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Six Of The Best: Matt's Favourite Reading FC Moments

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Matt Williams kick starts our new summer series where fans share their favourite moments as Reading fans.

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Player

I thought this feature would be easy. We spend so long daydreaming about our favourite games, putting together our 'Fantasy XI' sides and reliving brilliant goals that surely it'd just be a case of jotting down our lifelong work. But I'm stumped already. The ambiguity of the question means I'll have to interpret what 'favourite' means to me.

My first hero was Michael Gilkes - he scored a last minute winner at the first live game I ever attended. I loved Jamie Cureton - he was the player I pretended to be in the playground. There's Kevin Doyle and Gylfi Sigurdsson - perhaps the finest players I have ever seen in Reading shirts. I also have a massive soft spot for Ulises De La Cruz, for some reason.

So after all that waffling I'm going to plump for none of the above. And go for a man who fits in with almost all the 'favourite player' criteria. Brynjar Gunnarsson. Bryn was a fine player, massively underrated in terms of raw talent. But it was his ability to play in any position, without fuss, that truly endeared him to Reading fans. He got on with his job, led by example and always seemed to conduct himself professionally. He was strong in the tackle, strong in the air and his positioning and reading of the game was always spot on.

He scored some important goals - the equaliser against Man Utd in the cup, the equaliser at home to Liverpool, the goal that set us on our way to the 6-0 drubbing of West Ham. And his two goals at home to Sheffield United were perhaps the most important strikes of our record breaking season. Sidwell and Harper were the central midfield linchpins in our greatest ever team, but we should never underestimate the importance of Bryn waiting in the wings and filling in admirably when appropriate.

Then finally, of course, there was THAT nutmeg at Anfield. It summed Gunnarsson up. After a difficult period where once again he was in and out of the team, and with a career on the decline, Gunnarsson - a central midfielder certainly not known for his trickery - popped up on the right wing, flicked the ball through a defender's legs, showed a brilliant turn of pace to beat the man and put in a pinpoint cross for Shane Long to head home and secure a huge FA Cup upset. Long naturally got the plaudits, and you know what, I'm not sure Bryn would have minded. He was that type of player. And one I think a lot of Reading fans will look back on fondly.

Manager

Let's face it, for those under 30 - maybe even 40 - there's only really a choice of two here. Unless you're a masochist, that is. And as much as I admired McDermott's honesty, man-of-the-people, scout-done-good vibe, Coppell was always going to win this one.

Sometimes you just have to go for the hard facts. He built over the course of a couple of hard seasons a team that went on to be the most successful in Reading's 135 year history. He had us playing fast-flowing, exciting football. He appreciated a winger who wanted to get chalk on their boots.

He didn't go in for all the nonsense that was creeping into the game. And he didn't care what anyone thought about him. He had one job - to create a fantastic football team - and he did it brilliantly.

That's hard to argue with. But I also want to pick him for a personal reason, and that's because he's the one who, when a terrified, star struck and over-excitable trainee sports reporter was given the job of interviewing him for Reading 107FM directly after a massive home win against Birmingham in our second Premier League season, Coppell managed to pre-empt what he should have been asked and gave a long, analytical and interesting 3 minute answer whilst I regained some semblance of composure. He didn't have to do it, and you wouldn't have known it was deliberate if you weren't stuck in that sweaty, awkward press room, but he took the lead and for that I'll always be grateful...

Goal

Again, a tricky one to define. You could go for your first (Michael Gilkes v Bristol City), the most important (probably Jamie Cureton v Brentford), or perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing (Leroy Lita's scissor kick v Crystal Palace). But again in an attempt to merge the thinking I'm going to pick the one that had me celebrating most like a mad man. You know the goals - the ones where you go all light-headed, hug strangers and end up on the floor three rows away from where you were initially sitting.

And for me there's a top 3 here. I could pick Garath McCleary's at Wembley, but it seems too recent and we ultimately lost the game. I could pick James Harper's last minute winner up at Middlesbrough in 2008 - there were only about 250 of us behind that goal, we'd travelled a long way in hope rather than expectation and my celebratory delight at stealing 3 valuable points got me on Match of the Day.

But number one has to be Noel Hunt's goal at Upton Park in our promotion year to put us 2-1 up. We were already giddy from equalising minutes earlier, there were 4,000 excitable Reading fans crammed in celebrating together, and it was at that moment that the tables really turned and the league was in our hands. That was a great couple of weeks, it was a great strike and I still get shivers now recalling the mad celebrations. Best of all, it shut the West Ham fans up too...

Match

OK, so I desperately want to be clever here and pick some obscure 1-0 win that doesn't live long in the memory but would go on to prove hugely important to the direction and future of the football club in the long run. But I can't do that, because when I saw this category two games immediately sprung to mind and I can't shake them.

The first match is the focal point of still the best day in Reading's history - the day we clinched promotion to the Premier League. The celebrations in the stand that day were incredible, and the stadium actually rocked when Doyle's goal went in. Leicester fans were gracious afterwards, we were allowed to stay behind celebrating with the players on the pitch for what seemed like hours, and I was bursting with pride on the train home.

The only thing stopping me for plumping for this game is that ultimately the match itself didn't mean anything. Results elsewhere meant we would have gone up even with a loss, and for the best part of 80 minutes Reading looked nervous and second-best. Still, if I could relive one day it'd be that one.

So as this is best match, not best day out, I'm going to return to the Madejski for my choice and pick a game that meant a lot personally, but also seemingly had it all. Growing up in Croydon, you won't be surprised to hear that I was the only Reading fan in my class.

If you weren't a glory hunter you were a Crystal Palace fan, and although now having grown up a bit I actually hold a bit of a soft spot for the Eagles, when you're a teenager surrounded by gloating Palace fans, there's only one team you want to beat.

Luckily, in 2005, we not only beat them, we did it in the best way possible. The game had it all. Goals galore, exciting football, a wonder strike (the Lita overhead kick I mentioned earlier), heated tackles, 2 missed penalties, a manager sent off, and a late, late winner right in front of the Reading fans to put us 3-2 ahead.

It was a game that would springboard us to that astonishing promotion-winning run, and it ensured bragging rights at home for a little while longer. In fact it was so perfect that it was the main reason I kicked off the Madejski Moments series. Read all about the game here.

Kit

Another tricky category, but for very different reasons. The truth is I don't really care too much. Reading just never get it right in this department. Previously it used to anger me, now I've come to accept that whatever happens, they'll probably cock it up, so don't get the hopes up.

Blue and white hoops that go all the way round the shirt, from at least the badge downwards. White shorts. Legible names and numbers. No blurred hoops. No side panels. No variation in hoop size. No stupid added red or white bits. How hard can it be?

With a lack of options, I'm going to go all nostalgic and plump for the first kit I owned. The first kit I saw my newly appointed idols wear. The 1994/95 home kit. Probably not the most beautiful design. Probably not the best quality (who the hell were Pelada anyway!?). And for most Reading fans synonymous with that heartbreaking play off defeat at Wembley. But it was what the first team I loved was wearing, and what I wouldn't take off for days on end. I think that has to be the criteria for a favourite kit.

Away Ground

When it comes to football grounds, I'm something of a traditionalist. Give me low roofs, Archibald Leitch-designed stands and stadiums placed in the town centre (preferably with the floodlights visible from anywhere within a 2 mile radius). Stuff your comfy seats, £10 parking and snazzy club megastores.

I realise how ridiculous the above makes me sound being a Reading fan, but you have to accept the hand you're given, I suppose. It also makes picking an Away Ground hard, because the stadiums I love - Craven Cottage, Villa Park, Ninian Park, White Hart Lane, Goodison Park, Hillsborough, Anfield etc - have resulted in a pretty measly return of points when I've travelled to watch the Royals at any of them.

Whereas the out-of-town soulless bowls that I deride have resulted in some pretty good Reading away performances. I think we've got 15 points from my 6 visits to Pride Park, 7 points and a promotion from my trips to Leicester, 2 wins at Doncaster, important wins at the Riverside, Amex, Etihad,  Britannia (although I've seen plenty of defeats there too) and a play off semi-final win at Cardiff's new ground.

There are a couple of 'happy-mediums' though. Yeovil and Crewe both offered up great little grounds and 3 points, but I've only been to either once. Charlton has given 4 points from two trips and served up an excellent chippy but the home atmosphere isn't up to much. Bramall Lane is a good shout, with a great atmosphere and some decent Reading performances (Doyle's goal there after 19 seconds almost made it into my favourite goal list).

But I'm ending on another personal note and going for Selhurst Park. The away end is a dump but it's a 'proper' football ground, in an urban area, with a good opportunity for an atmosphere from both home and away fans. In my eight trips there with Reading I've only seen us lose once - and even then I saw two absolute footballing rarities: a Paul Bodin screamer and a female streaker.

Oh, and it's only 15 mins from where I grew up, and despite now living in Reading my parents are still there, meaning I could still get on a train at Selhurst after a game and be at my mum and dad's house for tea by 5:30. What more could you ask for?

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If you would like to share your favourite moments then please get in touch. All fans are welcome to take part.