James Alan John Harper
Position: Central Midfield
Total Reading FC Appearances: 282
Total Reading FC Goals: 23
When The Royals come up against a giant of a club, you never go into it with much expectation. You go into it with hope. Hope that somehow, you’ll come through the game without being humiliated. Maybe even snatch a point. But a victory? Don’t be daft.
The game was against an undefeated Liverpool in December 2007. Liverpool lined up that day with an XI consisting of Carragher, Gerrard, Mascherano, and golden boy Torres. They were — I will say it again — unbeaten.
Yet minnows Reading welcomed them to the Madejski Stadium and had the arrogance to score first. Stephen Hunt opened the scoring with a penalty, but Gerrard restored order with an equaliser.
But plucky little Reading took the lead again, this time through Kevin Doyle. The icing on top of the cake came from a magnificent James Harper goal. Yes, the midfield man who passed sideways and ran around a lot put the cherry on top of the cake with a brilliant goal — and then Reading held on thanks to the help of the post.
Harper was always a player who didn’t seem to have much about him apart from exceptional stamina and a leader’s attitude, but this goal saw the world sit up and take notice of the middle class club from Berkshire.
Plucky little Reading, plucky little Harper.