To mark Reading’s 500th game at the Mad Stad this Saturday against Burton Albion, we’ll be sharing all of our favourite moments from the greatest sporting arena on earth.
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To kick us off, here are Will’s favourite Mad Stad memories from the last 499 matches.
26 August 1998: Reading 2-0 Peterborough United
I can’t remember anything from the game and had to search on the internet to find out who scored (Darren Caskey and Grant Brebner), but I do recall being amazed at how big the Mad Stad felt compared to Elm Park.
Game You Missed But Wish You Were There
22 August 1998: Reading 3-0 Luton Town
I missed this game as I was on holiday. I’ve missed a few big wins, but been lucky to witness so many that there aren’t any I regret missing. I would though have loved to have been there for our first game.
There are so many new identik stadiums around now it’s easy to forget how exciting and revolutionary the Mad Stad was when it first opened. There are some games you will never be able to replicate and this is one.
19 August 2006: Reading 3-2 Middlesbrough
This was probably the only other match that can’t be replicated. We will never have another first game in the top tier of English football and it’s hard to explain to younger fans just how exciting the feeling of finally making it was.
Little old Reading were in the big time, but it soon felt like a disaster as everything went wrong. However, one positive Nicky Shorey run lifted the mood and started one of the greatest comebacks. So many emotions were felt that day.
24 February 2008: Reading 1-2 Aston Villa
I saw us lose 6-0 to Bristol Rovers in 1998, but any of the defeats around this period were far worse. It was heartbreaking to see the greatest ever Reading team sinking towards relegation. This game was the worst of the lot in my mind. Everything about it was depressing.
The infuriating late change to move the game to a Sunday meaning I had to buy new train tickets back to Lancaster (not cheap), the seventh straight defeat, 11th game without a win, seeing a team full of legends utterly bereft of confidence and fight, the Villa fans needlessly crowing and gloating, and the realisation that we were heading for relegation.
Best Reading Goal
5 May 2001: Reading 3-3 Bournemouth (Martin Butler)
Gylfi Sigurðsson’s first goal for us against Burton was another that came to mind, but this goal was one of those rare goals which take your breath away. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a goal scored with more venom than Butler’s free kick and I remain adamant that it never got the praise it deserved. I watched it back on YouTube when writing this article and it was even further out than I remembered.
Best Opposition Goal
15 August 2007: Reading 1-2 Chelsea (Didier Drogba)
We should have been at least two goals ahead at half time (if only John Oster didn’t always feel the need to faff), but Chelsea turned the game on its head in five minutes of the sort of quality only the best in the world have. This goal epitomised it, Drogba was too strong, lightning quick and his shot was unstoppable.
28 October 2000: Reading 4-3 Oxford (Lilley goal)
Another classic match, played in torrential rain. Under a bit of pressure Ricky Newman headed back to Phil Whitehead. The header looked like it might go out for a corner, but Whitehead desperately tried to keep it in play. However, just as he arrived he slipped a bit and was left with his body off the pitch and a single hand on top of the ball.
It was a disaster in slow motion, as Oxford's Lilley tapped it out of Whitehead's hand and slotted it into the back of the net. Lucky for Whitehead, Tony Rougier rescued the day.
One Thing You Would Change
Definitely the location. It would be nice if the stadium was a more unique design with character, but it’s not our fault that so many clubs copied our design. I’m always envious of clubs with grounds in town centre locations.
Unfortunately apart from the Battle Hospital location there was nowhere big enough for a modern stadium and that’s before you consider the cost of the land.
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