I've been quite lucky as a Reading fan. Since I began supporting the Royals in 2006, I've seen three seasons in the Premier League, a Championship title win and an FA Cup semi-final. We'll skip past the two relegations.
I'm part of the new era if you like, I didn't watch the record-breaking season of 2005-06, so that excludes (most) players, matches and goals from that incredible campaign. And obviously before then as well. But as I reminisce about my first nine years as a fan, you'll realise that time has been good to us Reading fans, and is perhaps the best in our history, despite 2014-15’s dreadful performances.
As I said, the majority of 2005-06 season aren't in my memory despite the amount I've heard about them, so don’t expect many of those names pop up as they might usually do in this feature.
Saying that, Ivar Ingimarsson has to get a mention because he is probably the first player I properly ‘fell in love with’ so to speak after he scored the winning goal in my first ever game against Manchester City. He was solid at the back, and would make my all-time Reading team, even including Royals before my time. He scored about once a season, but when he did I celebrated crazily for some strange reason. One such moment was against Sunderland in our second Premier League season. It was a tap in, but I was ecstatic. Forgive me, I was only eight at the time.
Moving up the field and further on in time, I come to another player from Iceland, Gylfi Sigurdsson, who is now gracing the Premier League with his talent, and understandably too. He provided so many happy memories for me as Reading fan, such as his exploits in the 2009-10 cup run and an incredible goal against Scunthorpe on the first day of the following season. That led to his inevitable sale, and I don't think we've seen a better player at the Madejski Stadium since.
Finally I come to Shane Long, in my opinion the best striker this club has seen in the last five years and another now showing the top flight what he is all about. Once Gylfi had left in 2010, it was the Irishman who stepped up to the plate and was the talisman for the side. He got 25 goals that season as we made it to the play-off final. The previous campaign he had given us all hope by bagging a brace against Aston Villa in the FA Cup Quarter-Final to put us 2-0 up at half-time. He’s the kind of striker that this current side is missing: quick, committed and someone who can actually hit the target!
If this decision was based on personal opinion, I would go for Ivar, but based on the fact that he is perhaps the most technically gifted player the club has even, my best Reading player of my generation is Gylfi Sigurdsson.
The only title-winning side that I have seen play was managed by Brian McDermott, who in his own right was brilliant in his rapid rise from scout to head coach. But I have to follow the trend and go for Steve Coppell. In his three seasons I saw, the football we played was enjoyable to watch, despite the fact that it didn't necessarily get results in 2007-08. In my opinion, we were unlucky to go down that season.
In his five full seasons at the club, we didn’t fall beneath seventh in the second tier, and he is the only ever boss to win the LMA Manager of the Year twice in succession. Then there’s the record breaking 2005-06 season, which needs no explanation.
This is a difficult one because it’s hard to decide whether to go for the goals that blow your mind, or the ones that are incredibly important. Even though the day ended on a dull note, Garath McCleary’s Zidane-esque strike against Burnley on the final day of 2013-14 was incredible and at the time looked as though it could have secured a play-off spot.
You could pick any of Sigurdsson’s goals, Shane Long’s glancing header against Liverpool had me jumping up and down in the living room, whilst Adam Federici’s goal against Cardiff will always hold a small, odd place in my heart. The important but scrappy ones are that of Mikele Leigertwood and McCleary at Wembley.
But I’m one for jaw-dropping goals no matter the vitality, so I'm going back to where I started with McCleary against Burnley. He scored some great goals for the cameras in 2013-14, and that was the best. A strange choice perhaps, but it amazes me every time I watch it again. Sigurdsson’s 35-yarder against Burton comes a close second.
Once again we've been lucky to have been treated to some great games in the last ten years. The comebacks against Chelsea and West Brom in our second Premier League spell were heroic whilst games against Nottingham Forest (2011/12) and Leicester (2005/06) that sent us up and the FA Cup matches this season against Bradford and Arsenal were historic.
But I'm going for a game in my first season as a supporter, a game that proved to me I was right to support Reading despite my friends cheering on Chelsea and Manchester United. It’s the 6-0 win over West Ham on New Years’ Day 2007. It came just two days after my eighth birthday, and I was already made up to meet Steve Sidwell before the game. But what followed meant that I didn’t stop talking the entire way home, and I still remember the match as if it was yesterday.
None of the goals were particularly special, but Nicky Shorey was absolutely superb, as was Sidwell as we smashed the Hammers. As I said, it was mostly tap-ins, but a 6-0 score line seems un-thought of by an 8 year old only experiencing his fourth or fifth football match.
I hate to repeat those before me, but the kits Reading have produced never quite cut it for me, despite the hype that a new shirt always brings. The inclusion of red in a Royals shirt hasn't gone down well with me. If I had to choose I'dgo for the 2006-08 effort. It was my first shirt and you could actually see the numbers and letters on the back because it was a block of blue, and a relatively nice shade as well.
Because we're not too far from London, there are many grounds you can visit without spending loads on petrol. I went to Craven Cottage for the first time this season, which is a nice old fashioned ground. Going on the same basis, I've also enjoyed trips to Vicarage Road, The Valley and Selhurst Park for their traditional value. Apart from Wembley, the Emirates is the biggest ground I've seen the Royals play at, but we lost 4-1 on my visit in 2013.
Despite all I've said about old grounds, I'm actually going for Cardiff’s new stadium, aptly named the Cardiff City Stadium. In my three visits, we haven’t lost, and there’s always a good atmosphere in the away end because of the relatively short distance. The play-off semi-final in 2011 and the cup game there this season are two of my most memorable away games. What makes it better is that the home crowd in South Wales are rarely in song, which is capitalised on by us Royals. I know it’s weird but I always like the idea of watching Reading play in another country (yes I know Wales is part of the UK). I suppose it’s the closest thing we get to playing in Europe!
Bit of a strange note to end on.