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Reading FC's 106 Point Team: Whatever Happened To...Graeme Murty

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Our journey into the roots and subsequent journey's of our 106 point side continues with a look at what happened to the man who captained the side, Graeme Murty.

Julian Finney/Getty Images

When you really think about it, football chants are absurd. A bunch of grown men coming together to extol the virtues of an overpaid 20-year-old who really couldn't give a toss what the riff-raff thinks about him.

Yet some chants are still far worse than others. Some simply don't make any sense at all. And of all the songs we've had at the Madejski over the years, the one celebrating possibly the most important player in Reading's history is well up there as one of the most ridiculous.

But who am I kidding? I sung it time and time again as this man led us to the Premier League for the first time. I bet you did it too. Even if the chant is literally doing nothing than confirming the spelling of the player's name. He's M-U-R-T-Y, He knows he is, he's sure he is, he's M-U-R-T-Y.

Who was he and where'd he come from?

I'm not really sure why, but I can't really recall much of Graeme Murty's contribution to Reading before the 2005/06 season. Which is strange because he'd been a regular in the Royals side for a good four years prior to that. I can't really remember him being a huge fan's favourite, I can't really remember how or when he became captain. He was certainly not the cult Reading hero he is today.

Maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe a lot of it boils down to his position - a right back will always have to go a lot further to be revered. Maybe it's because his Reading career didn't get off to the greatest of starts. Murty signed for Reading in 1998, just as the club moved in to the Madejski Stadium. He came across from York - where he was most famous for playing in their iconic 3-0 League Cup win against Manchester United - for what was then a club record fee of £700,000. It was a lot of money for Reading to splash out. And as Murty spent much of his first few years at the club on the treatment table, there were murmurings that here was another dodgy Tommy Burns signing. In the end thouugh, it proved to be the best thing Burns ever did for the club.

The first real signs of positivity from Murty came towards the end of 2000/01 season. Injury had once again prevented him from making a full season contribution, but he was key during our run to the play offs, and those present at a thrilling 3-3 draw with Bournemouth on the last day of the season will recall a last minute goal line clearance that seemed to defy physics.

From then on, Murty was a regular in the Reading team, he played 43, 44, 38 and 41 games in the following seasons, ridding him of his ‘sicknote' tag and gaining him club captain status when Phil Parkinson departed for Colchester. Things were ticking along nicely, we had a successful team and Murty had been part of a promotion winning side and a Championship play off push. But still no one could dream of what happened next.

His 2005/06 golden moment

In 2006, Graeme Murty became the first captain in our club's 135-year history to take Reading FC to the Premier League. That sentence alone should be enough to render all other words on this page useless. What an achievement.

But wait, there really was more. Not content with leading a team to a historic, record-breaking season, not content with being a character that typified the camaraderie and team spirit that not just made us talented, but actually a quite likeable team too, Murty provided a climax to the season that even Hollywood script writers would consider a stretch.

You know the story, but I'm going to recap it anyway. It's April 30th. The last game of the season. And Reading had done OK. 103 points, promoted by March - the usual. The only thing left to put a shiny red cherry on an already delicious cake would be 3 points against QPR to leave Reading as record breakers too. No team up until then had ever accumulated more than 105 points in a single Championship season.

Well, I say that was the only thing left to play for. What we all really also wanted was a Graeme Murty goal. Every regular outfield player had scored for Reading that season, barring our right back. And once promotion had been confirmed and games at the Madejski Stadium had become one big party, the calls for Murty to shoot at every opportunity became louder and louder.

They were so loud, in fact, that towards the end of the season, Murty was put on penalty duties. We heard stories of him practicing them after training, of players desperate to win a spot kick just so the captain could get his chance.

But as the last game of the season drifted into the final moments, it looked like neither Murty or the Reading fans would get their last wish. The match was locked at 1-1, and QPR were doing a pretty decent job of spoiling the party.

Then it happened. Shorey played a ball into the box that sprung up and hit a QPR defender's arm. The referee pointed to the spot. It was the perfect storm. Reading could become record breakers. And our captain - a man who had only scored once for Reading in 8 years (in a 3-1 defeat against Bristol City) - could be the man to do it.

I don't think I've witnessed a minute of tension like it. We witnessed the usual pre-penalty shenanigans, but Murty remained cool. Certainly cooler than the 23,000 Reading fans chewing their fingernails. You almost didn't want to look.

Then, an eruption. Murty struck the ball like a man who'd be practicing his whole life for this very moment. Hard, firm, Alan Shearer-esque. Even if the keeper had guessed correctly he'd have ended up in the back of the net with it. The crowd went into raptures. The players went crazy. The poor bastard inside Kinglsey was almost broken in two.

We'd done it. An incredibly fitting end to an incredibly fitting season. Orchestrated by a true club legend.

What happened next?

Everything seems a bit of a damp squib after reliving that penalty. But as we know, the following season was just as mesmeric for Reading FC. Murty more than held his own in the Premier League, and was a genuine leader as we took the bigwigs by surprise. His work rate and constant hassling frustrated many an opposition winger, and gave Glen Little in front of him the freedom to continue doing what Glen Little does.

Murty signed a new contract half way through that Premier League season and it was fully deserved. But if we're honest, by then he'd probably peaked. That's not a slight in any way - if he was going to peak at any time. I'd say 2005-2007 was a pretty good time to do so as a Reading player.

But in our second Premier League season Murty found himself exposed by some of the more talented wingers. He simply couldn't match the class that would face him on a weekly basis. I remember one such game against Cristiano Ronaldo that left Murty in knots.

Injuries struck again as Reading reverted back to life in the Championship. Indeed Murty didn't even play for the Royals in the league again - instead suffering six months out as Liam Rosenior took over the right back role. His final game for Reading came in the cup - a 2-0 third round defeat to Cardiff - before departing on loan to Charlton. He'd play eight games for the Addicks, but a permanent deal was never forthcoming, so Murty returned to the Madejski Stadium for one last hurrah - his testimonial involving Reading players from the past decade.

It was a shame the testimonial was so poorly attended, but it sort of summed up the club at the time. We were struggling to come to terms with the end of an incredible era, still struggling to work out how we managed to cock up two years of hard work with one awful season. Everything at this point was proving a damp squib, and sadly a testimonial for one of the club's most important ever players proved no different.

The South Coast was Murty's next permanent home after leaving Reading. A successful trial at Southampton resulted in a one-year contract, but yet more injury woes saw him make only six appearances as the Saints battled to get out of League One (which sounds ridiculous to say now). Sadly this time though the injuries signalled more than just a spell on the treatment table, and Murty called time on his playing career.

Where's he now?

Carrow Road. Norwich have an excellent youth system, and it's good to see that Murty is a big part of it. He got in to coaching academy players straight after his retirement, working with Southampton as an assistant youth development coach. He moved to East Anglia in July 2014 to initially take control of Norwich's under-16 side, and has since moved on to the under-18 side.

You could see from his time at Reading that, even with a considerably large toe dipped in working in the media, coaching and management would always be something Murty would thrive at. He's a born leader, someone who always seems to have time for others, who embraces everything about a football club - concentrating well beyond simply those in the first XI.

It was this side of things that partly made Murty so easy to like. Add to that his tenacity and endeavour on the football field and you can see why he's going to be long remembered as one of our most popular ever players. Oh, the fact he was the first person to ever captain Reading to promotion to the Premier League probably hasn't hurt his reputation either. I just wish we had a better song for him...