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OPINION: Why Reading FC Need A Statue Or Two At The Madejski Stadium

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The Inspector thinks the Mad Stad could do with some new architecture to make it feel more like home.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Have you ever heard the Madejski Stadium referred to as a modern, soul-less edifice lacking the character of an old town-centre ground? That it is emblematic of the decline in the passionate, emotional bond between club and fan which made Saturday afternoons so special?

No? Neither have I - but I’ve sometimes thought it.

This is not a criticism. Times change, life moves on and all that. The fact that the Mad Stad has the functional, somewhat charmless feature of anything comparatively new, and is situated next to an industrial estate and near a motorway are realities we can accept. They had to build it somewhere and the edge of Whitley (with or without its Whiff) will do for me.

As nostalgic memories of Elm Park fade into oblivion we have come to accept that the stadium named after Sir John is now our home. But like any good home you need a few nick-nacks to preserve the family history and provide the heart-warming feeling of truly belonging there.

The efforts made by the club to meet these targets have, in my view, been mixed. For example, the naming of the stadium: a bad idea - too egocentric and open to ridicule from the rest of the football world, even if we have got used to it. The naming of the Eamonn Dolan Stand: good, for obvious reasons, as is the installation of pictures of former players around the ground, although it could be done better.

Yet the project that I truly admire (and I congratulate those responsible for its creation) is the Fans’ Wall of Honour outside the East Stand. When I switched sides of the ground a few years back from the library-like West Stand (what was I doing there?!) to the East, with its feel of a proper football ground, one of the aspects that really impressed me was the Wall. Its many bricks bear names of supporters past and present, living and deceased, who have followed the club through bad times and good down the decades.

Proper moved me, it did. It reminded me what the Biscuitmen/Royals are all about. I’m not up there myself, but I’d regard it as a privilege if I were - even if I have by then turned up my toes and floated off to the Great Footy Festival in the sky.

In the meantime, we need some more inspired initiatives to make us proud, especially when the team is failing to do so on the pitch. This article, I have to admit, was inspired by one I read praising the creation of the Kenny Dalglish Stand at Anfield and linking it to the statues at Old Trafford for Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law.

Why not do that at the Mad Stad?

That's what WE need - statues of people from the club's past who were true heroes in the club's 146-year history. How about doing it for the 150th anniversary? What a wonderful cause for celebration that would be.

Ok, so we don't have great names from the past to compare to Charlton, Law and Best. Let's face it, we're Reading FC. But that does not mean we couldn't find some worthy characters without resorting to the public humiliation that Mohamed Al Fayed heaped on Fulham when he had a likeness of Michael Jackson erected outside Craven Cottage.

So where does the list begin and how do we come up with a suitable candidate (or two) without dividing the fans and starting a major argument? Therein lies the problem.

Anyway, at risk of being shot down for spouting nonsense, here are a few names to consider:

Steve Coppell - the club's greatest manager, although slightly controversial as he probably has stronger links to Crystal Palace.

Robin Friday - voted the club's greatest player.

Trevor Senior - a personal favourite, as the striker who amazingly scored 42 goals in a season and was a member of the 13-match winning side, whose record still stands.

Martin Hicks - another member of that record-breaking side whose 603 appearances is the club's highest.

Sir John Madejski - who, although I didn't like him naming the stadium after himself, might be worth a statue for all he has done for the club (especially after the ground has been re-named to make a few bob).

However, here's one, that in my view, would be the best. Gordon Neate served the club for 53 years as a player and groundsman at both Elm Park and the Madejski Stadium. Born and raised in the town, 'Fred ' was totally ingrained in the life and fortunes of the Royals. His wife, Viv, used to wash the first team’s shirts.

I've seen described him as a legend, which is not unreasonable. He was never a great player, as he would admit himself, and, as a lad, I can remember him being given a terrible chasing by Swindon's Don Rogers, who was good enough to give that treatment to many other full-backs.

Yet 'Fred' was a true Reading FC man in every sense, who epitomises what it means to follow our club. How proud it would make his family - and many more of us - to see his likeness smiling down on the fans as we entered the stadium every match day. And it would make the Mad Stad feel more like home.

I'm not sure of the going rate for a statue these days, and if the cost prevented as buying a new striker in the January transfer window I'm sure there would be plenty of opposition. However, we've got four years until the 150th anniversary and our Chinese owners would help to cement their own acceptance among the supporters if they were to fund such a project.

If, by the way, they were also to lead the club to its greatest ever success (surpassing the Coppell era) they would probably even merit a statue of their own. What do you think?