1903 Newspaper Photos

Before the local papers started printing photos around the mid-Edwardian period, action shots of the Reading team were few and far between. Several newspapers and magazines regularly carried football illustrations at the turn of the century, and the big league clubs from the north and midlands had plenty of pictorial coverage. But the press was then, as has always been the case, very London-centric –  there were photos taken at Elm Park form the era, but usually the Biscuit boys were featured playing away in the capital. This Southern League fixture at West Ham's Boleyn Ground resulted in a 1-1 draw. Click here and here to see photos in detail.

 

 

1914-15 Postcard

Not so much a new addition as an upgrade. I've had this postcard for many years in terrible condition, but purchased a very nice copy today. That season was completed despite the outbreak of the Great War, and this was the last team photo to feature Allen Foster (third from right in the middle row). The great centre-forward was killed in action on the Western Front in 1916.

 

 

1920s Cigarette Cards

I've decided to put some Pinnace cards, which were issued in the early twenties by Godfrey Phillips, in an album page which was designed for them at the time. Of course these days this is not the best way of storing them, but they do look fantastic and the cards themselves are relatively cheap! One of the players shown here is the great-uncle of Royals' popular former kitman Ron Grant.

 

 

1904-05 Postcard 

This is one of a number of similar postcards produced by local photographer William Henry Dee in the Edwardian era. Either he or someone at his studio was very artistic, as they are real works of art, and, despite the condition, this is a lovely item. Reading were runners-up in the Southern League that season with their centre-forward inspiring this chant from the Elm Park faithful: "He's little but he wise, he's a terror for his size, Jimmy Long, Jimmy Long!" He finished 1904 on a high during a home game against Portsmouth as the Biscuit team ran up five goals, Long hitting four with another effort smashing against the crossbar. 

 

 

1974-75 Team Photo

This great print was given away with the Supporters' Club guide for that season, and I'm grateful to Royals fan Paul Tanner for giving it to me on, as he says, a 'permanent loan'. Although a lowly Division Four team at the time, this picture evokes some happy memories for me as a young fan then, and includes some of the club's greatest names. 

 

 

1927 Team Photo

This lovely composite photo is from a souvenir programme issued by the publishers of the 'Berkshire Chronicle' on the day of Reading's F.A. Cup semi-final against Cardiff. For the game itself, Teddy Braithwaite, who'd played in every previous round, was replaced by Hugh Davey due to injury. The Biscuit boys put in a disappointing display against their Welsh opponents and were well beaten by three goals to nil.

 

 

Vintage Scrapbook

Included in this treasure trove is a superb team photo from the 1936-37 season, which was given away with the 'News Chronicle' paper. I'm assuming they would have been issued around the country with pictures of the relevant local team, though I can't find any info at the moment. The team name and season should be seen at the top, but unfortunately it's been trimmed to fit the scrapbook (I know - unbelievable!). However, I'd not even seen this before, so it's another great addition to my team photo collection. If you have anything similar you no longer want, please give me a shout! 

 

 

Vintage Scrapbook

I recently came into possession of a fantastic large scrapbook of local newspaper cuttings covering every subject you can think of, with a date range from the 1920s to the 1950s. There are many pages dedicated to Reading FC, and the photos below depict a 1935 FA Cup match versus Arsenal played at Elm Park in front of the ground's second biggest attendance of 30,621.

 

 

Press Photos

A couple of shots featuring Michael Gilkes, who had probably his finest game for Reading in the Simod Cup final of 1988. Best known as a winger, he'd actually spent most of the season at full-back - but for this game he was played as a striker due the lack of options up front. It was a wise decision from boss Ian Branfoot as he ran the Luton Town defence ragged, scoring the first with a sublime chip, winning the penalty for the second and coming close on other occasions as the Royals cruised to a 4-1 win at Wembley. Blessed with incredible pace, in full flow Gilkes was a thrilling sight to see from the Elm Park terraces as he raced down the wing. He joined the club as a teenager in 1984, and over the next 13 years played close to 500 league and cup games (ranking as the fourth highest appearance make for the club), scoring more than 50 goals. 'Gilkesy' has latterly coached Reading's academy and first teams, and was inducted into STAR's Reading FC Hall of Fame in 2018. 

 

 

STAR's Reading FC Hall of Fame 

I was delighted to see David Downs inducted at the 2019 ceremony. A lifelong fan of 70-plus years, David has long been recognised as Reading's official historian, and inspired my own interest in the club's past with his wonderful book 'Biscuits & Royals', published back in 1984. After retiring from teaching David was employed by Reading FC in a variety of roles including Education Officer and Youth Protection Officer, before finally retiring for good in 2018.

The project started as an annual event in 2016 and aims to complete on the 150th anniversary of Reading FC's first match, which was played in 1872. Details of those inducted so far can be found here.

 

 

1908 Magazine Article

Reading's great full-back Herbert Smith was featured in an article titled 'Some Famous Southern Captains' published in February 1908 in the 'Boy's Own Paper'. The author was the former Spurs player and manager John Cameron, who would have known Smith very well, and he says Herbert is a 'strong Churchman and a supporter of temperance who rules his club with an iron hand, but is nevertheless extremely popular. Reading is indeed very lucky to have such a pleasant skipper who in every way sets all an example.' 

 

 

1923 Trade Item

Reading's 'other' John Walker was a former Scottish international who spent two seasons at Elm Park from 1921 to 1923, when he ended his career. The imaginatively nicknamed 'Jock' played 61 times in defence for the Biscuitmen without scoring in a fairly unremarkable spell, but he does hold a unique place in the club's history - during his final game against Queens Park Rangers on 21nd March 1923, Jock became Reading's oldest league player at the age of 40 years and 164 days.

This is one of a series of twelve 'Famous Club Colours and Players' given away with the 'Adventure' comic in early 1923.

 

 

Fixture Lists

I'm grateful to Reading fan and collector Les Hawkins, who very kindly sent me several fixture lists and ClubCall cards. If you have any not shown here going spare, please get in touch via the contact form.

 

 

Ted Hanney

Reading's great centre-half left for Manchester City in November 1913, and after the club were critisised over the transfer, Hanney wrote to the 'Reading Observer' to make it clear that he'd instigated the move:

Sir, may I through your widely read columns express my sincere thanks to the Reading Football Club and its supporters for the many kindnesses I have experienced at their hands during the time I have been associated with the club?

My only reason for wishing to be transferred was an anxiety with regard to the future, for a professional footballer's career is a risky one, and comparatively short. Had I remained in Reading the most I could have expected would have been the limit wage and a small benefit after five years' service. Now, if things go well with me, I can anticipate the limit wage straight away, and a big benefit later on, while I am to receive a substantial portion of my transfer fee.

The Reading directors were not desirous of transferring me, and the transfer had been effected at my own request for the reasons mentioned. Football for me is a business, and I have only acted in the manner which I feel sure will commend itself to the followers of the R.F.C. 

I take this opportunity of bidding farewell to my numerous circle of friends, not forgetting those in the country, especially in Wokingham.

 

 

1921 Cigarette Card

Goalkeeper Sid Crawford served the club before and after the Great War, receiving a well deserved benefit when he left in 1922. Sid was an expert penalty saver with an unusual technique - he would stand much closer to one post reasoning he would only have to dive one way. When Reading drew Chelsea in a 1921 cup-tie at Elm Park, the Biscuit team looked like being denied a well deserved replay when, with the game standing at 0-0, a late penalty was awarded to the away side. But Crawford was to have his moment of glory: after luring the taker into putting the ball to his right, he dived full-length on the ball to make a brilliant save. Sid was carried shoulder high off the pitch by ecstatic supporters, but it was all too much for his wife, who fainted in front of the grandstand due to the excitement.

This is a medium sized 'Pinnace' card which, along with the premium 'cabinet' versions, are extremely difficult to get hold of. 

 

 

2007-08 Club Photo

A lovely signed pic of the Royals' popular American 'keeper. After an initial loan spell Marcus signed permanently for Reading on a free transfer in the Summer of 2002, and over the next seven years played close to 300 games for the club. He was virtually ever present as the team stormed to the Championship title in 2006 and was a permanent fixture during our first two Premier League seasons.

 

 

1935-36 Fixture List

Up to the 1950s it was common to play fixtures on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day, often against the same opponents. This gave an opportunity to exact quick revenge, and after losing the away game 2-4 at Northampton, Reading ran out 5-2 winners in the return just 24 hours later in front of an Elm Park crowd of over 18,000.

  

 

Johnny Walker 1928-2019 

I was very sad to hear about the death of former Reading captain and a true character of the game, Johnny Walker, at the age of 90. The Glaswegian arrived at Elm Park just before his 29th Birthday in 1957, having previously played for Wolves and Southampton. Initially signed as a forward, Johnny played in a variety of positions and ended his Reading career as a full back in 1965 at the age of 36. In 2016 he was among the first inductees into STAR's Reading FC Hall of Fame.

Former Reading Chronicle sports editor Roger Ware tells a wonderful story about Johnny, who always wore a big overcoat and looked a fair bit older than he actually was. During an away trip Johnny shuffled up to the players entrance in his trademark overcoat but was refused admission - turns out the other players had set him up, telling the steward he was an eccentric fan who believed he was the team captain! Johnny went mad, especially with Roger backing up the players' version, and was only allowed in after Reading manager Roy Bentley had vouched for him!

This postcard was produced by the football journalist and historian Bryan Horsnell. 

 

 

1970 Watney Cup

Reading ended the 1969-70 campaign as the top scorers in the Football League, a feat that qualified them for a pre-season tournament known as the Watney Cup. Manchester United were the visitors to Elm Park on the first day of August, and won an entertaining game 3-2. The highlights appeared on ITV's 'Big Match'  the following day, with Jimmy Hill comparing Reading's football to that of Brazil, who had just won the World Cup! This is from the Supporters Club Handbook for the 1970-71 season.

 

 

2018-19 Player Photos

I popped down to the stadium today to pick up this season's photos. The Royals are in a tricky position at the wrong end of the Championship at the turn of the year, but there is plenty of talent in the squad, and I'm hoping for a change in fortunes under new boss Jose Gomes

 

1965-66 Squad Photo

I've been after this 'signed' photo (which actually features printed autographs) for while and was pleased to get hold of it this week. It was originally available via an Evening Post cup special, printed before the third round clash with Sheffield Wednesday. Third Division Reading gave a good account themselves, going down to the odd goal in five against that season's beaten finalists in front of over 22,000 fans at Elm Park.

 

 

Roy Bentley's Stationery Club - By Roger Titford 

Roger is a lifelong Reading fan who has written several books on the history of Reading Football Club, ranging from the club's obscure early Victorian days to Seventies cult figure Robin Friday. 'Roy Bentley's Stationary Club' tells how in the fast moving 1960s, Reading FC were, well, stationary. For details and how to order visit the When Saturday Comes site.

 

Trevor Senior

A few shots of Reading's record goalscorer. Trevor's two spells for the Royals came between 1983 and 1992, which just happened to be the exact time period we last played without hoops - so amazingly he never appeared in them! Senior joined the club from Portsmouth as replacement for the Chelsea bound striker Kerry Dixon, but more than proved his worth in scoring an impressive 99 goals in his first three seasons. At the time he was the most prolific goalscorer in the country, and played a huge part as Ian Branfoot's team rose from the Fourth to the Second Division between 1984 and 1986.

 

 

W.G. 'Joe' Bailey DSO, MC and two Bars

Reading forward Joe Bailey was among the bravest men to have fought in the First World War, being awarded the Military Cross plus two bars - the equivalent of winning the medal three times - and the Distinguished Service Order, for four conspicuous acts of gallantry. He had joined the Football Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment in 1915 as a lance corporal and ended the conflict as the most highly decorated officer attached to the Suffolk Regiment, having been promoted through the ranks to second lieutenant.

After the war, Joe returned to Elm Park and had the distinction of scoring Reading's first ever Football League goal in August 1920. He was awarded a benefit game against Plymouth that season, ten years after after joining the club, and, whilst sharing a train journey with him, managed to sell a ticket for that match to the Prince of Wales!

He is shown here on a large Pinnace 'Cabinet' card from the early 1920s.

 

 

c1913 Postcard

A fantastic postcard showing supporters at Elm Park, not sure which match but Reading had several high profile cup-ties around this time. When I was a kid a lot of older men wore flat caps and smoked pipes (including my grandfather), and when you see photos like this it starts to make sense. Click on the image and click again to get some amazing detail of this study in humanity. 

 

 

1921-22 Postcard

About 30 years ago I was at an antiques fair (looking for nothing in particular) when I spotted this, and it became the first Reading FC postcard I owned. The photo was taken behind the original stand at Elm Park, with the fence to the left running alongside Norfolk Road. The stand was damaged during a storm in 1925, to be replaced by the one that remained until the ground closed in 1998.

 

 

1965-66 Team photo

A nice trade card I received today, which is the size of a modern postcard. In April 1966, Reading lost a remarkable game at Swansea by five goals to four, but won the return fixture at Elm Park just two days later. More galling for fans was losing all four local derbies against Oxford and Swindon without scoring a goal! 

 

 

1985 Pennant

Reading's proud record of 13 straight wins from the start of a season is secure for another year after Liverpool dropped points for the first time in 2018-19. The Royals began the 1985-86 Division Three campaign in low key fashion with a 1-0 home win over Blackpool, and we had no idea what was to follow. Reading quietly went on a perfect run, but after six out of six wins the media began to take notice. The national papers turned out in force for the away trip to Brentford, where they saw ace striker Trevor Senior net a late winner. The next three games were won to make it ten out of ten, only one short of Spurs' all-time record set 25 years earlier. Amazingly Manchester United had also started perfectly but, as they faltered against Luton in game eleven, it was Reading who equaled Tottenham's feat with a narrow win against Bolton. The record was set with a 2-0 win at Newport, and the following week the run was stretched to thirteen consecutive victories at Lincoln. The winning streak finally ended when Wolves snatched a late equaliser under the lights in front of a raucous Elm Park crowd. Sadly no footage exists as the Football League was in dispute with the TV companies, but 33 years on it remains fresh in the memory. 

 

 

1935 Team Photo

This terrific photo shows the players relaxing on Brighton beach in the week leading up to the F.A. Cup tie with Arsenal at Elm Park. The Biscuit boys were on their way to a second consecutive unbeaten home league season, during a run that totaled an incredible 55 games - something that seems unbelievable today. The great Gunners side proved too strong, however, and Reading lost to a single Cliff Bastin goal in front of over 30,000. The photo appeared in the match programme, which was given to me by a work colleague more than 25 years ago.

 

 

1985 Press Photos

Reading winger Andy Rogers nearly died during an away game at Swansea in February 1986 when he was knocked unconscious after falling heavily on the frozen pitch and swallowed his tongue. Only the prompt action of the Royals physio Glenn Hunter saved his life, and he made a full recovery. Rogers was back in action just two weeks later as part of the team that won the Third Division title that season.

 

 

2007 Photo

Ivar Ingimarsson joined Reading from Wolves in 2003 for £175,000 in what was Steve Coppell's first signing as Royals boss. He went on to make 251 appearances over the next eight years, and was a crucial part of the record breaking Championship winning team in 2005-06. He is shown on this nice signed photo I picked up recently.

 

1974 Newspaper Photo

On what would have been his 66th birthday (27th July), here's the late, great Robin Friday putting in a somewhat robust challenge on the Barnsley keeper in 1974. A childhood hero of mine, I was fortunate to see him play many times at Elm Park and was present to witness 'that' goal against Tranmere in 1976. A movie about his life has long been talked of, but that's all gone a bit quiet. 

 

 

1913 Magazine Photos

For a few years I've been looking out for a certain issue of the Italian magazine 'Lo Sport Illustrato' from May 1913, because it includes these fantastic photos from Reading's tour of Italy, and I was very pleased to finally get hold of it. Two of the matches are featured here, and the results seem almost unbelievable now - a 5-0 thrashing of Milan and a 2-0 victory over the Italian national team! 

 

 

1906-07 Postcards

I was contacted recently on this website by Reading fan Glenn Pluck, who had inherited his grandmother's vintage postcard collection. Among them were the stunning individual portraits shown below featuring goalkeeper Walter Whittaker, full back Archie Lindsay and skipper Herbert Smith. They were published by local photographer William Henry Dee and postally used in September 1906.

I'm always looking for original Reading FC postcards - team groups, individual players and Elm Park action shots or crowd scenes - so please get in touch if you can help! 

 

 

1956 Trade Card 

An unusual variation on the regular News Chronicle design, this card features Brian Kirkup, who was the regular centre forward during the 1955-56 season. He lost his place the following season however, and the 'keen trier' moved to Northampton in 1958. I was very sad to read that Brian passed away in April 2018 at the age of 85.


 

2003-04 Team Photo

Having lost in the Division One play-offs to Wolves the previous season, Royals manger Alan Pardew quit shortly into the new campaign to take charge of West Ham. His decision upset many Reading fans, but there is no doubt he did a fantastic job, which was carried on to great effect by the new boss Steve Coppell. I'm grateful to Royals fan Richard Prior, who gave me a large batch of programmes including several pre-season friendlies. One of these single-sheet issues folds out into this nice poster. 

 

 

2009-10 Newspaper Supplement

I've been trying to fill the gaps in the newspaper pull-outs I've got so have made a few appeals on social media sites. In just the last week or so Royals fans Clive Tipton and Michael Earley have kindly donated a variety of RFC collectables (at least they are to me!) If you have anything spare you no longer want I would happily collect in the Reading area and give you nice mention here! 

 

 

Robin Friday Book

The 1970s is the era of the classic football maverick, and Robin Friday perfectly fits that category. As a lower league player at the time he was not widely known beyond Reading and Cardiff fans, who adored him, but since his early death in 1990 his fame (and infamy) has soared. He is the subject of the best selling book 'The Greatest Footballer You Never Saw', has had numerous articles written about him, and for many years there has even been talk of a Hollywood movie. Reading fan and author Roger Titford explores how someone who never appeared in the top-flight now has a more famous name than most top players of his day.

 

 

Video Slideshow 

A slideshow of the 1913 Italian tour I've put together using old style movie effects, and I think it works quite nicely!

 

 

1913 Newspaper Photos

A wonderful set of photos, published in 'Lettura Sportiva', from our famous win against Italy. Reading were billed as 'one of the top British teams' - maybe not strictly true, but at that time the club had built a well earned reputation as cup fighters. The middle photo I'm pretty sure shows Joe Bailey taking a shot, with Allen Foster to the left. Bottom left is skipper Jack Smith, and these have been added to the Gallery of the club's Italian tour here. My thanks go to Ivano Michetti, who kindly sent me the photos.

 

 

1949-50 Photo

This postcard sized photo features two of Reading's greatest centre forwards - Tony MacPhee and Ronnie Blackman. The latter is our record league scorer (behind just Trevor Senior overall), though Macphee would undoubtebly hold that honour had official football not been suspended due to war. 

 

 

1911-12 Newspaper Photo

Another terrific team photo I found in the pages of the 'Chronicle' from 1932, showing the players and staff (in a marvelous array of hats) from 20 years before that. Interesting to note the misspelt first name of Allen Foster (recorded as Alan), one of those errors that is repeated for years after. 1911-12 was a great season for Reading; having won promotion back to the Southern League First Division, the Biscuit boys were involved in some exciting cup ties which secured the future of a club that had been in dire financial straits. Foster can be seen front centre.

 

 

1981-82 Press Photo 

Three points were awarded for a win rather than two from the beginning of this season in an effort to encourage more attacking football, and the Royals started in fine style by taking 15 points from their first six games, briefly topping the Division Three table. They soon tailed off, however, and finished mid-table, with future England stars Neil Webb and Kerry Dixon topping the scoring charts. 18-year-old local lad Webb went on to star for Man Utd, whilst Dixon was a prolific striker who later joined Chelsea. I recently picked up this superb original press photo, which is a great addition to my team groups collection.