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. Up this time is Peter Jones who shares his memories starting right from when it all began.
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22 August 1998: Reading 3-0 Luton Town
Before the match I was amazed at the thousands streaming towards the stadium. I’d had my doubts about whether we’d ever be able to fill a 24,000 seat ground regularly, but seeing 18,000 there for a Division 2 game calmed my fears. Once Grant Brebner gave us the lead it felt like a perfect day. John Madejski’s vision already seemed to be justified.
Game You Missed But Wish You Were There
30 October 2012: Reading 5-7 Arsenal
Until my family’s presence as Reading residents ceased three years ago, I missed very few home matches. The only league win I really regret missing since then was on 11 September 2015, when Steve Clarke’s team beat Ipswich Town 5-1 playing perhaps the best football since seen Steve Coppell’s day. But I’m going to be perverse here and choose the night we took a 4-0 lead against Arsenal in the League Cup, and contrived to lose 5-7 eventually. That was a memorable night, even if for mainly bad reasons.
16 May 2001: Reading 2-1 Wigan Athletic
I would choose our first match in the Premier League, when we unforgettably came from two down to beat Middlesbrough 3-2. Unfortunately Will’s already taken that one! So I’m going for the Division 2 playoff game when we beat Wigan with almost the last kick to reach the final. That moment when Nicky Forster netted the rebound from Jamie Cureton’s penalty and the stadium went absolutely mental – even now the memory of it sends shivers down my spine.
12 April 2008: Reading 0-2 Fulham
Again, I couldn’t differ from Will in feeling utterly depressed by our 2-1 loss to Aston Villa in February 2008. However, for terminal significance even that match was topped by our defeat to Fulham two months later. It was clear that the team which lost that day was almost guaranteed to go down. The greatest ever Reading team was clueless and spiritless, Fulham winning easily. It was deeply sad and depressing. Sure enough, the Royals were relegated.
Best Reading Goal
8 December 2007: Reading 3-1 Liverpool (James Harper)
Martin Butler’s astonishing shot against Bournemouth in the 3-3 draw in May 2001 sticks in the memory, as does Steve Sidwell’s second goal in a 2-0 defeat of Aston Villa in February 2007, one of our best performances in the Premier League. Siddy played a neat one-two and swept the ball into the bottom corner of the net. But I think both these are trumped by James Harper’s finish to see off Liverpool, our finest result in the elite division. A perfect counter-attack completed by a great goal.
Best Opposition Goal
22 October 2006: Reading 0-4 Arsenal (Thierry Henry)
The Gunners (still a real force in the Premier League in those days) took only 58 seconds to take the lead with a devastating goal built from the back. Cesc Fabregas rounded James Harper as though he wasn’t there, pulled the ball back from the byline and Henry stroked home precisely. From that moment we knew Reading just couldn’t live with Arsenal, the only team we’ve lost to every time we play them.
28 December 1998: Reading 1-0 Notts County
Tommy Burns’ Royals were struggling to score as all too often, when Notts County’s Ian Richardson met a Reading cross that was going nowhere near any of our players and looped a gorgeous header high over his ‘keeper for the only goal of the match. The home fans serenaded him with chants of “Oh, Ian Ian, Ian Ian Ian Ian Richardson.”
One Thing You Would Change
I think everyone would say the same - the location. The Madejski is still a great stadium, in my view, with excellent sightlines all round, good legroom and steep enough stands to generate a good atmosphere when the fans get going. But it feels cut off from the town and the surrounding area is soulless. I guess we’ve just got to make the best of it.
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