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Reading's 25 Under 25: Part Three

Two veteran goalies and one pro rapper feature in this installment.

Republic of Ireland v Sweden - Group E: UEFA Euro 2016 Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

We’ve already looked at a wide range of former Royals that didn’t get past a quarter-century of appearances for the club. This time, we move onto a particularly eclectic mix...


Borislav Mikhailov

24 appearances, now President of the Bulgarian Football Union

To put in context his frankly ridiculous achievements away from Reading, let's state that his time in Berkshire was clearly the nadir of 'Bobby's' career. It was personified by the myth that he'd watched that game against Bolton Wanderers and assumed that was a standard home match, an outrageous wig, and some lovely tight tracksuit bottoms. Amid rare, vague flashes of his obvious class, his playing was characterised by an inability to deal with the physicality of the English game, and an apparent wish to not get dirty.

Doesn't sound like he was cut out for high level stuff, does he? Well.. apart from his odd spell here, here's what else he did. He played over 200 times for Levski Sofia in the 1980s, winning three league titles and three cups (including a double in '84), as well as being voted Bulgarian Footballer of the Year in 1986.

He is a veteran of three World Cups and a Euros, including the famous run to the semi-finals in World Cup '94, led by the great Hristo Stoichkov, after which he was named goalkeeper of the tournament. He captained Bulgaria 60 times out of a total 102 caps, second only to Stilyan Petrov on their all-time list.

He wasn't finished there though. Mikhailov has been President of the Bulgarian FA since 2005 and has sat on the UEFA Executive Committee for over five years. A national hero... we wonder if he ever thinks of us.


Royston Drenthe

23 appearances, now a professional rapper

This was the signing that made us all sit up and take notice, wondering whether Anton Zingarevich (who we don't care about) was serious about taking Reading back to the big time. Five seasons at Real Madrid, good exposure to Premier League football with Everton. Sure, he seemed something of a journeyman, but the Dutch international (one cap) clearly had talent - and bags of it. You don't play nearly 50 games for Real Madrid for nothing.

What followed was a season and a half of essentially apathy, interrupted by a free-kick in an away win against Leeds United. We'll always have that. Drenthe was clearly way more talented than most of teammates, he rarely chose to show it, and instead would get into good positions and look like he was trying to walk the ball down a treacle-flooded wing channel.

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Leeds United v Reading - Elland Road Photo by Anna Gowthorpe/PA Images via Getty Images

Clearly, given the right environment, he had the goods but just struggled with the mental side of things. He won the under-21 European Championship with the Netherlands and was named Player of the Tournament. He also has a La Liga and Spanish Super Cup title to his name. His time in Madrid was punctuated with problems with anxiety and alleged racial abuse (from Lionel Messi no less), but appears to have been relatively popular.

Unfortunately he faded after his stint at Reading, ending up in Turkey and then retiring... to focus on being a rapper.

Uh huh. You heard me.


Glenn Murray

18 appearances, now plays for Brighton And Hove Albion

Having just sold fan favourite Adam Le Fondre to Cardiff City, summer 2014 saw Reading in need of a new goalscorer. With that in mind, in came former Brighton striker Glenn Murray on loan from Premier League side Crystal Palace.

A goalscorer is exactly what we got, with Murray finding the net eight times in his 18 Reading appearances. That included a brace on his debut - at home to Fulham - and a last-minute equaliser from the edge of the box in a 3-3 draw with Wolves. A January transfer saga in which Reading tried to bring the forward to the Madejski on a permanent deal ultimately ended in failure, but Murray's story isn't done there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53f_YJaqP4A

He would eventually return to Brighton on loan from Bournemouth in July 2016, before making the move permanent a year later. In 2016/17, his 23 goals would help the Seagulls get back into the top flight for the first time since 1983.


Matthew Upson

14 appearances, now retired

A promising young centre-back, 23 year-old Matthew Upson won a Premier league medal with Arsenal for his contributions in the 2001/02 season. However, a broken leg ruled him out of the majority of the second half of that campaign.

To aid his recovery, Upson joined Reading in September 2002 on loan until December. The centre-back showed his quality during his 14 appearances during the loan spell, with Royals fans very aware that his future lay at a level higher than the Championship.

In January, Upson left Arsenal to join top-flight Birmingham City, who finished 13th as Upson played 14 games for the Blues. Upson played 255 Premier League matches and gained 21 England caps after leaving Reading. Nobody who watched him play in the hoops will have been surprised by this; his class shone despite Reading’s mixed form during his spell in Berkshire.


Chris Woods

5 appearances, most recently a goalkeeping coach at West Ham United

A 43-cap England international, this ‘keeper was the victim of another man’s success: Peter Shilton. Chris Woods’ career started at high-flyers Nottingham Forest, but he made only a handful of appearances as Shilton barely missed a game in any competition. However, he did manage to get medals for the League Cup (1977/78), European Cup (1978/79) and European Super Cup (1979).

He would go on to play for QPR, Norwich City and Rangers (where he set a British record in not conceding for 1196 consecutive minutes), later moving to Sheffield Wednesday as cover for future Reading coach Dave Beasant. In 1995, he joined Reading on a brief loan.

Woods ran into a similar Shilton-shaped obstacle at international level, with the senior ‘keeper restricting Woods’ appearances. Nonetheless, Woods beat off competition from Beasant to establish himself as Shilton’s understudy, winning 43 appearances for England.

After hanging up his gloves, he - like Beasant - has worked as a goalkeeping coach for the likes of Everton, the USA, Manchester United and West Ham United.