rare early photo of which I was unaware. If anyone could help with the elusive picture from 1899-1900 I'd love to hear about it!
During a cup tie at Millwall in January 1933, the referee abandoned the game when thick fog made it impossible to carry on. The Reading players were no doubt relieved at their good fortune as they were 2-0 down at the time. As they enjoyed their cup of Bovril in the dressing room (along with the odd Woodbine), the team looked around and noticed that goalkeeper Dick Mellors wasn't there. A search party was dispatched and they found poor old Dick still guarding his goal waiting for the next Millwall attack!
I've now done several dozen of these 'cards', and the results can be seen here. I've tried to represent different eras fairly but, as mentioned before, finding suitable photos can be a problem. For that reason there are some players I've included using head transplants, but hopefully those are not too obvious!
1932-33 Press Photo
Reading scored 103 goals in Division Three (South) this season including an impressive 68 at Elm Park, but it was only good enough for fourth place. Centre forward Jack Palethorpe (third left at the back) hit 29 league goals in just 27 games, before joining Stoke with 12 matches remaining. Had he stayed there's every chance that he, rather than Ronnie Blackman, would be our record scorer for a season. This is an original press photo taken by Eric Guy that I picked up recently, and I'm always on the look out for similar items.
This is a new project I'm working on, but the early signs are very pleasing. The aim is to eventually include up to 100 players from all eras, but finding decent enough photos could be a drawback. It will be a 'virtual' set for now, and I will create a gallery page when I've done more.
The state of the Elm Park pitch had been such a cause for concern that the club called in the renowned seed growers Sutton's, one of Reading's 'Three Bs' (biscuits, beer and bulbs). Supporters were well pleased with the result, which saw a mud heap transformed into a 'billiard table', as shown in this photo that I've colourised.
1936-37 Team Photo
A pre-season shot of the Reading XI that were selected for the first game at Torquay. The match ended 2-2, but the Biscuitmen had much the better of the return with a 5-1 win on Boxing Day. Centre forward Tommy Tait (second left at the front) scored in both games, and the player was recently inducted into STAR's Reading FC Hall of Fame. £200 of his £1,000 transfer fee was provided by the supporter's club, and he became an instant hero with a hat-trick on his debut at local rivals Aldershot in 1934.
In the days when just the champions were promoted from the two regional sections of the Third Division, Reading were battling it out at the top of the table with Plymouth Argyle in the South. The Biscuit boys won the title by point in the end, so a pivotal game was the magnificent 3-1 away win at their Devon rivals in February. Teddy Braithwaite scored one of our quickest ever goals, hammering home a rising shot after less than ten seconds. The result caused great excitement back in Reading, with a large crowd cheering the team home at the station in the early hours. The set here shows every player who started at least one game that season.
Robin Friday Video Slideshow
Last week marked the 40th anniversary of the striker's famous goal versus Tranmere at Elm Park in March 1976, which I was lucky enough to witness as a 13 year old. Sadly no video footage exists of Friday's magical volley, but top official Clive Thomas reckoned it was the best goal he'd ever seen, and this from a World Cup referee. When he put this to Robin after the game the player said: "Really? You should come down here more often, I do it every week in training!" See more Reading FC videos I've put together on The Biscuitmen's YouTube channel.
On 1st April 2006, ten years ago today, Reading's outstanding team clinched the Championship trophy with five games to spare after a 5-0 demolition of Derby. Promising young Irish striker Shane Long came off the bench to net twice as the Royals ran in five second half goals.
1988 Team Photo
Amazingly it was 28 years ago today on 27th March 1988 that Reading fans enjoyed their first trip to Wembley when we thrashed Luton Town 4-1 in the final of the Simod Cup. Plenty of people sneer and say it's only a 'Mickey Mouse' competition, but that's missing the point - the experience of being part of 40,000 ecstatic Reading folk means the importance of the cup is irrelevant, and it was just as wildly celebrated as winning any big competition would be.
STAR's Reading FC Hall Of Fame
STAR's Hall of Fame is a celebration and a record of individuals who have played an exceptional or distinctive part in the life of the club. It will include players, managers, officials, journalists and supporters, with the number of inductees evenly spread to represent each decade of the Club's history. The aim is to have 150 inductees by the point the club celebrates the 150th anniversary of it's first match on 21st February 2022. So each year until then there will be a fresh set of names acknowledged and introduced into the Hall of Fame. I was honoured to be asked to contribute to the project, and details of the first eleven inductees can be seen on the STAR website.
Ten years ago today on 25th March 2006, Reading achieved their greatest feat - finally reaching the top flight of English football when they clinched promotion to the Premier League with a draw at Leicester. Manager Steve Coppell had put together not only the finest ever Reading team, but the finest seen at Championship level. Anyone doubting that last statement need only look at the league table - the Royals won the title with a record 106, losing just two matches out of 46.
Former Reading manager Jack Mansell has sadly died at the age of 88. The ex-Brighton and Portsmouth defender brought a high scoring, pass and move brand of football rarely, if ever, seen at Elm Park. The team swept to the top of Division Three in the early part of 1970 during a 15 match unbeaten run, but tailed off and eventually finished eighth. They were top scorers in the Football League with an impressive 87 goals, but the open, attacking style also saw them concede 77. That statistic got even worse the following season, and Reading were relegated to Division Four. This was a real blow as the club approached their centenery, and Mansell was sacked in October, 1971. His two and half years in charge ultimately ended in failure, but Jack Mansell is still fondly remembered by supporters more than forty years on. He is shown on the right in this rare photo.
1925-26 Team Photo
As an update to a post further down this page, I've now had this photograph of Reading's first promotion winning side as a league club re-framed. It was kindly donated by former Reading FC director James Royle's grandson, who found it in his late father's garage. Mr Royle can be seen second right in the back row.
1939-40 Team Photo
Just three games into the season, the Football League abandoned the competition due the outbreak of the Second World War. Reading had started well and sat top of Division Three (South) after two wins and a draw, including a 5-0 drubbing of Crystal Palace. In 1946 the league resumed using the same fixture list as seven years earlier, and amazingly the Biscuit boys started in the same manner - a 2-2 draw at Bristol Rovers, with Tony MacPhee scoring our first goal of the season on both occasions, followed by home wins over Palace and Southend United.
1926-27 Cup Team
Reading have an impressive recent FA Cup record, reaching the 6th round, or quarter-final, in four of the last seven seasons. Prior to that we'd only made the last eight twice, and these are the players who beat Swansea 3-1 away to reach the semi-final in 1927. Back: Duckworth, Eggo, McConnell, Inglis. Middle: Messer, Evans, MacDonald. Front: Braithwaite, Johnstone, Richardson and Robson.
Godfrey Phillips initially issued a series of 400 small photos of football players in 1920, but this had grown to an incredible 2462 by 1924. All of those cards can be seen on Roger Pashby's great site The 'Pinnace' Collection. Reading players are well represented, including new signing Bert Eggo. A full-back who arrived from Sheffield Wednesday in 1921, Eggo went on the captain our famous team from later in that decade. The 26 Reading players are featured on the Cigarette Cards page.
1913 Italy 0 Reading 2
With possibly the most impressive looking result in our history, Reading rounded off the week long tour of Italy with a fourth win in five games. The Biscuit boys had also thrashed the country's best club side Pro Vercelli 6-0, though it should be pointed out that Italian football still was in it's infancy, with English teams very much on a different level.
1912 Newspaper Photos
104 years ago today on the 24th February 1912, Reading hosted Manchester United in the FA Cup Third Round. After beating the mighty Aston Villa in the previous round, the 'Biscuitopilis Executive' set about increasing the ground capacity by laying an extra 600 railway sleepers to improve the terracing. They were rewarded as a new record crowd of 24,069 squeezed into the ground to see the teams battle out a 1-1 draw, and after the first £1000 in silver ever taken at Elm Park was piled high on the counting table, some of the club's directors 'danced for joy'. 1912 gallery here.
1951-52 Team Photo
You may well be confused by this photo, as Reading are bizarrely wearing Portsmouth shirts here - and the reason for it shows just how much football has changed over the years. Having played four games in eight days over Christmas on muddy pitches, Reading were left without clean kit before a cup tie on New Year's Day, so borrowed these from their South Coast friends.
I was very sorry to hear that the legendary centre forward had passed away at the age of 90. Ron Blackman joined Reading in 1947 from non-league football and went on to score 167 goals in 240 games, with his 39 league goals in 1951-52 still standing as a club record. His heading ability was second to none, and even though he had many a tasty battle against the lower league defensive cloggers of the day, he always played the game in the right way. Blackman was sold to Nottingham Forest in 1954 for £8,000 despite being settled at Reading, the move going through due to the club's financial situation.
Animated slideshow of a fantastic little scrapbook I picked up a couple of years ago. Included is centre forward Arthur Bacon, who scored an amazing six goals against Stoke City the following season, which remains a club record. Please visit The Biscuitmen at YouTube!
1907-08 Cigarette Cards
In 1907 Taddy & Co. issued a set of 'Prominent Footballers', which included 15 Reading players. The following year another set featured ten Biscuitmen and the final series appeared in 1913, but unfortunately Reading did not feature. The three sets add up to nearly 1300 cards and provide a fantastic snapshot of pre-Great War football, and the 25 cards in my collection can be seen on the Cigarette Cards page. James Taddy & Co. were renowned for the high quality of their cards, these being no exception. In 1920 the company closed down after the workers went on strike.
1949-50 Team Photo
When considering Reading's all-time top scorers, the names of Ron Blackman and Trevor Senior spring to mind. However, had normal league football not been interrupted by the war, Tony MacPhee would be out on his own by far. The centre forward, fourth right at the back here, was Reading's top scorer for ten successive seasons before, during and after the war, racking up well over 300 goals.
1926-27 Team Photo
The Reading team that famously beat Manchester United in the FA Cup third round, second replay, at Villa Park in January 1927. Nearly 3,000 supporters followed the Biscuitmen to Birmingham to see Reading pull off a well deserved 2-1 win, thanks to a brilliant last minute winner from Bill Johnstone. As often happened when the team achieved notable away victories, a large crowd cheered them back home at Reading Station.
1925-26 Team Photo
A gentleman living in Dorset contacted me via this site and told me he'd found a large framed Reading team photo from 1925-26 in his late father's garage. He explained that his grandfather James Royle was a director of both Jacksons dept store in Reading and the football club, and appears in the photo (second right in the back row). Mr Royle's grandson wanted it to go to a good home and wondered if I'd like it - needless to say I didn't have to think too long about it!
Animated slideshow using team photos from the mid-Sixties Roy Bentley era. The ex-Chelsea centre-forward took over from Harry Johnston in 1963 and was responsible for introducing the sky blue kit, as Reading went for a more modern look in the style of Jimmy Hill's Coventry City. This wasn't universally popular, but brings a misty eyed nostalgia to fans of a certain age. The music I've chosen I think perfectly sums up a supporter's relationship with their team!
1984-85 Team Photo
Reading set a new club record of 11 away wins in Ian Branfoot's first full season as manager, revealing a more resolute approach. Striker Dean Horrix (second right, back), hit a purple patch in scoring an impressive 12 goals in nine games, with him and Trevor Senior totalling 47 for the season. 'Deano' is one of the most popular players ever to play for the club, and it was devastating to hear of his tragic death in a car crash at the age of just 28 in 1990. My thanks go to Dave Goss for the photo.
This photo was taken before one of two trial matches Reading held at Elm Park prior to the club's last Southern League season. New goalkeeper 'Jock' Archibald (second left, middle row) impressed and secured his place in the first team, seemingly unimpaired by the lack of a thumb on his right hand! He lost his place, however, when he and teammate 'Jock' Hastie (bottom right) misbehaved on the train returning from a cup match at Plymouth in January 1920.
These shots were taken during the club's annual photo call on the 10th July, 1980. Reading had an unremarkable season, finishing 10th in the Third Division, but there was an amazing symmetry to their record - P 46 W 18 D 10 L 18 F 62 A 62 Pts 46. More player photos from this season can be seen here.
1902-03 Team Photo
Reading lost just four games out of 30 in the Southern League this season as they finished in second place, proving their worth as one of the strongest combinations in the South of England. The FA Cup provided great excitement when, having beaten Second Division Burnley in the intermediate round, the Biscuiteers earned a replay after drawing at top flight Nottingham Forest. Reading were beaten 6-3 after extra time in a thrilling match, which attracted a new record crowd of nearly 15,000 to Elm Park. I'm grateful to the National Archives Image Gallery for allowing me to use this fantastic photo.
Following on from the action gif I put together for the previous post, here are some shots of Reading defender Alf Messer, who took over as captain when full-back Bert Eggo lost his place in the team. Messer came to the attention of the England selectors with a series of commanding displays as Reading reached the FA Cup semi-final in 1927, but never gained the international recognition he deserved. He was reckoned to be the best uncapped player of the day, and his transfer to Spurs in 1930 all but sealed our relegation back to Division Three (South) in 1931.