1987-88 Simod Cup Winners

It's 25 years since Reading first played at Wembley when we beat Luton Town in the Simod (Full Members) Cup final. I remember sending off for this great poster via the Reading Chronicle, which has been signed by everyone except Francis Joseph and Keith Curle.

 

 

1891-92 Berks & Bucks Cup Winners

This wonderful photo is from the pre-Elm Park days when Reading played their home games at Caversham Cricket Ground (part of modern day Christchurch Meadows). The site was not ideal as it was north of the river and Reading Bridge had not yet been built, so this meant a ferry trip was the most direct route to the ground from the town. They played there from 1889 until moving to the purpose-built Elm Park in 1896.

Reading won the Berks and Bucks Cup for the second time in 1892, beating Wolverton 2-0 in the final. Fans, who were sporting blue and white ties specially made by a Mr Silver, gathered at the GWR 'up' station for the short trip to Maidenhead for the final, where they travelled on a 'special' for 1s.3d. return. The Biscuit Boys' supporters in the bumper crowd of 4,000 were delighted with their team's display and sang hearty refrains of 'Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay, Reading have won the day'. This continued well into the early hours after they returned home. (This photo shows the Berks Charity Cup, which the team also won).

 

 

1909-10 Cigarette Card

It's amazing some of the things you discover during the course of your research. Alf West spent just one season at Elm Park and is best known, at least to me, for appearing on this card. 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."

 

 

1995 Photo

Postcard from Stuart Clarke's 'Homes of Football' series, showing action from Reading's play-off final defeat against Bolton. The Royals' second appearance at the national stadium in seven years saw us lose a real thriller by four goals to three.

 

 

1905-06 Bookplate

Football had always been a poor relation to cricket as far as literature goes, so the four-volume 'Association Football & The Men Who Made It', published in 1906, was a welcome addition, with some superb articles and illustrations. One of those was of the Reading team, who featured at centre-forward James Long, for who the crowd would sing; 'He's small but he's wise, he's a terror for his size'.

 

 

1912-13 Postcard

The Biscuit Boys' goalkeeper for the 1912-13 season was an eccentric character by the name of Rab Bernard, who earned the nickname of 'Daft' Rab. He showed that this moniker was well deserved by his reaction to a Reading goal during a cup-tie against Blackburn Rovers at Elm Park. He got so carried away in celebrating with his teamates that he was still in the centre-circle as Blackburn kicked off and sent a long shot sailing into the net!

 

 

2012-13 Trading Cards

The new Topps Premier League sticker collection, of which the Reading set can be seen here, included full-back Nicky Shorey, who returned for his second spell at the Madejski in 2012. He first signed for us in 2001 and played more than 250 times before moving to Aston Villa in 2008. After turning in some impressive performances for Reading in our first Premier League season, Shorey was capped twice by England in the summer of 2007 against Brazil and Germany. He was the first Reading player to turn out for England since the days of Herbert Smith more than 100 years before.

 

 

1912 Newspaper Supplement

Manchester United were already one of football's biggest attractions 100 years ago, and when Reading were drawn against them in the third round of the cup, Elm Park welcomed it's new attendance record of 24,069, who witnessed a 1-1 draw. The 'gate' was £1,350 and, according to the 'Chronicle', when the first £1000 of silver ever taken at a match at Reading was piled on the table in the counting room, 'some of the Reading directors danced for joy'. The receipts from this game plus those from the previous round's win vs Aston Villa gave cash-strapped Reading some much needed breathing space, as the club were unable to meet the players' wages during the previous close-season. The 'Chronicle' also reported that a number of visitors escaped personal injury owing to their 'foolhardiness in seeking to view the game from unsafe positions'. This included a youth sporting an umbrella with United colours falling through the roof of a refreshment stand, which caused a 'good deal of laughter'. To see image in more detail, click.

 

 

1894 From amateurism to professionalism?

This was a hot topic in the late Victorian era, with professionalism being legalized by the Football Association in 1885. Having been founder members of the Southern League in 1894, the club committee decided on a special meeting to discuss the issue, as a more serious and organised approach was required. This was surely needed, as earlier that year Reading's amateurs had crashed to our heaviest ever defeat against the old 'Invincibles' of Preston North End in the FA Cup. They literally got stuck in the mud as their fitness (and footwear!) proved totally inadequate on a 'quagmire' and they were humiliated 0-18. Officials, players and supporters packed a room at the Central Hotel, Reading in September 1894. One speaker said he 'was against professionalism in every form; it encouraged the betting element, had ruined athletics, and would bring disgrace on the club were they to adopt it'. Frank Deane, the captain, thought it would be 'a thousand pities' were Reading to introduce professional men into their ranks (but I suppose he would!). Several speakers were strongly against the idea and a vote was taken, which was practically unanimous in favour of the club being carried on as it was. This was not to last long, however, and just eight months later the club bowed to the inevitable and began employing paid players.

 

 

2000 Postcard

A move from the beloved Elm Park, our home since 1896, had been talked about for years, with the Smallmead area the favoured destination. Reading's rise up the football hierachy, the awful stadium disasters of the 80's and the decision to build the A33 relief road made a move to the area a practical necessity. At the end of 1993 the club announced definate plans to move to a brand-new home and the Madejski Stadium hosted it's first match on 22nd August 1998, with the Royals recording a 3-0 victory over Luton Town.

 

 

1909-10 Postcard

I noticed something recently about this photo which I thought was worth commenting on. Fred Bartholomew is holding a black cat, obviously as a good luck charm. Some people think a black cat signifies bad luck, and this was surely the case as Reading suffered their worst season since joining the Southern League in 1894, finishing bottom by a long way. Also, I was looking at the 1911 census and found a Fred Bartholomew living in Reading. His occupation is given as a 'Pro Foot Caller'! 'Old Bart' is one of the great characters in our history, serving the Biscuitmen for 53 years as player, assistant trainer and then groundsman before retiring in 1957.

 

 

1928 Cigarette Card

Alf Messer's reputation had been growing as the Biscuitmen were promoted to Division Two in 1926, and by the time they had reached the FA Cup semi-finals the following season he was regarded as the best uncapped player in the country. It was to be his misfortune as Reading crashed 3-0 against Cardiff in front of the England selectors, and he never received the international recognition he deserved. Alf played nearly 300 games for us between 1923 and 1930 before joining Spurs.

 

 

2012-13 Trading Cards

Here is the man who became an instant Reading legend when his goal insured our return to the Premier League. Mikele Leigertwood's winner vs Nottingham Forest in April 2012 sparked wild celebrations at the Mad Stad that will live long in the memory. Also shown here is new signing Pavel Pogrebnyak, a Russian international striker who looks set to become our next cult hero. All the Reading cards in the set can be seen in this gallery.

 

 

Stadiums Postcards

Two superb aerial shots of Reading football grounds Elm Park and Madejski Stadium. The former served as our home for 102 years and saw us through good and bad times. The record attendance for Elm Park was set in February 1927 during a cup-tie vs Brentford when 33,042 crammed on to the terraces. Reading moved to the modern all-seater Madejski Stadium in 1998 and the ground's attendance record was achieved in September 2012, during a Premier League game against Tottenham Hotspur when 24,160 turned out. This was Reading's highest home league gate in over fifty years.

 

 

1914 Cigarette Card

Right-back and captain Jack Smith is depicted here in action against Aston Villa during a famous cup-tie at Elm Park in 1912. He 'has steadily improved, and has few superiors in the position in the South'. From a series of 50, this is part of one of the most attractive football card sets issued.

 

 

1970-71 Magazine Photo

This picture appeared in Goal magazine in January 1971, thouigh manager Jack Mansell and regular keeper Steve Death are missing. Reading began the season with high hopes having ended the previous campaign as the top goalscorers in the Football League, playing an attractive attackng game that is still fondly remembered. The problem was the amount of goals conceded and this would come back to haunt Reading as we slipped into the Fourth Division for the first time in our history at the end of 1970-71. This is the classic Reading kit in an era of classic kits.

 

 

1937 Trade Card

Reading paid the princely sum of £500 for Billy Cook in April 1937 but he was given a free transfer just a year later, having played 33 league games for us. A left-winger (I'm talking position here, not politics) in club football, he played outside-right when he won his three Scottish caps in 1934.

 

 

1956 Trade Item

The Division Three (South) teams featured in this booklet for the 1956-57 season. Reading had an ordinary season finishing mid-table, but did enjoy a remarkable 6-0 away win at Plymouth. However, not so good was being thrashed 3-8 at Brighton.

 

 

1931 Trade Card

I must admit, I've never heard of Reading being called the 'Biscuit-Makers' before. And as for Darlington's nickname, can you imagine football fans, particularly those in the north-east, shouting out 'come on you Darlings'? I think they were having a laugh.

 

 

1931 Trade Item

Frank McPherson joined Reading from Watford as a centre-forward in February 1930 and enjoyed a great start, scoring eight goals in his first 11 games at the end of the 1929-30 season to help us avoid relegation. Despite the fact that Frank had scored against Reading for Man Utd in a 1927 cup-tie, the Biscuit Boys recorded a famous win. McPherson scored 31 goals in 87 games for us before returning to Watford in 1933.

 

 

1934 The Champion Photo Album

Reading were included in this booklet issued for the 1934-35 season, when they finished as runners-up. The highlight for the Biscuitmen was facing League Champions Arsenal in the F.A. Cup in January at Elm Park in front of 30,000, which resulted in the familiar '1-0 to the Arsenal' scoreline.

 

 

1974-75 Team Photo

The line-up for this season includes the legend that is Robin Friday, back-left in this photo. Much has been written about Friday over the years, including the book The Greatest Footballer You Never Saw. I was eleven when he joined Reading and I did see him, including that goal against Tranmere in March 1976 when I was 13 and I remember the excitement at school the next day. We had our very own superstar. Update: News recently broke that Andy Alleyne, middle row third from left, has sadly lost his battle with cancer at the age 61. Andy was very much a pioneer at Reading, being the first black player to turn out for the first team in 1972 and will be remembered as a popular and energetic full-back.

 

 

1927-28 Trade Item

One of the joys of collecting is discovering gems and I recently came across this fantastic little item. A quick search of the league tables told me that this was issued for the 1927-28 season. Swansea Town seem to have been excluded for some reason (perhaps there was a sheet for Welsh clubs?). I like the fact that Reading are sitting above Manchester City, an early version of fantasy football perhaps.

 

 

1950 Trade Card

One of the best and most popular players ever to represent Reading, Maurice Edelston was part of the high-scoring side of the post-war era and was not your average footballer. He was club secretary, taught classics at the Bluecoat School in Reading and opened a sports shop in the town centre while playing for Reading, though not all at the same time I might add! After he finished playing, his friend John Arlott, a life long Reading fan, introduced him to the BBC and Maurice enjoyed a distinguished career as a sports commentator until his untimely death at the age of 57.

 

 

1980-81 Magazine Photo

This picture clearly shows legendary goalkeeper Steve Death's lack of height. Despite this he won the fans' player of the year award four times and was voted into the PFA Division Four team of the season twice. He also set a league record when he kept a clean sheet for the last 11 games of the 1978-79 season as we won the 4th Division title. Results and other stats for the 1980-81 season are here.

 

 

1967-68 Magazine Photo

For four years in the late sixties Reading ditched the hoops and went for an all sky-blue affair, copying Jimmy Hill's successful Coventry City side of the period. Those were the days when footballers had proper names, like Arthur, Ron, Ernie and Rodney. Looking at the kit now it brings to mind Manchester City more than Coventry City, which is quite apt given the ring 'Champions' has to it. Details from Reading's 1967-68 campaign are here.

 

 

2011-12 Trading Cards

For the first time card issuer Topps, who have released sets featuring the Premier League for the last five years, produced a set focusing on the npower Championship. Included was manager Brian Mcdermott, who celebrated his 100th game in permanent charge when we beat West Ham 3-0, and new signing Adam Le Fondre. The full Reading set can be seen here.

 

 

1933-34 Newspaper Supplement

Having lost their place in the Second Division in 1931, Reading finished in the top-six back in the Third Division South for eight successive seasons until the start of WW2. The Biscuit Boys were renowned for their home form during this period and went 55 league games unbeaten at Elm Park, including the 1933-34 season, when they dropped just four home points. Season details can be seen here.

 

 

1921 Cigarette Card

From the Godfrey Phillips 'Pinnace' series, this premium 'cabinet' issue features a player I'm not familiar with and I can't find any record of him playing a League game for us! He is included on a team postcard from 1921-22 however and this is a lovely example from the Pinnace set.

 

 

1961 Trade Item

A really great little item this. A chart of masked footballers was given away with Rover & Adventure comics and over the next couple of weeks pictures of players were issued to be glued to the chart. Very unusual to find the two parts separate. 

 

 

1935 Cigarette Card

Part of a quirky set from the thirties, the Biscuitmen (although here they are called the Biscuteers) were so called because of the world famous biscuit factory Huntley and Palmers, one of Reading's 'Three B's' (biscuits, beer and bulbs). The team were also commonly called the Biscuit Boys, which I quite like. The Biscuitmen name remained in use until the seventies when, due to the closure of the biscuit factory and a feeling that it needed updating, a poll was held in the local paper to decide on a new nickname and the Royals proved most popular.

 

 

1956 Trade Cards

These two cards complete a set I started collecting twenty years ago. Issued during the 1955-56 season, the set includes centre-half Bill Davies, a mainstay of the Biscuit Boys defence during the late fifties. He played 226 games for us but never scored a goal. Reading had a mediocre season in 55-56, finishing 17th in the Third Division's southern section. The News Chronicle cards can be seen here.

 

 

1913-14 Postcard

The line-up for the last full season before the Great War began included two of Reading's all-time greats, Ted Hanney, who was injured in the conflict, and Allen Foster, the Biscuitmen's star centre-forward. Signed from Bristol City for the then hefty fee of £75 after impressing for City's reserves against us, Foster was a regular scorer who quickly became a crowd favourite. His most renowned goal came when Southern League Reading faced the mighty Aston Villa in a cup replay at Elm Park in February 1912. Foster scored the only goal of the game with a brilliant first-time volley as Reading pulled off a famous victory. Allen Foster was killed in action at the age of 29 in 1916. The 1913-14 league table and results are on this site.

 

 

1910 Cigarette Card

Unusual and very difficult to find, this shaped card was designed to wear in your 'buttonhole or hat'.

 

 

Chris Armstrong

Popular defender Chris Armstrong was sadly forced to retire from professional football in March 2011 at the age of 28, having been diagnosed with MS in 2009. He made the decision after consultations with Reading medical staff and management, having found the physical effort required to perform at this level too much. He was signed by Steve Coppell for around £800,000 from Sheffield United in 2008 and won the clubs Player of the Year award in his first season. Chris played for us 49 times, scoring once. Royals manager Brian Mcdermott and teamates spoke movingly in tribute to him and everyone wishes Chris all the very best for the future.

 

2010-11 Panini Stickers

In their third Championship season since relegation from the Premier League, the Royals were pushing once again for a play-off place and, at the time of writing, were looking forward to an F.A. Cup fifth round tie. Players coming to the fore this season included Adam Federici and Shane Long. The set can be viewed in Trade Items 5. The 2010-11 season in detail here.

 

2003 Postcard

Reading's home since 1998, the stadium has allowed the Royals to establish themselves in the top two divisions, with dramatically increased attendances. This postcard shows fans celebrating during a 2003 match vs Wolves.

 

 

1920 Cigarette Card

Centre-half Fred Mavin joined Reading after the Great War in his mid-thirties, having played for Fullham and Bradford Park Avenue among others. He played in the Biscuitmen's first ever Football League game, a 1-0 win at Newport County, and also had the distinction of scoring the club's first League penalty, in the 4-1 win over Grimsby Town in September 1920. This is a large size Pinnace card, part of the huge series issued in the early 1920's, details of which can be seen here

 

 

1956-57 Trade Card

This Daily Express card features forward Jimmy Wheeler. Born in Reading in 1933, he went on to make 404 league appearances for us, scoring 144 goals. He was our top scorer for three consecutive seasons from 1959 to 61, before a broken leg effectively ended his first team career. Jimmy came back to play for and manage the reserves, taking them to their Championship and winning the club's Player of the Year award in 1966. Stats for 1956-57 are here.

 

 

1998 Postcard

Souvenir postcard to commemorate Elm Park's closure. The photo was taken from the Tilehurst End in 1989.

 

 

1904-05 Postcard

This is the only team group I've seen that includes captain and left-back Herbert Smith. He appears on several other postcards here, but only as an 'insert'. I assume this was down to the fact that he was an amateur and was never around when the photographer called! Despite the fact he was unpaid by Reading and the team were in the Southern League, he played for England four times between 1905 and 1906. He 'is a total abstainer who smokes moderately' and 'is idolised by the players at his club'. League table and results are here.

 

 

1991 Postcard

This postcard of Trevor Senior dates from the early 90's. During two spells for the Royals between 1983 and 1992 he netted 184 times in 362 league and cup games, making him our all-time record scorer. In the 1983-84 season he was top-scorer in all four divisions of the Football League with 36 goals. One of the most popular players to represent Reading, Trevor is fondly remembered by Royals fans.

 

 

1905-06 Postcard

This postcard was sent on August 29th 1905. Our correspondent Percy seems to be an exiled Spurs fan living in Reading. He writes to his friend Chas 'this is the sort of team Tottenham got to play against (rotten)'. Both teams played in the Southern League then and the previous season Reading had finished above Spurs after winning both games against them, so perhaps a touch of sour grapes. The montage here features the Southern Charity Cup, which Reading shared (funnily enough) with Spurs after the sides played out a goaless draw in the 1904-05 season. Results for 1905-06 can be seen here.

 

 

1913 Postcard

Supporters at Elm Park on September 20th 1913, during a Southern League match in which Reading beat Cardiff City by one goal to nil. This part of the ground was along side the Tilehurst Road, which was later built up with concrete terracing and had a roof added. It was fondly remembered by generations of fans as the 'South Bank'.

 

 

1995 Postcard

A postcard from Stuart Clarke's 1995 exhibition 'The Homes of Football'. The wall the boys are standing on is the same spot I started watching Reading from in the early seventies.

 

 

2009-10 Panini Stickers

Reading looked relegation certainties at the turn of the year, but after replacing Brendon Rogers with Brian McDermott a fantastic run saw them finish the season close to the play-offs.This season saw the Royals achieve one of their finest results in the F.A. Cup, defeating Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield. The set can be seen in Trade Items 5, with stats here.

 

 

2008-09 Panini Stickers

Despite looking a good bet for an immediate return to the Premier League, Reading faded in the new year and had to settle for a place in the play-offs, where they lost in the semi-final to Burnley. The set can be viewed on this page, with the 2008-09 stats here.

 

 

2007-08 Panini Stickers

This season marked Reading's second Premier League campaign and unfortunately it ended in relegation. The set can be seen on this page, and details of the 2007-08 season are here.

 

 

1971-72 Trade Card

The 71-72 season marked my first visit to Elm Park. I can't remember who the opponents were but I think the whole family went so we could get tickets for the Arsenal cup-tie and I was hooked! Although we had a mediocre season in the Fourth Division we ran the Gunners close, losing 2-1 against the team that had won the 'Double' the previous season. One of Reading's all time greats, Steve Death, is featured here.

 

 

1920 Postcard 

I found this fantastic postcard of Ted Hanney. The Reading born centre-half played for the Biscuitmen before The First World War and for the Great Britain team in the 1912 Olympics. He also played for Man City and Coventry before returning to Elm Park in the early Twenties.