Film Archive

Reading's great centre-half Alf Messer executes a perfect tackle on a snow covered Elm Park pitch during the fifth round FA Cup tie against Aston Villa in 1929. This comes from a fantastic archive of football films recently restored and put online by the British Film Institute, and the full Reading v Aston Villa footage can be seen here.

 

Goalkeepers

Reading have a fine tradition of top goalkeepers, and here are a few, with each one representing a different decade: Tom Naisby (1900s), Sid Crawford (1910s), Joe Duckworth (1920s), Percy Whitaker (1930s), George Marks (1940s), Dave Jones (1950s), Dave Meeson (1960s), Steve Death (1970s), Steve Francis (1980s), Shaka Hislop (1990s), Marcus Hahnemann (2000s) and Alex McCarthy (2010s).

 

Newspaper Supplements

These team photos had been published for many years in the two local papers, but after Get Reading (formerly the Reading Evening Post) stopped publication last year I was told that the Reading Chronicle would no longer include the annual Reading FC squad pictures. This is a real shame as they are lovely things to collect, but I do have quite a few which can be seen here.

 

Trevor Senior

A few shots of our all time record scorer, who celebrates his Birthday today (born 28th November 1961). In his first three seasons with Reading, Senior scored 99 goals - that's an average of 33 per season! Incredible figures, not many will come close to that for any team. The background photo shows Trevor celebrating with the travelling fans at Darlington, after he helped The Royals secure promotion to Division Two in 1986.

 

1908 Postcard

This superb photo of Elm Park was kindly sent to me by Clino D'Eletto. The covered terrace on the right, which provided shelter for up to 1,500 spectators, was constructed in 1905 and became known by the locals as the Chicken Run. The whole area, including the football ground, had been built up by property developer Edwin Jesse in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the new houses on Norfolk Road can be seen in the background.

 

Allen Foster

In remembrance of Reading's Allen Foster, who was killed in action during the Great War in 1916. These touching words appeared in the local press after his death: 'First Joe Dickenson, next Ben Butler and now Allen Foster. The death roll of Reading Football Club players is slowly but surely mounting up. The news of Allen Foster's death came like a thunderclap. It seemed impossible to believe that the fair-haired centre-forward, with the caustic tongue but lovable disposition, would entertain us no more.'

Foster, who was 29 years old, had joined Reading in 1911, and was best rembered for scoring a magnificent first time volley in a cup replay against Aston Villa at Elm Park in 1912. The goal was enough for Southern League Reading to defeat First Division Villa, a result which 'staggered humanity'.

 

1906 Book Photos

Taken from the superb Book of Football, this shows two Edwardian gentlemen in all their finery. Reading became a limited liability company in 1897, with J. Barnard Messer serving as it's first chairman. Harry Matthews had taken over as secretary manger in 1902, a post he held until he resigned in 1920. In those 18 years Matthews worked tirelessly in steering the club through various financial crises, and he was instrumental in saving Reading Football Club from going under.

 

1914 Postcard

The great centre forward Allen Foster scores one of Reading's ten goals during a rout of a local representative side in Amsterdam. Having been hailed as the best foreign team seen on Italian soil in 1913, the Great War signalled the end of the Biscuit Boys' continental dominance.

 

1970-71 Magazine Photo

I'm not sure which date this was published, but judging by the optimism of the text it must have been early in the season. After the high scoring, pass and move football of the previous campaign, hopes were high of a sustained promotion push in the club's centenary season. Sadly, the team failed to build on that promise and were relegated to the Fourth Division for the first time. 

 

1985 Newspaper Photo

Unbelievably, it was 30 years ago today that Reading Football Club set a record that may never be beaten. On the 12th October 1985, our perfect start to the season continued with a twelfth consecutive league win in front of 4,000 travelling fans at Newport. Goals from Stuart Beavon and Kevin Bremner ensured a 2-0 success as the club broke Spurs' all time league record set 25 years before. 1985-86 season gallery can be seen here.

 

1906 Book Page

If I had to recommend one football book, this would be it. Originally published in 12 fortnightly parts in 1905/06, The Book Of Football, 'a complete history & record of the association and rugby games', was designed to be bound into a proper volume. I've had my copy for more than 25 years and it is a real treasure trove, with numerous illustrations. At the time of publication, Reading Football Club already had 35 years of history and were regularly challenging at the top of the Southern League, with captain Herbert Smith a starter in the England team. Hardly surprising then that the club fares very well with a four page history, which includes a couple of wonderful shots of Elm Park. I'm adding relevant content here.

 

1899 Magazine Photos

Published by the 'Golden Penny' magazine, I believe these are the earliest action shots featuring Reading FC. The club featured in a two page article at the beginning of April that year when the team was flying high near the top of the Southern League. The view is facing what would later become known as the South Bank, and the photos were taken just over two years after Elm Park opened.

 

Reading FC Captains

Some team captains emerging from the tunnel down the years, displaying a wide range of kits. Clockwise from top left: Bert Eggo, Bobby Campbell, Johnny Walker, Martin Hicks, Paul Bennett and Colin Meldrum.

 

1878-79 Team Photo

Back in 1879 Reading FC was just eight years old and had 80 members. The club room was at the Queen's Hotel, and home matches were played on the Reading Cricket Ground. The Football and Southern Leagues were not formed until many years later, so a team's programme consisted of friendlies and cup games. Reading had a fine record in their 23 matches during the 1878-79 season with 17 wins, one draw and five defeats, with 57 goals for and just nine against. The first ever staging of the Berks & Bucks Cup final saw Reading beat Marlow 1-0 on the Reading Cricket Ground in front on a 'very large concourse of spectators, who frequently applauded the good play exhibited by both sides'.

 

 

1913 Postcard

The team pictured during their Italian tour, including captain Jack Smith (with ball at feet), legendary centre half Ted Hanney (fifth left) and Joe Bailey (third right). The popular forward became a highly decorated war hero during the 1914-18 conflict.

 

1933-34 Team Photo

It's getting harder to unearth 'new' team photographs, so I was delighted to receive this from Royals fan Mark Barley. It appeared in a programme from the time and includes Mark's grandfather Charlie, sixth from left in the middle row. Left half Charlie spent eight years at Elm Park, making over 200 first team appearances.


1996-97 Cards

Elm Park's centenary was marked when the club replaced the stripes badge, which was introduced by Ian Branfoot the previous decade, with an updated version of the old elms badge. This lasted for two seasons until the move to the new stadium in 1998.

 

1926-27 Newspaper Supplement

This is fragile and in very poor order, but as these are such scarce items it's a worthy addition to my collection. The Reading squad pictured here is probably more recognisable to me than today's team. That's no slight on the boys from the Mad Stad, it just reflects my interest, some would say obsession, with the old!

 

2006 Collector Cards

Ten years ago Reading embarked on their greatest ever season, and one of the best of any club in league history. Having lost the first game 2-1 at home to Plymouth, the Royals went on an amazing 33 match unbeaten run and lost just twice all season. They racked up 106 points, the highest in English league history, in reaching the top flight for the first time.

 

1913 Postcards

Photos from the first game of Reading's Italian tour against Genoa on 11th May, which the Biscuit Boys won 4-2. The home side's manager was ex-Reading player Willy Garbutt, who acted as referee here. The Campo Morassi ground was later rebuilt as the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, and is now used for home games by both Genoa and Sampdoria in Italy's Serie A.

 

1952 Press Photo

Manager Ted Drake (left) is pictured with Reading FC's directors in May 1952, after the team had finished as runners-up in Division Three (South) with a record 112 goals. An amazing 73 were scored at Elm Park, but too many away defeats scuppered their chances of securing the one promotion spot. The club and supporters were in for a shock soon after this photo was taken when Drake left for Chelsea, where he led them to their first League Championship title in 1955.

 

1983 Press Photos

Roger Smee (left) and Roy Tranter, the men who saved Reading Football Club from going out of business after thwarting Robert Maxwell's plan to merge them with Oxford United. The amazing tale of the Thames Valley Royals proposal can be seen in detail here.

 

1955-56 Trade Cards

These cards can be found in team sets of either 12 or 15, with some much rarer than others, and the Reading issue is difficult to find. The 1955-56 season started with a result that seems unthinkable now - a 5-0 home thrashing at the hands of local rivals Aldershot. Reading slumped to the bottom of the Division Three (South) table which led to manager Jack Smith being replaced by Harry Johnston.

 

Barratt Trade Cards

The sweet manufacturers were prolific card issuers during the 20th Century, with football a major subject. Unfashionable Reading didn't appear much but I have got these examples from the 1920s and 1930s, including two members of our great team from the late twenties, Billy McConnell and Alf Messer.

 

1980s Press Photos

I've added a new batch of player photos here, which include club legend Martin Hicks, who made a record 603 appearances. Talented winger Paul Canoville, whose career was cruelly cut short by injury, can be seen on the right.

 

1959 Team Photo

The Reading team before a match at Southport, which I assume was a pre-season friendly. This season was the team's second in the new national Third Division after the reorganisation of the regional north and south sections. The team endured a terrible start to 1959-60, winning just a single point in the first eight games and shipping 24 goals. This was the worst start to a season since relegation from the Second Division 29 years earlier, but the team recovered to finish in a comfortable mid-table position.

 

1901 Newspaper Photos

Scarce early action shots from Elm Park showing Reading's FA Cup quarter final clash with Spurs, which resulted in a 1-1 draw. When you consider that goalkeepers dash off their line at every opportunity today it's striking how rigidly they stuck to their goal line then. Another thing I noticed is that although Reading largely dominated the game, all the photographs show Tottenham attacking the home goal - a clear sign that London bias has always existed!

 

1919-20 Postcard

The Reading squad that competed in the first season after the Great War, which was also their last in the Southern League before those teams formed the new Third Division of the Football League. This postcard has alluded me for years, but I've finally got hold of it.

 

1955 Photo

Elm Park could never have been described as being a 'looker', but it always looked great from above. This photo dates from after the original floodlights were installed in 1954. The final part of the South Bank's roof was completed in 1956, and concrete terracing was added to the Tilehurst End a year later. These were the last major structural changes the ground underwent.

 

Pre-War Captains

Some Reading FC captains pictured before FA Cup ties. Clockwise from top left - Alf Messer vs Sheffield Wednesday (1929), George Johnson vs Arsenal (1935), Jack Smith vs Stoke (1913) and Bert Eggo vs Cardiff City (1927).

 

1979-80 Team Photo

The Reading squad along with the Fourth Division Championship trophy which they won the previous season. After a poor start, the Royals consolidated to finish in a respectable seventh place. In the last game of the decade, Reading thrashed Barnsley 7-0 at Elm Park, a result which prompted their manager Alan Clark to send his team down a pit, so they could see what privileged lives they led!

 

c1900 Shield

A fantastic shaped shield with Jackson's advertising to the rear. The department store was a fixture in the centre of Reading for 138 years at the iconic 'Jackson's Corner' before it closed it's doors for good in 2013.

 

1891-92 Photo Card

Reading won The Double this season - not 'The' Double, I'm talking about the Berks & Bucks Cup and the Berkshire Charity Cup, but still a fine achievement! After defeating Wolverton 2-0 in the final of the former at Maidenhead, the players were carried shoulder high to a carriage for the presentation of the trophy (the pavilion having apparently been burnt to the ground). Captain Frank Deane accepted the cup to great acclaim, and called for three cheers for Wolverton, which were 'heartily given'.

 

The Pinnace Collection - Reading FC

The huge cigarette card series issued by Godfrey Phillips in the 1920s under their 'Pinnace' brand numbered well over two thousand, and Reading fared well with 26 players featured. Paul Days is producing books showing the cards club by club, the latest being Reading, for which I supplied the notes. I received my copy today and have to say that I'm very pleased with the result. The books are available here.

 

Herbert Smith

Our captain from the 1900s, Herbert Smith was called a 'sportsman of the highest type', and his view of the offside law shows a man of a different breed to the cheats that pollute the game today. He wrote: 'There are times when a back might find it a convenient defensive movement to put the opposing forwards offside. With a little judgement this is often easy to accomplish, but, generally speaking, I would only adopt this expedient when everything else was likely to fail. It is, I think, a manlier game and more in the spirit of football to save one's goal by kicking, heading, or tackling than by the subterfuge of making the opposition break the rules'.

 

1920s Team Groups

An eventful decade in which Reading joined the Football League also saw the necessary replacement of the main stand at Elm Park, which had been badly damaged during a gale. The ground hosted several record attendances in the twenties thanks to promotion in 1926 and some memorable cup ties. The Biscuitmen on YouTube.

 

Elm Park's South Bank Over The Years

A slideshow using photos from every decade of the old ground's history. I've started making a few of these films for The Biscuitmen's YouTube channel, and will do more if there's enough interest.

 

1968-69 Team Photo

Manager Roy Bentley, who introduced the sky blue kit in 1965, lost his job this season as the team failed to make any impact in Division Three. When new boss Jack Mansell took over from caretaker manager Ray Henderson, he spent little time in reinstating the hoops before the start of the following season. I'd like to thank Ed Walker from Get Reading for finding the photo for me.

 

1960s Photo

With the season now over, many people will be looking towards our summer sport, and here is an unusual team photo of the Reading players in cricket whites. It comes courtesy of ex-Chronicle man Roger Ware, and was taken at Finchamstead in the late sixties. Roger used play cricket and football for Finch, but switched allegiance this day to join his mates from Reading FC. The line-up is - Back: Mike Dixon, Roger Ware, Denis Allen, John Doe (RFC marketing manager), Roger Smee, Tom Ryan. Front: Bobby Williams, Pete Travers (brother of Mick), Dick Spiers, Roy Brown, Mick Travers.

 

Photo Montages

I've added a new page of these layered montages here, which I've done by decades, with this one using postcards from the twenties.

 

1925-26 Postcard

One of the best days in Reading's history occurred on the last day of the Division Three (South) season, when we had to beat Brentford at Elm Park whilst hoping leaders Plymouth lost their game. Even though we stood in second place, in those days just the champions were promoted from the two regional divisions. It turned into a glorious day as Reading romped to a 7-1 win while Plymouth lost 2-0 at Gillingham. When that result became known 'thousands of people assembled round the grandstand and cheered the Reading players most enthusiastically'.


 

2001-02 Newspaper Supplements

Reading are sure of Championship football for another season, and have played at that level at least since promotion in 2002. Jamie Cureton's late goal on the final day at Brentford meant the Royals were automatically promoted instead of the Bees. Newspaper supplements here.

 

Mid-Century Shields

Two lovely 'shields', the first being from an unknown issuer and the other by 'City Bakeries'. I've seen a few of these and it would seem there were several different designs which were assigned to clubs dependent on their colours, so the images don't specifically refer to Reading.

 

2014-15 FA Cup Semi-Final

A magnificent shot of the scene at Wembley Stadium before kick-off at Reading's first semi-final appearance in 88 years. From a gallery of photos on the club's official Facebook page.

 

1926-27 FA Cup Semi-Final

 

1926-27 Postcard

A fantastic shot of the squad before the club's first season in Division Two, having won the Division Three (South) title a few months earlier. The photo was taken in front of Elm Park's Tilehurst End, with the Southbank to the left. Reading finished in 14th place (a position not bettered for 60 years) and reached the semi-final of the FA Cup for the first time.

 

1965-66 Newspaper Supplement

This Evening Post special comes courtesy of Royals fan Nick Deaves, and was published before the FA Cup clash against Sheffield Wednesday in January 1966. The paper had been launched just four months before and was said to be the most technologically advanced in the country, being one of the first to use colour photography. The third round tie saw Reading lose 3-2 against their First Division opponents, who scored a fortunate last minute winner in front of 22,488 fans.

 

1927 Postcards

Reading's cup run of 1926-27 was due in no small part to the fearless goalkeeping of Joe Duckworth and commanding displays of centre-half Alf Messer. However, the Biscuiteers wouldn't have got so far without the contributions of Bill Johnstone and Frank Richardson, who between them scored an amazing 18 goals in the FA Cup that season, with each netting nine times.

 

1959 Cartoon

Artist Ron Fennell, who was well known locally for his work in the local press under the pen name 'Areff', drew this cartoon prior to Reading's FA Cup tie with Norwich in November 1959. It takes a nostalgic look back to the cup run of the 1926-27 season, then well within the memory of many fans.

 

1927 Cartoon

In the week leading up to Reading's previous FA Cup semi-final, All Sports magazine revealed that new trainer William Smith was 'not a believer in special training, but he favours a brine bath occasionally and plenty of golf. But Reading are such a keen lot that the men virtually train themselves, go to bed early and rise with the lark.' This amusing illustration appeared in the Football Chronicle on the day of the semi-final defeat against Cardiff.