Thursday, September 20, 2007

History of Reading F.C.

Reading were formed on 25 December 1871. They were originally nicknamed the The Biscuitmen after one of the main trades in the town, Huntley & Palmers biscuits, but changed to the Royals in the 1970s, when the company closed their factory[2]. This history is reflected in the name of the club's unofficial fanzine, Hob Nob Anyone?, named after a popular British biscuit.

The club played at Reading Recreation Ground until 1878, before moving on to Reading Cricket Ground (1878–1882), Coley Park (1882–1889) and Caversham Cricket Ground (1889–1896). The switch to professionalism in 1895 resulted in the need for a bigger ground and, to this end, the club moved again, to the purpose-built Elm Park on 5 September 1896. The crest design is based upon the club colours, a crown which in heraldry represents royal sovereignty for the County of Berkshire and a lion which is an image of Reading most famous landmark, the Forbury lion.

In 1913 Reading toured Italy and beat Genoa 4-2 and A.C. Milan 5-0, narrowly lost 2-1 to Casale, before beating Italian champions Pro Vercelli 6-0 and the full Italian national team 2-0, prompting the leading sports newspaper Corriere della Sera to write "without doubt, Reading FC are the finest foreign team seen in Italy." Reading were invited back for another tour the following year, but there is no evidence it took place. It is possible it was cancelled due to the imminence of World War I, which claimed the lives of many Reading F.C. players, including Alan Foster, who put a hat-trick past Milan.

Reading were elected to the Third Division of the Football League in 1920, and have spent the majority of the time since then in the third tier of the league, with occasional flirtations with the second and fourth tiers.

Reading's best performance in the FA Cup came in 1926–27 when they lost to eventual winners Cardiff City in the semi-final. The side's moment of cup glory came in 1988 when they won the Simod Cup, beating a number of top flight sides en-route to their Wembley win over Luton Town.

Reading were promoted to the Second Division as champions in 1986 under the management of Ian Branfoot, but were relegated back to the Third Division in 1988. Branfoot left in October 1989, having failed to get the Royals back into the Second Division. His successor, Ian Porterfield, lasted just 18 months before further failures cost him his job. The appointment of Mark McGhee as player-manager in June 1991 saw Reading move forward.

They were crowned champions of the new Division Two in 1994 and, when McGhee moved to Leicester City halfway through the following season, Reading still appeared in with a chance of a second straight promotion. 35-year-old striker Jimmy Quinn was put in charge of the first team alongside midfielder Mick Gooding and guided Reading to runners-up in the final Division One table — only to be denied automatic promotion because of the streamlining of the Premier League, from 22 teams to 20. Reading had eased past Tranmere Rovers in the play-off semi-finals and looked to have booked their place in the Premiership after building up a 2-0 lead over Bolton Wanderers by half time in the final. Two late goals from Bolton forced extra time and the match ended 4-3 to Bolton. Quinn and Gooding's contracts were not renewed two years later after Reading had slid into the bottom half of Division One.

Their successor, Terry Bullivant, lasted less than one season before being sacked in March 1998. The Royals finished that season bottom of Division One and slipped into Division Two. Former Celtic boss, Tommy Burns lasted just 18 months before being replaced by Alan Pardew who had previously been reserve team manager before being released. 1998 also saw Reading move into the new 24,200-seat Madejski Stadium — named after chairman John Madejski — in the Smallmead area of the town.

In 2001, Reading became the first football club to register their fans as an official member of their squad, in recognition of the fact that the supporters in the stadium on a match day can sometimes influence the match just as much as a player on the pitch. The idea came from supporter Andy Manson in the summer of 2001 when the number 13 was left vacant by then boss Alan Pardew after the departure of the club's number 13, Keith Scott. Since then the "player" registered with squad number 13, has been named 'Reading Fans'.

Reading made it back to Division One in 2002 after finishing runners-up in Division Two. Good form the following season saw them finish fourth in Division One and qualify for the play-offs. Their promotion hopes were ended by a defeat against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the semi-finals, Reading's third unsuccessful attempt to gain promotion via the play-offs. Pardew acrimoniously moved to West Ham United the following October and was replaced at Reading by Brighton & Hove Albion's Steve Coppell.

In 2004–05, Reading finished seventh in the Football League Championship and just missed out in the play-offs.

Reading reach the Premiership
On 25 March 2006, Reading won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history. A 1-1 draw away at Leicester, coupled with Watford's defeat against Millwall, and Leeds United only drawing with Stoke City, secured Reading one of the top two automatic promotion places in the Championship. MPs congratulated Reading's successful season with two early day motions shortly after Reading finally secured promotion. The following week, they celebrated winning the Championship after defeating Derby County 5-0, while Stoke City held Sheffield Utd 1-1. This sparked a pitch invasion and the players celebrated in front of the fans from the safety of the directors' box. The Club also secured a record amount of points for the second tier — 106 — and fell only one short of scoring 100 goals. Reading lost only two games during the season.

First Premier League season - 2006–07
The 2006–07 season saw Reading make their first ever appearance in the top flight of English football. In the club's first Premiership game, Reading found themselves down 2-0 inside the first twenty minutes to Middlesbrough, but in a stunning turnaround the Royals netted home their first Premiership goals and won 3-2. Striker Dave Kitson became the first player to score for Reading in the top flight of football. While it is commonplace for teams who get promoted to the Premiership to experience a one-and-done season before being relegated, Reading distanced themselves from that curse (rather like fellow promoted clubs in the past, e.g. Wigan Athletic and Portsmouth), proving themselves more than worthy opposition for any team in the division.

Reading notched up some impressive results during the early stages of the season, including a draw against Manchester United and a narrow defeat to defending champions Chelsea, leading many commentators to change their opinion of the Premiership's newest member.

Perhaps one of the highlights of the season came on 1 January 2007, when Reading beat West Ham United 6-0. It represents the club's first ever 'double' in the top flight, as Reading had won at Upton Park 1-0 previously in the season. The 2-0 victory over Manchester City on 3 February 2007 took Reading to 40 points in the Premiership, the total seen by some as that required to avoid relegation. After that impressive start to 2007, the Royals recorded three defeats in quick succession to Middlesbrough, to Manchester United in an FA Cup Fifth Round replay, and to Arsenal. John Oster scored his first Premiership goal for the club against Middlesbrough, and his first goal in the top flight since scoring for Everton in the club's 4-2 win over Barnsley in September 1997. The FA Cup replay against Manchester United was notable in that Reading contrived to concede three goals in the opening six minutes of the game. The final score was 3-2 to Manchester United. Reading's final game of the season was an away fixture to Blackburn Rovers, which ended 3-3 from which Reading came from behind three times, with goals from Seol Ki-Hyeon, Kevin Doyle and Brynjar Gunnarsson. The result was not enough for qualification for the UEFA Cup for the 2006–07 season as it meant that Reading finished the season in eighth place with 55 points. Reading also turned down the chance to play in the Intertoto Cup meaning it was passed down to Portsmouth, who also rejected it, passing it to Blackburn who accepted the offer. The club's top scorer in the league was Kevin Doyle with 13 goals, whilst top scorer overall was Leroy Lita with 14.

Peace Cup 2007
Reading took part in the 2007 Peace Cup in South Korea. After defeat to River Plate and victories over Lyon and Shimizu S-Pulse, Reading failed to qualify for the final on goal difference.

2nd Premier League Season - 2007–08
Reading's second season in the Premier League began on 12 August 2007, with an away fixture against champions Manchester United, in which the match ended in a scoreless draw, Dave Kitson being controversially sent off after less than a minute for a challenge on Patrice Evra. On 15 August 2007 Reading's first home game of the season finished with a 1-2 defeat to Chelsea. Reading took the lead through André Bikey, but two goals in the five minutes immediately after half time from Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba condemned Reading to their first defeat of the season. Reading's next home game on 18 August 2007 against Everton finished with a 1-0 win for Reading as a consequence of Stephen Hunt's 44th minute volley. Reading then took on Bolton Wanderers and were defeated 3-0 away. Reading next played Swansea City away on 27 August 2007 in the first round of the League Cup, Reading won 1-0 because of Leroy Lita's goal in extra time, Sam Sodje was sent off for two controversial yellow cards in this match. Reading were yet again defeated 3-0 this time at home to West Ham United with two goals from Matthew Etherington and one goal from Craig Bellamy. Reading's next game was away to Sunderland at the Stadium of Light where they lost 2-1, with Kenwyne Jones and Danny Wallace scoring for Sunderland, and Dave Kitson getting Reading's goal.

Reading hold the English league record for the longest winning sequence at the start of a season with 13 victories in succession at the beginning of season 1985-86.

In 1979, Reading goalkeeper Steve Death went 1103 minutes without conceding a goal, also an English league record.

They also hold the embarrassing honour of having experienced more FA Cup defeats than any other team. This is because Reading are the oldest club still competing in the competition never to have won the Cup. Notts County entered the competition at the same time as Reading, in 1877-78. However, because County won the cup in 1894 (and so were unbeaten in that season), they have suffered one fewer defeat in the competition than Reading. In the year that County won the Cup, Reading suffered their worst ever defeat, losing 18-0 to Preston North End, at least partly because the Preston players used studs on their quagmire of a pitch.[citation needed]

During their successful 2005-06 Premiership promotion campaign, Reading broke another record when they went 33 matches unbeaten, the longest in the history of England's second tier, from 9 August 2005 until they lost to Luton Town on 17 February 2006. In the same season, Reading broke Sunderland's record for most points in a season in English football history, finishing with 106 points, and breaking the previous record by a single point.[16] Reading narrowly failed to become the first team to finish a season with both 100 goals and 100 points, but fell short by one goal, scoring "only" 99 times.

Reading staked its claim to one of English football's more unlikely records in the FA Cup competition of its fledgling Premiership campaign. Having reached the 5th round of the competition for the first time in nearly a decade, Reading secured a creditable 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford, only to concede three goals in the first 5 minutes and 41 seconds of the replay, eventually losing the game 3-2. The Independent suggests that this represents the worst ever start to a game by a team in English football[18], superseding the three goals conceded by Derby County in the first nine minutes of its home Premiership match with Leicester City in 1997-98.

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