From 2005 to 2008 I was in my prime, mid-twenties, earning a decent wage. I literally had no concerns in the world except for booze, girls and the condition of Glen Little’s Achilles tendon.
I'm an old school man deep down, for all this talk of tiki-taka, high pressing and sweeper keepers there’s still nothing more exhilarating for me than seeing a proper winger tear past the opposition full back. We've been blessed with some great flyers in the last 20 years: Michael Gilkes, Bobby Convey, Garath McCleary, Jobi McAnuff, even Jimmy Kebe’s rocket-ship meets Bambi-on-ice approach has a special place in my heart but "Blakey" stands apart from them all.
Little had almost no change of pace but possessed every other trick in the book. Even when he wasn’t duping hapless defenders into twisting their own ankles, Little’s wand of right peg allowed him to consistently deliver accurate crosses given the merest fraction of a yard.
During those halcyon days of the 106 point season, I deliberately sat low in the right side of the East Stand to see Little destroy the hopes and dreams of anyone tasked with stopping him. Every time he got the ball, measured up the opposition full-back and threatened to drop the shoulder, a hush descended over the Mad Stad crowd in anticipation, punctuated with shouts of "DO HIM BLAKEY" (usually me), and the inevitable roar that followed as Little beat the man and whipped the ball into the waiting paths of Kevin Doyle, Dave Kitson and Leroy Lita.
Injuries hampered and cut short his career but those moments are still some of the best of the last roller coaster 20 years as a Reading fan and for me THAT GOAL AT PLYMOUTH is still the most iconic moment of an iconic season.
Steve Coppell *(I'm not going to dignify the question with any more of a response)
The hardest question of all. Lita’s bicycle kick, the winner over Liverpool in the FA Cup, Gmac at Wembley, any Gylfi Sigurdsson thunderbolt, Nicky Shorey whipping a free kick into the postage stamp, there are so many contenders.
Had Jobi found in the inside of the post after he slalomed his way past all 11 men against Liverpool (a possible exaggeration) then I'd have to pick that but for me it’s a tie between Blakey at Plymouth and Shane Long’s stoppage time equalizer against Derby County on New Year’s Eve 2005.
The latter was possibly the most important goal of that season as the fans, media and more importantly the players themselves realised this was a side that would never stay down and was infused with steel and grit as well as record breaking quality.
Winning is fun but unless you're a glory chasing fan of the big Sky League teams you know that losing is just as important. Without the deepest darkest lows you can't appreciate the dizzying highs and it’s one of those lows that’s still one of my most memorable matches.
Derby County away, May 2008, in my head forever known as "Inflatable Relegation Day". There was real sense of fun and optimism/denial in the concourse about staying up (along with a few hundred lilos, flotation aids and at least one rubber Spongebob Squarepants, to this day I can't understand why we weren't filled with dread.
It may be a minority opinion, and your final league position is down to thirty eight performances and not one result, but it still angers me that we didn’t push on to get the three extra goals needed to stay up. Derby were an embarrassment and as farfetched as it sounds, a 7-0 win was there for the taking (Middlesbrough beat Manchester City 8-1 that very same day). On the way out through the industrial site that surround Pride Park, most of the away crowd seemed to disappear and there were less than a hundred of us milling around an otherwise eerily silent train station in quiet despair. I remember it like it was yesterday…and it still hurts.
As so many other fans have said, we REALLY struggle with this. Regulations around player numbers and some questionable sponsor and manufacturer choices have hampered the eternal quest for a definitive wrap around hoops look.
The classic 2005/06 shirt is a decent shout. I'm pretty agnostic when it comes the blue/white shorts debate and I quite like the collar but the shade of blue isn't quite dark enough. In a controversial move I'd probably say that this season’s effort has been the best for a long time even with the uneven hoop height.
It’s difficult to separate the ground from the game. Some of my best experiences watching Reading have been at soulless Lego kit stadiums (our own included) and some of the best grounds have hosted completely horrible or forgettable matches that have tainted my view on that particular church of football.
I definitely have a personal soft spot for Vicarage Road (bizarre half-finished stand and all) purely for the fact that I'd get an awesome post match dinner at my mate’s aunt and uncle’s house, handily located about 15 minutes walk away. Turf Moor also stands out for especially uncomfortable wooden seats with pre-match pints and kick arounds on the next door cricket ground.
For a pure match day experience though, you can't really beat St James’ Park. Massive old-school stands and located right smack in the middle of town, Newcastle centre is abuzz on match days and even though they're (quite rightly) in full angry Geordie mode right now, when the crowd is behind the team it’s something to behold. I can only imagine how a rebuilt Elm Park could emulate that.
If you would like to share your favourite moments then please get in touch. All fans are welcome to take part.