The past 25-years have been historic for Reading, but a lesser known story is how Reading Football Club survived an era when the region had dozens of clubs competing for supremacy in a rapidly growing footballing landscape in the South of England.
As you may have heard on our Tilehurst End Podcast at the end of last year (around the 38 minute mark), one man has been seeking to fill in the gaps of one of the less well known periods of the club's history. Roger Titford's latest book is titled 'The Lost Years of Reading FC' and he's kindly provided an extract to give you a taste of what you can expect.
“The Lost Years of Reading FC” by Roger Titford, first published in November 2016, has been very well-received and the re-print is getting close to selling out too. Here’s an extract, detailing one of the saddest and most dramatic moments of the club’s early history.
The first home match was the regular fixture against Pilgrims of London on 25 October 1879. This was the prestige fixture but captain Harry Rogers was unable to select Turner, Hayward, Cripps and Lewis. In an effort to bolster the team he turned to the Park House men picking Bartholomew and Prior to play in the forward line. And he presumably prevailed on Bartholomew to bring his brother-in-law Charles Wollaston, the celebrated England international, this time acknowledged in print by both his surname and initials, though not his credentials, in the local newspapers. So it was a fairly strong Reading FC XI that lined up on the Cricket Ground.
Rogers won the toss and Reading FC kicked off defending the river end at 4pm. After 15 minutes or so Rogers lay down in front of his goal claiming to the goalkeeper George Fuller to be “feeling bilious.” As he had also mentioned that he was not feeling well on the way to the game Fuller sent someone to the lock-keeper’s house for medicinal brandy. Before it arrived the Pilgrims attacked down the wing and Rogers, seeing the danger, leapt to his feet and kicked the ball against the attacker. It re-bounded to Fuller who cleared it to the middle of the pitch. Rogers said, “well played, Fuller,” walked back towards his own goal and lay down of his own accord. He convulsed, uttered some strange sounds and within two or three minutes, while surrounded by his fellow players and a physician, died. As the news spread around the ground “there fell on the spectators a deep silence, hardly a whisper being heard” and the match was abandoned. A message was sent ahead that a room be prepared in The Queens Hotel and the body was transported and laid to rest there. A special meeting of the committee was held at 8.30pm that night to make arrangements to inform the next of kin.
On the following Monday the inquest heard evidence from Rogers’ brother, from Fuller and from the physician who had been spectating and attended Rogers at his end. The unanimous verdict was death from an epileptic fit. After the inquest the club committee met and Charles Field proposed the resolution that “no further matches be played until 1880 consequent on the death of the lamented captain.” The players then walked in procession to accompany the coffin the short distance from Friar Street to Reading Station where it was put on a train to Rogers’ home town of Leamington Spa. The funeral would take place three days later. James Simonds, as president of the club, and William Franklin, a close friend and colleague of the deceased, represented Reading FC at the funeral, taking a beautiful Covent Garden wreath."
The book is available from the Megastore, STAR Base or online via the shop at wsc.co.uk , priced at £20.