Sir John Madejski is without a doubt one of the most influential men in Reading’s history, if not the most influential, after he virtually saved the club from liquidation in 1990, funded a move to a new stadium before the end of that decade and then oversaw a first ever promotion to the English top flight in 2006.
That new stadium of course took his name to become the Madejski Stadium, which is often mis-pronounced by unknowing fans and members of the media due to it’s unusual nature. ‘Madejski’ is a Polish name, but Sir John actually has no Polish heritage. He was born Robert John Hurst in Stoke-on-Trent in 1941 as a result of a wartime fling and was initially placed in a foster home.
By the time he returned to live with his mother, she had married a Polish Second World War airman, Zygmunt Madejski, so he adopted the surname. Zygmunt would go on to own a number of restaurants, shops and other small businesses in Reading. Sir John, now 77, never knew his biological father.
Signed from Brentford in the summer of 2004, Ibrahima Sonko played in every single game of Reading’s record-breaking Championship winning squad of 2005/06, forming an excellent partnership with Ivar Ingimarsson at the centre of defence and earning the nickname ‘Superman’.
He would make 136 appearances in total for the Royals, scoring eight goals, before departing for Stoke City in 2008. Sadly he would never quite reach his top form with the Potters or future clubs Hull City, Portsmouth, Ipswich Town and Turkey’s Akhisar Belediyespor.
Having moved from Senegal to France at a young age, Sonko had the option of playing for either side at international level, at one point admitting he would choose whichever country called him up first.
In January 2006 he rejected a call-up for Senegal’s African Cup of Nations squad in order to focus on Reading’s promotion push, but did eventually make his debut for the West African nation in 2008. All of his five caps came in that year as a 27-year-old.
In the summer of 2012, The Mirror reported that Reading were keen to make Colombia international Carlos Sanchez their first signing upon promotion to the Premier League. The midfielder, then of Valenciennes, was available on free transfer, with West Ham, Bolton, Udinese and Genoa all also interested. However, the deal allegedly hit a stumbling block when Sanchez was unable attain a work permit for the UK, meaning he re-signed for Valenciennes.
He would eventually move to England two years later to join Aston Villa, via a move to Elche in Spain, and made 56 appearances in two seasons before departing for Fiorientina upon the Midlands side’s relegation. He spent the second half of last season on loan at Espanyol.
Sanchez, now 32 years old, will be at the World Cup in Russia wearing number six for Colombia hoping to add to his 85 caps and maybe even score his first ever goal for the South American nation.
As part of Reading’s preparations for the 2007/08 Premier League campaign, they were invited to the The Peace Cup in South Korea, a pre-season tournament featuring eight teams from multiple continents.
The Royals were placed in Group B, and opened with a 1-0 defeat to Argentinian powerhouses River Plate before impressively beating reigning French champions Lyon by the same scoreline. It meant they went into their final game still in with a chance of reaching the final. Their opponents were one-time Japanese league winners Shimizu S-Pulse, who had Shinji Okazaki in their side at the time and had previously been managed by Argentina legend Ossie Ardiles.
Reading had a lot of chances in the clash in Goyang, but only managed to win 1-0 thanks to Brynjar Gunnarsson’s second half header. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough for Steve Coppell’s men as they finished second in the group on goal difference, with Lyon progressing to the final where they beat Bolton.
On a sidenote, the Royals’ shirt sponsors at the tournament provide us with another Japanese link. Kyocera, whose logo was strapped across the blue and white hoops between 2005 and 2008, are a ceramics and electronics manufacturer founded in Kyoto, Japan.