As a child, your eyes are drawn to the strikers. The most thrilling moments in football come from scoring goals, the celebrations in the stands, the team on the pitch running to the man who's just changed the course of the game. And one man who changed the course of Reading's path in the footballing world is Jamie Cureton.
In the early 2000s it was the trio of Cureton, Forster and Butler who were leading the line for the Royals. Butler was the older favourite - the hard worker, the team player, the unsung hero. Forster was the thriller - the sprinter, the man who could change a game and destroy a team on his own. But it was Cureton who was so often the match winner from the bench, the archetypal poacher, the man who knew where the goal was and found it with unerring regularity.
He may not have scored many Goal Of The Season contenders. He didn't have the pace to outsprint defenders. He certainly didn't win many headers. But what he did have was an ability to find the net, and he never lost it. One very important strike summed him up - the run, the touch, the deftness, the cuteness, and the "just another goal" celebration. It was his job, and he did it better than any other.
50 League goals for Reading, and 256 overall in his career... so far. Still going strong at the age of 39, and still finding the net.
Only one nomination for this really. The man who sealed the earliest ever promotion to the Premier League. The man who won two LMA Manager Of The Year awards in a row. The man who plucked gems like Doyle, Hunt, Long, Sonko, Federici, Little, and Kitson out of obscurity. The man they call "sir". Steve Coppell.
His achievements were quite frankly ridiculous in those two glorious seasons. 106 points, a record that will take a very long time to be beaten. A squad that played without fear and with a team ethic that shone through on the pitch. Quite simply, the side that created a generation of Reading fans.
But for me, the legacy he's left is that he is the manager everyone else is judged by. Brendan Rodgers and Nigel Adkins have come and gone with their media personalities, their relentless positivity and their inability to accept failure. Essentially, they were a far cry from the dry, cutting, honest Steve Coppell. McDermott exuded shades of the man - not only in appearance but in manner. And Steve Clarke, as well as having the same initials (bet nobody ever noticed that!) is similarly down to earth.
It may not have worked out in Coppell's last two campaigns but he gave Royals fans the best two seasons in our history.
Two nominations for this one, as I really couldn't split them in terms of my emotional connection to them.
The first, Cureton's lob in 2001-02 at Brentford to seal promotion on the final day of the season. Coming off the bench, just as he seemed to do so often under Pardew, it seemed fate was on our side. Time seemed to slow down as Parky won the header, the ball dropped to number 12, one touch, and the deftest flick to lob Paul Smith. Curo's celebration was simple. "You knew it was going to happen. It's what I do." The reaction in the crowd was rather more raucous of course!
The goal and the game would actually have even more significance to Reading down the line - Ivar Ingimarsson the Brentford defender who so nearly prevented promotion but luckily couldn't clear in time, while future Royals Michael Dobson, Stephen Hunt, Steve Sidwell and Lloyd Owusu were all on the losing side that day. And who was the Bees' manager that day? Sir Steve Coppell.
The second, another 1-1 draw, another late goal, another set piece, another flick on... another striker getting us promotion.
Of course, mobile internet wasn't quite as prevalent back in 2006 so crowd cheers and Chinese whispers were the only way to find out what was going on elsewhere. Reading needed a win to guarantee promotion on the 25th of March, the earliest a side has ever gained a move to the top flight. With results going our way, and after some quick maths, we thought a draw would be enough to seal the deal.
The truth is, Reading played horribly on that day. But just as for the rest of that season, they never gave up, and never knew when they were beaten. We were wearing our third kit that day - a plain white number, the badge in the centre, with the home blue shorts. A pointless little detail you never forget. James Harper took the corner. Ivar Ingimarsson got the flick. And Kevin Doyle ghosted in to nod home. As it turned out, we could have lost and still gone up. But that goal, that slide into the corner, that tannoy announcement, that celebration at the end... the first time in history that Reading had got to the top flight.
I took this as the game I've enjoyed most from start to finish. And for me, there was none better, and none sweeter than slaughtering West Ham 6-0 in our first Premier League season.
Tensions were still high between the two sides thanks to Alan Pardew's acrimonious departure (even though he was sacked three games before this one). Plus I think we wanted to form some sort of rivalry seeing as Swindon and Oxford hadn't kept up in the last few years. So this victory - no, this humiliation - was exceptionally satisfying.
It was the most complete performance the Royals put in during that glorious first season. Gunnarsson opening the scoring with a header, then another one from Hunt to really knock the stuffing out of the Hammers. An own goal from Anton Ferdinand (the search party is out, by the way) and then a tap in from Doyle from a Harper cross to make it 4-0 before half time. Lita had a simple task to add the fifth in the second half, then Doyle powered in another header from a Shorey corner for the final goal. It was flowing, it was confident, it was exciting. It was glorious.
A quick shout as well to our 4-3 victory at home to Oxf*rd in October 2000. A match played in the pouring rain, so much so that the pitch was holding up the ball at times. A game true to the spirit of a rivalry that's sadly been lost over the last few years... well, we've been too good for them. I'll remember it not only for the glory of the victory but also perhaps the most comical moment I've ever seen at a football match.
Royals keeper Phil Whitehead tried to prevent the ball going out for a corner and succeeded...but unfortunately he slid beyond the goal-line, and left the ball for Oxford's Pilley to tap in. It really was unbelievable, and something that was probably shown on A Question Of Sport a few years down the line. But the impact of Tony Rougier was simply breaktaking when he came on, showing skill beyond his level and, of course, finding the net twice to pluck victory from the jaws of defeat. He may not have known much about either finish but he'll still be the hero of that match.
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I don't normally take much notice of our kits to be honest as they really don't change that much, save for a collar here, a racing stripe there... and the eternal "hoops on the back" debate.
However, the #RyansRoyals kit this season was something truly special, a great story and a fantastic cause - even more impressive for the fact they kept it secret so long! But the kit itself was exquisite too. A simple design but the trees had a beautiful double meaning with both the Avenue School and the old Elm Park emblem. If only I'd had a spare £2,000 to buy one of them!
With most new grounds being identikit "seated bowls" it's quite difficult to differentiate between many of them. Actually, I will give a quick down-vote to Vicarage Road, Watford, who don't sell alcohol and have a tiny concourse. Boo.
So I'll go for a personal experience.
A pre-season friendly in 2000, at Torquay, 9 years old, at one of Martin Allen’s first games as assistant to Pards. I was watching the game from the front row of the stand when he spotted me and asked if I wanted to join him in the dugout. Two minutes later, I was sitting on the bench next to my heroes, experiencing the match from a once-in-a-lifetime perspective, just as the players and manager do for 50 games a season. I’m sure half of it was "Mad Dog" living up to his name, but it ensured the team’s place in my heart for the rest of my life – I’ll never get another opportunity like that again.
If you would like to share your favourite moments then please get in touch. All fans are welcome to take part.