As the big 150-year anniversary celebrations edge ever nearer, there is no better time to reflect on the historic moments in Reading FC history than now.

Join us as we look back at seven of the events that have shaped Royals folklore.

 

1895- Professionalism

After more than 20 years as an amateur side, 1895 saw the side turn fully professional.

A need for a larger ground saw the move to Elm Park in 1896 and for the next 25 years the club played their football in the Southern League.

The pre-war era saw four near misses of promotion into the Football League, including three runner-up positions, and an FA Cup quarter-final appearance.

Author and Supporters Trust at Reading (STAR) treasurer, Roger Titford, believes that this was the first high point in the history of the club:

“We are playing proper competitive football as opposed to amateur stuff.

“In 1901 we get to the FA Cup Quarter-Final and were beating First Division teams.

“In this period, before the First World War, we’re quite a good side.

“We even had a couple of players in the England team, and an FA Cup semi-final was held at Elm Park.”

 

Royal Borough Observer:

Above: Reading players training at Elm Park 1946
(Reading Museum- Reading Chronicle Collection)

 

 

1920- Football League Status

After more than 40 years of amateur football, the town would finally get accepted into the Football League in 1920.

Starting in 1888, the Football League presided predominantly of sides from the north and midlands, with Arsenal becoming the first southern side to compete in 1893.

The club did compete in the FA Cup from 1877 but never progress past round four.

From 1921 until 1971 the club would spend 45 seasons in the third tier, with five seasons in the second tier during the mid-late 1920s.

However according to Roger, entry to the Football League was largely a downgrade on Southern League football the side had been playing previously:

“Getting into the Football League wasn’t a big deal; it was actually a disappointment.

“For the first time you’re an associate member, you don’t get full voting rights.

“Until you get into the second division you don’t really count in the Football League’s eyes.”

 

 

1927- FA Cup Semi-Final

After promotion to the second tier in 1926 by winning Division Three South, the good times kept on coming.

A 14th place finish in Division Two was to be the clubs highest league finish until 1987, but the cup run is what caught the eye.

Wins over Weymouth, Southend United, Manchester United and Portsmouth set up a last 16 tie with London-side Brentford.

Over 33,000 crammed into Elm Park, still a home attendance record for the club, and the vast majority went home happy.

Wins over Brentford and Swansea Town set up a semi final with fellow Welsh side Cardiff City.

The side lost 3-0 to the eventual champions but the players left with their heads held high.

It is still a joint record for the club, only having reached the semi-final on one more occasion in 2015.

 

Royal Borough Observer:

Above: Biscuit tin designed for if Reading had won the Cup in 1927
(Reading Museum: Reading Chronicle Collection)

 

1983- Thames Valley Royals

As Reading were succumbing to relegation to the basement tier of English football, Oxford United owner Robert Maxwell was plotting to buy-out Reading owner Frank Waller and merge the two sides to become Thames Valley Royals.

Thankfully Roger Smee saves the day and for the next five years the side is on the up.

For Mr Titford, this is the single most significant moment in the history of the football club:

“In my view, the events of 1983 were the single most significant turning point in the history of the club.

“Reading became a different club overnight: new manager, new chairman, new board, new colours, new players and a new attitude to commerce.

“Roger Smee blew away 30 years of cobwebs.”

 

Royal Borough Observer:

Above: Reading v Manchester United 1955
(Reading Museum- Reading Chronicle Collection)

 

 

1988- Simod Cup

A 13th place finish in the second tier in 1987 was the highest league finish in the club’s history at that time, but the most famous occasion was the club’s first appearance at Wembley.

After the Heysel disaster of 1985 in which 39 fans died at the European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool, English clubs were banned from competing in European competition.

To fill the void the FA invented the Full Members Cup.

It was open to any side in the top two divisions and although some of the big names refused to take part, many top-flight sides did.

Ian Branfoot’s men beat five top division sides on their way to lifting the trophy: QPR, Oxford United, Nottingham Forest, Coventry City and Luton Town.

Almost 40,000 followed the side to the national stadium, and it was to be one of the best days in the clubs long history.

The 4-1 win under the Twin Towers lives long in the memory of those who went, and it remains the only time Reading have won at Wembley in five attempts.

 

1998- On the Move

1990 became a turning-point in the club’s future, with local businessman John Madejski acquiring the club.

A turbulent decade saw the club reach the brink of the top-flight, losing 4-3 to Bolton Wanderers in the second-tier play-off final, but also sink back to the third tier in 1998.

Elm Park was by this point dilapidated and not fit for purpose.

It was a sorry end to Elm Park as a sell-out crowd packed in to see a 0-2 defeat to Norwich City, confirming relegation.

Over 18,000 turned out for the opening of the Madejski Stadium, and saw the first win of the season, as the team put three unanswered goals past Luton Town.

 

Royal Borough Observer:

Above: Wembley ahead of Reading v Huddersfield 2017

 

 

 2006- Top- flight football

It only took 135 years but in 2006 Reading Football Club finally reached the pinnacle, the Premier League.

They had been close on many an occasion, but in 2005/06 Steve Coppell’s side lost just two matches and romped to the Championship title with 106 points, an English point’s record.

The debut campaign was memorable too, finishing a club record 8th and missing out on European football by just one point.

Although the side were relegated the following year, they returned for one more season in 2012 before relegation in 2013.

 

Here’s to another jam-packed 150 years for Reading Football Club.

 

 

 

Reading Museum have a special 150th anniversary exhibition from February 2022, and the team would love to be able to showcase your memorabilia and artifacts.

If you have any that you can lend for the exhibition, email the curator, Brendan Carr, at Museum.Collections@reading.gov.uk