I Year On And Reading Reach Their 2nd Quarter Final in 83 Years
Posted on March 4, 2011
It’s a funny old world, on 25th of February 2010 I wrote a blog celebrating Reading FC reaching an FA Cup quarter final for the first time in 83 years and now just over a year later, they have done it once again. An old phrase about buses coming at once comes to mind. Reading as a club take quite a lot of criticism from sections of their support (including me) about lack of funds and being run like a business rather than adults toy, but as a critic, this time I can only applaud this achievement which is way beyond any expectations of anything since the clubs formation in 1871 (apart from the 1927 semi).
Let’s take a parallel look at the achievements of Reading during my early years as a supporter and those of my eldest son. My first ever game saw fourth division Reading in a giant killing act over third division Rotherham in the League Cup and the following five years saw two promotions to the third tier of football and a relegation back to the fourth tier as well as disturbing Oxford/Reading merger plans from the dastardly Rupert Murdoch under the banner of The Thames Valley Royals. Our main local rivals were Aldershot, Brentford, Swindon and Oxford. Southampton meanwhile, were operating at a level beyond our dreams, with players such as Mick Channon, Peter Shilton and Kevin Keegan strutting their stuff at the Dell in their own golden period. In 1985 under Ian Branfoot we broke a start of season record (13 straight) wins and entered the second tier of football for the first time in what we assumed would be the most glorious part of our history as we survived in division two for another year and we even won the Simod Cup (1988) before returning to our rightful place in the lower echelons of league football.
Since my son started supported Reading he has witnessed the following: Play offs (Championship) 7th (Championship) Champions with record 105 points (Championship) 8th (Premiership) 18th and relegated (Premiership) Play Offs (Championship) 8th (Championship) and two FA Cup quarter Finals. Reading now only play Oxford or Swindon as pre season favours and now have roughly the same level of support as Portsmouth and Southampton. Brentford and Aldershot aren’t even mentioned except in nostalgic conversations about the old ground that regularly hosted less than four thousand die hard fans (I went to one game when there was 1700).
It is time, on a week like this, that us Reading fans should show more pride in our achievements, we have an excellent stadium, 15,000+ fans week in week out, Championship stability, and above all financial security. We can all prattle on (and we do) about the Chairman not investing money in the club, but one look at the profit and loss accounts over the last ten years shows that reckless gambling will put the club out of business just like Leeds, Charlton, Southampton, Sheffield Weds and Portsmouth before us. John Madjeski is worth an estimated £400million, he would be crazy to start blowing it on wages and agents (40 million would go on just one 5 year contract equivalent to those dished out at Man City). If I was rich I wouldn’t invest in Reading unless I was a billionaire, mere multi millionaires lose it all like Mark Goldberg at Crystal Palace did. JM does this as he feels obliged to as he is a local bloke, and being a bit of an oddball he also likes the status and stadium name that goes with it, so what if he makes a bit of money when he sells it to someone stupid enough to buy it, which is highly unlikely.
Reading have much to learn with regards to customer/supporter care, the beer is awful and overpriced and the refreshments staff are blatantly under trained and under paid, but when it comes to on field achievements since Madjeski invested in the club in 1990 and helped build the stadium in 1998 the statistics are pretty much startling. After spending it’s entire history in the third and fourth tiers of the league Reading have been in the top two tiers for all but threes seasons (1998-2001) since 1994. They now sit proudly as the South’s best team, often lending out players to teams they were once aspiring to, such as Southampton who lost to Walsall on the same evening The Royals disposed of Everton.
The likelihood is that Reading will get well beaten by Man City in the quarters, and in reality we will never be a major Premiership outfit, the finances and fan base just can’t support it, but to be a team that flirts with, and occasionaly gains Premiership status whilst regularly beating big sides in the cups is something I didn’t visualise as I stood in the rain at The Manor (Oxford United) fifteen odd years ago as Terry Bullivant’s outfit got drubbed 3-0 and were condemned to relegation. The Oxford fans sung “We’ll never play you again” that night as they were about to go two leagues higher than us. How things have changed since then.
In a week when one Premier League player has got away with a forearm smash, another has shot a work experience kid with an air pistol, and that nutcase Alex Ferguson goes off on mind blowing tyrannical two faced rants about referees that the FA are to scared to deal with, I am not sure I could be bothered with Premier League football anyway. I would rather play in Championship with renewed local hostilities with Southampton, Swindon and Oxford, that would be more fun than getting humiliated in Pansies League. I quite like our little club and our honest under stated manager, who lets face it, would get eaten alive by all the bullshitters and blaggers in Europe’s most excessive and over inflated league.
Well done RFC