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The Tilehurst End Advent Calendar: December 16

The latest entry in our advent series goes all the way back to October 1997.

A portrait of Phil Parkinson of Reading

Phil Parkinson

Position: Midfield

Nationality: English

Total Reading FC Appearances: 361

Total Reading FC Goals: 20

Sitting in today's advent calendar window is one of Reading's most-loved players, Phil Parkinson. A £50,000 signing from Bury in 1992 who stayed with the club until 2003, he enjoyed a memorable and well-supported testimonial match in 2002.

Parky had a long and memorable career at Reading, with both highs and lows. The highs included two promotions with the team - the second, in 2002, as captain - whilst the lows included being one of the seven "Elm Park Disappeared" who were banished to train with the reserves by Tommy Burns in 1998.

But he's still loved as a Royals cult hero, even if it's more for his passion, tenacity and competitiveness than it is for his technical footballing ability - and of course he's still sung about, especially at this time of year.

Memorable Moment

Parky didn't score too many goals, but one sticks in my mind as a truly memorable moment.

14th October, 1997. With a 90-minute wall of noise, Elm Park welcomes former manger Mark McGhee with his Wolves team for a Third Round League Cup match. With McGhee under pressure for a run of poor results, the rammed South Bank, the Tilehurst End (less crowded as the rain was teeming down) and even the main stand were happy to twist the knife with chants of "You're Getting Sacked in the Morning" among others. There were 11,000 there, but they made the noise of a crowd more than double that size.

This cauldron of sheer hatred was the backdrop to one of the classic floodlit games at Elm Park, and a joyous one for Reading fans. It started brilliantly when Wolves had a Steve Bull goal disallowed for offside, and got even better after half an hour when Ady Williams slid in and put a Michael Meaker cross into the net to give Reading the lead. The fact that Ady Williams was wearing a Wolves shirt that day just made it exponentially more satisfying.

Then came Parky's memorable moment as Reading pressed home their dominance of the game. The ball broke lose midway in the Wolves half, and Parky dashed to get there first from within the centre-circle - even pushing teammate Ray Houghton out of the way to win the race. From about 35 yards out, he lashed it goalwards - and his shot flew over the Wolves 'keeper and dipped into the far corner of the goal. An absolute cracker from him, one that I still remember as clear as day over twenty years later.

Reading went on to triumph 4-2, a result which hammered another nail into McGhee's managerial career at Wolves - which ended 22 days later. But the abiding memory of an unforgettble night is Parky's long-range special - a perfect goal at a perfect time, pretty much out of character for him - but one of the reasons he's still such a Royals hero.