Reading Football Club
Reading Football Club was formed following a public meeting in 1871 at the Bridge Street Rooms. By 1877, the club had joined forces with the Reading Hornets, and by 1889, Earley Football Club had also joined Reading. The club has the nickname ‘The Royals’, due to their home county of Royal Berkshire. Reading also has the prestigious honour of being the only Premier League club in Berkshire. The club’s main geographical rivals are Swindon Town, Oxford United and Wycombe Wanderers. The Royals currently play their home fixtures at the Madejski Stadium.
The Early Years
Thomas Sefton initially took charge at the club in a Secretary/Manager position in 1897. During this time, the club had been playing their home games at Caversham Cricket Ground. However, due to an ever increasing need for a larger stadium, Reading moved to Elm Park in 1896. The club was a founder member of the Southern League in the 1894/95 season, and also began to play in the Western League professional section from the 1897/98 season.
Sefton left his post in 1901, and was briefly replaced by James Sharp, who stayed for a single season. Harry Matthews became the club’s next manager in 1902, where he would ultimately oversee almost two decades at the Berkshire club. Reading also finished as Southern League Runners-up in both the 1901/02 and 1904/05 campaigns. The team achieved mid table finishes in the forthcoming seasons, until a nightmare 1909/10 season saw them relegated to the Southern League Division Two. This was adjudged to be nothing more than a blip in the club’s history, as Reading were promoted as league champions the following season. The 1909/10 season was particularly special for the Royals, as they notched up the impressive statistic of only conceding one goal at home all season.
The team consolidated their Southern League Division One status, and eventually finished as runners-up in the 1914/15 season. World War One then intervened, and many Reading players sadly lost their lives during the conflict that followed.
Election to the Football League
Following the war, the club achieved a respectable seventh place finish in the 1919/20 season. Given that the team had sustained heavy losses during the war, this was seen as a terrific achievement. After 18 years in charge, Harry Matthews left the club in 1920. When Harry Marshall took charge of team affairs shortly afterwards, Reading also became founder members of the Football League Division Three South. Marshall’s stay at the club was not a happy one, however. The team performed poorly, and finished 20th and then 13th, before Marshall left the club in 1922.
Arthur Chadwick’s reign as Reading manager was equally unhappy. The team played without passion, and the playing talent on the pitch was simply not up to the required standard. Chadwick’s stay at Reading ended after the 1924/25 campaign, where the club finished in a disappointing 18th place.
H.S. Bray had been club secretary since 1922, but given the lack of progression at the club, he decided to try his hand at management. He was therefore appointed manager of the club in 1925, in a bid to alter the fortunes of a club seemingly in decline. Few could have predicted that his impact would be as instantaneous. In his first season in charge, Reading were crowned Division Three South Champions. Having managed to get the team promoted, Bray then returned to his secretarial role at the club, and handed over the job as manager to Andrew Wylie.
Brief run in Division Two
Wylie guided the club to 14th place in his first season in charge. However, the 1926/27 season is best remembered for Reading’s sensational run in the FA Cup. After eventually overcoming the mighty Manchester United, Reading went on to beat Portsmouth, Brentford and Swansea Town, before losing 3-0 to Cardiff City in the Semi-final.
Unfortunately for Reading, the club struggled to adapt to the higher standard of football in Division Two. A succession of unconvincing mid table finishes eventually led to the club being relegated in the 1930/31 season. Andrew Wylie then felt that this was the right time to leave the club, and was soon replaced by Joe Smith. The team performed admirably under Smith, although that promotion back to Division Two proved elusive. Despite this, Reading finished as league runners-up in the 1931/32 season, and also notched up 103 goals in the 1932/33 campaign.
Smith’s last season as manager also saw the team finish as Division Three Runners-up with 53 points. Billy Butler became the next manager, and also guided Reading to a succession of high placed finishes during his four seasons at the club. After choosing to leave the club in 1939, John Cochrane took charge for a mere three matches before war once again disrupted English football, and the 1939/40 season was abandoned.
Joe Edelston took over from John Cochrane in 1939, and oversaw team affairs when the league resumed in 1946. A comfortable ninth place finish was secured, before Edelston left Reading at the end of the season. Ted Drake took up the managerial vacancy, and led the Royals to two runners-up finishes in 1948/49 and 1951/52 during his five seasons at Reading. Ronnie Blackman was central to Reading’s success at this time, especially as he contributed 39 goals in the 1951/52 campaign. Ted Drake soon left, and was replaced by Jack Smith in 1952.
Smith’s reign as Reading boss was again a brief one, and Harry Johnston later took charge in 1955. In 1958, the club were then placed in the Football League Division Three following a re-organisation of the league system. Reading’s form was extremely inconsistent under Smith. It was unclear at the start of every season whether they would be pushing for a top of the table finish, or heading ominously for a relegation battle, and this was reflected in the team’s results. In the 1962/63 season, Reading finished in 20th place following a period of steady decline. Roy Bentley was then brought in as the next manager to try to lift the club.
It was a similar story for the club under Bentley, although his reign will more likely be remembered for securing a number of strong mid table finishes, rather than the 14th place finish in the 1968/69 campaign, his last in charge at the club. Jack Mansell then became Reading’s next manager in 1969, and after a sustained period in Division Three, this finally came to an end in the 1970/71 season. The club was relegated to Division Four on goal average. Mansell predictably lost his job following the relegation, and was replaced by Charlie Hurley.
Hurley managed to get Reading promoted back to Division Three in the 1975/76 season, before the Royals were immediately relegated after a poor 1976/77 season. This quickly brought an end to Hurley’s reign as Reading manager, and Maurice Evans took the vacant managerial hotseat at Elm Park. Evans set about improving the playing squad at Reading, and this included bringing in the free scoring striker Kerry Dixon. The team responded positively to the changes being put in place, and Reading were crowned Division Four Champions in the 1978/79 season. A slow decline in form followed, and this culminated in the Royals’ relegation back to Division Four after a poor 1982/83 season. Kerry Dixon was then sold to Chelsea, and the general consensus was that the club would struggle to find form thereafter.
Reading’s immediate response was to win promotion back to Division Three in the 1983/84 season. Evans had spent seven good years as Reading’s manager, and left in 1984. Ian Branfoot was his replacement, and was immediately under pressure to continue Evans’ good work at the club. After guiding the team to a ninth place finish, Reading were then crowned Division Three Champions in 1986.
The team had a good run in their first season in Division Two, but came undone the following season, when a 22nd place finish sealed their relegation back to Division Three. A poor season by Reading’s standards then followed, and Branfoot’s reign was finally over. Ian Porterfield led Reading to two successive mid table finishes in Division Three, before Mark McGhee became the player/manager at Elm Park in 1991. The Football League Division Three was then renamed Division Two, after the formation of the FA Premier League in 1992.
McGhee had a positive spell at Reading. He improved the team year on year, and this led to Reading reaching the second tier of English football after being crowned Division Two Champions in 1994. The following year McGhee was lured to Leicester City, and so Jimmy Quinn and Mick Gooding shared the managerial responsibilities at Elm Park. Reading were unlucky to miss out on a second successive promotion, and were made to settle for runners-up spot in the 1994/95 campaign. The play-offs that followed also proved equally heartbreaking for the Royals. A good win against Tranmere Rovers, was followed by a disappointing 4-3 defeat in the final at Wembley.
However, the joint managers were not so successful in the next couple of seasons. Their contracts were subsequently not renewed, and Terry Bullivant took over at the club in 1997. He lasted just a number of months in the job, as Reading slid towards the bottom of the league. Bullivant was finally axed in March, after the board lost patience with the manager. Tommy Burns briefly came in, but Reading were already destined for relegation to Division Two.
Move to the Madejski
Alan Pardew’s time as Reading boss coincided with a move away from Elm Park to their new 24,200 capacity Madejski Stadium, named after their charismatic Chairman, John Madejski. Pardew guided a battling Reading side to the 2001 play-offs, after finishing the season in third place. The Royals beat Wigan Athletic in the Semi-final, before Alan Pardew’s side lost the final 3-2 to Walsall. However, the following season Reading went one better. The Royals won promotion to Division One after finishing the season as league runners-up.
The team once again reached the play-offs, after finishing the league season in fourth spot. This time the Royals were beaten 3-1 on aggregate by Wolverhampton Wanderers. Pardew then moved across London to become the latest manager at West Ham United. October 2003 saw Steve Coppell become Reading’s next manager, having left Brighton & Hove Albion to join the Royals.
Road to the Premiership
Reading finished ninth in Coppell’s first season at the Madejski. The Football League Division One was then renamed the Coca Cola Championship for the start of the 2004/05 season due to a league sponsorship restructuring at the time. The Royals were unlucky to miss out on the play-offs after finishing in seventh place that season.
The 2005/06 campaign was remarkable in many ways. Reading hit top spot early on and never looked back. On their way to winning the Coca Cola Championship, the Royals notched up a club record of 106 points, and scored an incredible 99 league goals. Dave Kitson, Steve Sidwell and Kevin Doyle were instrumental in Reading’s promotion success, and also went on to feature heavily for the club in future years.
The Royals were widely tipped to be relegated the following season, such is the ever-widening gap between the Premiership and the Championship. However, Reading defied all expectations and finished just outside the European places with a well deserved eighth place finish. This season Steve Coppell has kept faith with many of the side that did so well in the previous campaign, the only notable absence being the departure of Steve Sidwell to title chasing Chelsea.
Reading are currently hovering just below mid table, and will be looking to pull away from the bottom three sooner rather than later. Otherwise, Reading’s Premier League status could soon fall victim to the infamous second season syndrome.
- Football League Championship Champions: 2005/06
- Football League Division One Runners-Up: 1994/95
- Football League Division Two Champions: 1993/94
- Football League Division Two Runners-Up: 2001/02
- Football League Division Three Champions: 1985/86
- Football League Division Three South Champions: 1925/26
- Football League Division Three South Runners-Up: 1931/32, 1934/35, 1948/49, 1951/52
- Football League Division Four Champions: 1978/79
- FA Cup Semi-final: 1927
- Simod Cup Winners: 1988
- Record League Victory: 10-2 v Crystal Palace, Division Three South, 4 # September 1946
- Record Cup Victory: 6-0 v Leyton, FA Cup 2nd rd, 12 December 1925
- Record Defeat: 0-18 v Preston North End, FA Cup 1st rd, 1893/94
- Most League Goals: 112, Division Three South, 1951/52
- Highest League Scorer in Season: Ronnie Blackman, 39, Division Three South, 1951/52
- Most League Goals in Total Aggregate: Ronnie Blackman, 158, 1947-1954
- Most League Goals in One Match: 6, Arthur Bacon v Stoke City, Division Two, 3 April 1931
- Most League Appearances: Martin Hicks, 500, 1978-1991
- Youngest League Player: Peter Castle, 16 years 49 days v Watford, 30 April 2003
- Record Transfer Fee Received: £1,575,000 from Newcastle United for Shaka Hislop, August 1995
- Record Transfer Fee Paid: £2,500,000 to Nantes for Emerse Fae, August 2007
- Longest Sequence of League Wins: 13, 17/8/1985-19/10/1985
- Longest Sequence of League Defeats: 7, 10/4/1998-15/8/1998
- Longest Sequence of League Draws: 6, 23/3/2002-20/4/2002
- Longest Sequence of Unbeaten League Matches: 33, 9/8/2005-14/2/2006
- Longest Sequence without a League Win: 14, 30/4/1927-29/10/1927
- Successive Scoring Run: 32 from 1/10/1932
- Successive Non-scoring Run: 6 from 13/4/1925