This past weekend, former Reading striker Dave Kitson took to social media to hit out at Reading Football Club. His beef wasn't with the fans, former team mates, or managers but what he perceives as a team being forgotten by the club and it's new owners despite his role in that magnificent 2005-08 era.
Here's what Dave had to say in full, transcribed from his Instagram account.
"In 2003 Sir John Madejski and Steve Coppell walked me towards the home changing room and asked me what I hoped to achieve with the club. I told Sir John that if he and Steve left me alone then I would put Reading FC on the map. Sir John looked at his manager before Coppell asked me what squad number I wanted. I told him I didn't give a f**k so long as he left me alone. He gave me the number 12.
Two years later I scored 22 goals as Reading FC broke the English domestic points record accumulating a total of 106 points. Immediately after the last game of the season against QPR I was applauding the fans on the lap of honour when I felt a tap on the shoulder from Steve. I turned around and he just said 'thank you'. In two years it was only the second time that he'd ever spoken to me. There's a lot to be said for knowing your players.
Eleven years on and I have never been invited back to watch a game and while I pretend not to give a f**k I cannot help but feel that the ambivalence shown by Reading FC towards its history is indicative of foreign ownership as well as the old guard desperately trying to cling on to what power it has left.
I wish Reading FC every success in the play offs, just as I wish the club success in every game that it ever plays, but quite frankly the disdain that Reading FC continues to show towards the 106 team is a f**king disgrace."
That's quite the claim to make and if true, would be as Kitson himself claims, a bleeping disgrace. Yet you get the sense that's not the full story here....
Finding The Facts
First of all we tried to go to the source for more information, reaching out to Dave who's considering doing an interview with TTE at a future date.
Likewise we also spoke to another player from that team, who said it's not something they'd ever really considered but had no such feelings in his current circumstances.
On that note, sadly, it's easy to see a few holes in Dave's argument without doing much digging. His claim that it's been 11 years since he was invited back is already inflated, given his most recent spell at the club came to an end in May 2009. Throw in the fact that until 2014 he was playing regular first team football and it's perhaps understandable why the club haven't been bombarding him with invitations since 2006.
Even so, you can say three years is too long but it's our understanding here at TTE that Reading have indeed sent out invitations for Kitson to join in with club activities, including being an invited guest of the club in December of 2014 and again in the 2015/16 season when he even did a Q&A in the Fan Zone, during a campaign dedicated to marking the 10-year anniversary of the 106 point season.
Our new Royals Rendezvous zone is welcoming fans ahead of the game. Dave Kitson is going to be there from 2pm too! pic.twitter.com/aBtkpup9O5— Reading FC (@ReadingFC) August 16, 2015
Dave was also back at the Madejski working with the club's Community Trust back in 2015.
It’s possible that Kitson is talking about direct invitations from the club's owners and that is indeed something that only Anton Zingarevich and now the Thai Consortium really know for sure. Yet the fact he HAS been invited back by some people at the club kind of takes the sting out of most of his comments.
So why put out the post, does Kitson have an axe to grind?
Again, I don't know and we'd love for Dave to come on and speak to us about it. It's obvious he still cares about the club and its fans, who've duly shown him plenty of love since his departure, yet his feelings towards the ownership are clear.
On that subject, could his comments have something to do with Kitson's rumoured involvement as/or as one of 'The Secret Footballer(s)'. Check out this piece from our website earlier this season, where we look at TSF's comments on trying to buy a football club, one which strongly looks like being Reading.
Admittedly for this to be his particular gripe you'd need both A) TSF to be Kitson (which he's unlikely to admit or deny) and B) that club to be Reading, so please don't read this as 'Dave's pissed off because he couldn't buy the club'. Yet if those two things are true, you can very much understand if the former striker is a bit peeved with those running the club and truth be told he'd probably find a fair few allies, especially when talking about the Anton era and the mess he left behind.
What About The 106 Team In General?
The bigger concern here is whether Kitson has a point about that magnificent team being forgotten.
Without speaking to the entire squad it's difficult to really know but at surface level you'd find it hard to say the club shys away from that team, just take a look around the Madejski Stadium concourses, hospitality areas and mega store and you won't go very far without seeing some sort of picture from the 2005/06 season. As mentioned, the 2015/16 saw numerous attempts to honour them, I myself sat on a table in hospitality with Jonny Hayes number on it (he was 20 if you're stumped, I know I'd have been...).
We've also seen a '106' ale, while fans were given an open choice of naming the North Stand, with voters opting for the late Eamonn Dolan, not to mention various books, programme features, DVD's and other mementos marking that fantastic achievement.
I think recency also plays a part in why Kitson's post seems a bit odd. A fair few of that team are still playing football, heck, Steve Sidwell even played AGAINST us just a few weeks ago. While honouring those players is fitting, personally I'd prefer to do any grand gestures after they all hang up their boots so as many can make the event as possible.
Whatever the reasons, it's sad that Dave Kitson felt the need to write such a post, especially during a time when the club and fans should have both eyes on Fulham and the play-offs. Admittedly it was a post on his private Instagram account but enough fans follow it for Kitson to know this would get out. Dave's always been outspoken, it's part of his rugged charms and part of the reason many Reading fans still love him. He comes across as down to earth and someone that's going to give his views whether it's popular or not.
However, in this case it seems ill-timed and perhaps something that doesn't truly tell a fair and accurate story. I'm hoping we'll be able to have Dave on to respond to what we've written and if any other members of that team want to get in touch to give their views, we're more than happy to host them, just email in to firstname.lastname@example.org
Ultimately we hope both sides can make up with each other, settle whatever differences they have and we can get back to focusing on what really matters.