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Roxette, Paid Parking At The Church And True Goosebumps Moments

Marco Bader recalls his first visit to Elm Park, coming all the way from Dusseldorf, for a crucial win over Oldham in 1996.

Soccer - Nationwide League Division One - Reading v Oldham Athletic - Elm Park Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

It was back in 1995 when an appealing deal with my parents was made: “So if I score a goal with a direct corner, we visit Reading?!” Said and done. Some month later, in March 1996 everything was arranged. My parents and I, aged 14, made our premiere trip to Reading. Excitement was high. It was my first time watching the Royals at Elm Park, first time seeing the likes of Stuart Lovell, Ady Williams, Phil Parkinson and Paul Holsgrove in real life. Players I only “knew” from the match reports in football magazines “Shoot” and “Match”, which were also available in Germany.

By car we went from Düsseldorf, over Belgium to Calais, through the Eurotunnel and along the M20. Direction “Reading”. 400 miles, more than 100 of them driving on the left. What a spectacle! I still remember sitting there on the back seat, watching with interest the landscapes and listening to my first ever music cassette! Roxette – The Look. Hearing the melody of some of the songs these days makes me jump directly into my “Reading mood”.

About eight hours later we arrived at our destination. The joy was great and after some days of visiting Reading, the Thames and London, it was matchday! Reading against Oldham. Not the most attractive of matches, but for the Royals a crucial one. Relegation worries were growing and the Latics a direct rival in that battle.

Soccer - Nationwide League Division One - Reading v Oldham Athletic - Elm Park
A certain Neil Warnock watches on during Reading’s game against Oldham
Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images

On a cold Saturday, 30th of March we went off in our car, realising soon that it might have been better to take the bus. There was more of a traffic jam the closer we got to Tilehurst Road. So where should we park the car then? Just when it seemed we might have to search some time more we saw an arrow to a paid parking on the left, right next to the sign “Welcome to the English Martyrs’ Church”. A paid parking from the church on matchday? Were we allowed to leave the car there while watching football? After asking the parking attendant in some weak English, the answer was yes. Great!

Some minutes more and the moment had finally arrived! We were inside Elm Park; a dream come true! And even though “only” around 7,000 spectators found their way to the ground, the atmosphere, at least for us, was electric. I still remember the “roar” when the players came out on the pitch and the classic “Come on Reading”. Real goosebumps moments!

The match itself was also a success. After the injured Lee Nogan had to come off early it was super-sub Jimmy Quinn with two goals who secured three vital points. For what more could you have asked? We enjoyed each minute of the celebrations at full time – again goosebumps – took some more photos and left. Simply a perfect day and a perfect first visit to Reading. Of course, many more were to follow…

Soccer - Nationwide League Division One - Reading v Oldham Athletic - Elm Park
Goalscorer Jimmy Quinn
Photo by Neal Simpson/EMPICS via Getty Images