News and Views

Memories Of Twenty Years

07 November 2014
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Congratulations to forum users Royal Prince and Salford Royal who both win a Reading FC shirt following our competition celebrating 20 years of Hob Nob Anyone? The competition asked users to submit their favourite memories from the last twenty years of Reading Football Club and we got some great feedback.

Hob Nob started in the 1994/1995 season - the year that Reading finished second in the old Division One and missed out on promotion to the Premier League after that 4-3 defeat to Bolton Wanderers in the play-off final at Wembley. The Royals then spent a few seasons in the wrong half of the table before finishing last and getting relegated to endure two mid-table finishes in Division Two. During that time Reading said goodbye to Elm Park with the last game a disappointing 0-1 home defeat to Norwich City on 3 May 1998. The Madejski Stadium opened it's gates on 22 August 1998 as Reading started in a positive note - a 3-0 home win over Luton Town with Grant Brebner scoring the Madejski Stadium's first goal.

In the 2000/2001 season it was more play-off pain for Reading fans after Reading finished third in Division Two. The play-off final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff saw Walsall beat Reading 2-3 after extra time. The pain was shortlived as Reading earned promotion next season after that famous run of draws ended with Reading drawing 1-1 at Brentford to secure promotion.

The 2002/2003 season saw Reading have another shot at reaching the top tier of English football for the first time in their history - again via the play-offs. The misery was over two legs on this attempt with Wolves winning both games. As Division One was renamed to the Championship Reading kept at the right end of the table and were rewarded by one of the most remarkable seasons in the whole history of the Football League. The 2005/2006 season saw Reading lose the first game at home to Plymouth before going on the run of dreams. We lost just one more league match in the entire season to end up winning the Championship with a record breaking 106 points. No team has ever come close to Reading's near perfect season. Reading rightly took their place in the Premier League for the first time.

The Royals remained on the up. Reading's first Premier League was a classic. The Royals found themselves two goals down after just 21 minutes but two goals before half time from Kitson and Sidwell set us up to complete an amazing comeback and defeat Middlesbrough 3-2 at the Madejski Stadium. We did far better than expected to finish the season in 8th place and narrowly miss out on a place in European football. The continued success couldn't last and we were relegated the following season. Yet more play-off agony followed as we were beaten over two legs by Burnley, and then two years later as Reading lost 2-4 to Swansea in the Championship play-off at Wembley.

However, there was more promotions and relegations to come as Reading completed an amazing 20 years of recent history. Brian McDermott exceeded all expectations as he guided his side from 8th to 1st in the second half of the season with famous away wins over promotion rivals West Ham and Southampton. Back in the Premier League, but with no budget for new players, Reading were immediately relegated as an unfortunate McDermott was replaced by Nigel Adkins.

Royal Prince's Top Three Memories:

My earliest memories, and some of my best, are as a child attending games at Elm Park in my first ever season in 1994/1995, back when HNA? was first formed. I'd watched football on TV before then, but one weekend early on in the season I was round my uncle's house when he said 'come on then lad, I think you're old enough to see the real thing' and so he took me to my first ever game, after which I was hooked. My memories of my first ever season are of standing on the South Bank, right down at the front towards the Tilehurst End so that I had a little space and could actually see the pitch. I was in awe at some of the players on show back then, not least Jimmy Quinn and Archie Lovell. As the season progressed we moved further towards the Town End to get closer to the atmosphere, and what an end to the season it was. I recall walking down Wembley way, and some of the Play-Off final game itself, but luckily as a young lad my memories of that particular day are somewhat hazy, and so my over-arching memories of that first season are all about falling in love with Reading FC.

Skip forward to 2001/2002 and by now I'm a teenager, having held a season ticket since 1995/1996 I've seen the club move to the Madejski Stadium and I am now also attending several away games with my mates. At home we've got our first ever family computer, allowing to discover HNA? for the first time. This added dimension to following Reading helped me in playground arguments as to why following the Royals was better than Man Utd, Liverpool or Arsenal, and I still believe that even today. My over-arching memory of this season though came on the final day, the promotion decider away to Brentford. What an incredible day it was, with blue and white balloons filling the away end before kick-off, a real party atmosphere, followed by one of the most tense games I can remember. When Cureton latched on to that flick on by Parky, and so beautifully took the ball over their keeper to make it 1-1, the away end went into complete pandemonium. The fifteen or so minutes that followed were nail biting stuff but the relief and celebrations at the final whistle will stick with me forever, my first taste of Reading success!

By 2005/2006 I'd left school and was studying at University, with HNA? giving me something useful to read in the library, as well as being good at helping to break up the monotony of a six hour round train journey to home matched having refused to give up my season ticket, and what a fantastic decision that turned out to be. To be honest I could have picked one of so many highlights in what turned out to be a record breaking season, not least clinching promotion itself away at Leicester, or even thrashing Derby 5-0 at home to secure the title, but for me it was the final goal in the final game of the season which really put a smile on my face. Having broken so many records the season looked like it was going to end with a 1-1 draw against QPR, when with about five minutes of normal time left the Royals were awarded a penalty. Every outfield player of note had scored during the season, with the exception of one, our loyal captain Graham Murty. Immediately the crowd began singing his name, willing for him to take the penalty, and so it was that the great leader would step up and smash the ball home down the middle of the net. I've never seen the Madejski erupt with so much passion, what a great way to end the season, capped off by a celebration which saw Murty take out our fury mascot Kingsley, who once tackled to the floor ended up at the bottom of a bundle featuring without a doubt the greatest squad of players I have ever had the pleasure of seeing wear the famous blue and white hoops.

Salford Royal's Top Three Memories:

Reading 3-3 Forest (Lambert wonder goal): Last season at Elm Park I think, got in the ground late to find us 1-0 down already courtesy of Pierre Van-Hooijdonk, who ran rings round our defence all night. As I was late in, I had to sit on the wall at the back of the South Bank for the first half, holding onto the roof for balance. The game had everything - Beasant's sending off, Centre back in goal, Steve Stone's open goal, PVH free-kick, and then there was Jamie's goal. Picks it up half-way line, dribbles past 16 players (may be exaggerated) and slots it home. Brilliant. There was no chance a team like that could go down.

Preston 2-2 Reading: In my uni days, I dragged a load of mates (including a couple of yanks) the short distance to Deepdale. Again running late for the game, as kick off had started we walked into the wrong half of the stand. My American friend, who insisted on borrowing my hoops, found himself confronted by 3 big Preston lads in no rush to sup up their pints. Ended out being escorted through the Preston end, behind the goal then up to the gathered masses of loyal Royals. Reading were utter garbage until that game, but proceeded to spend the first half playing Preston off the park. New signing Nicky Forster looked majestic. Then Martin Allen walked over at half time (having apparently forced Preston to warm up in the 'wrong half' before the game) and proceeded to give the Reading faithful a team talk about 'oxf*rd noise', 'pashun' etc and kicking any advertising hoardings/water bottles in the vicinity before being dragged away by RFC staff and stewards. Mental bastard. If camera phones existed in 2000, that would have been a keeper.

Liverpool 1-2 (AET) Reading: Bryn. Just Bryn. A fantastic performance for 90 minutes from the whole team, Jobi dribbling past 4 before dragging his shot wide, creating better chances but luck not on our side. Then we get an injury time penalty to take it into extra time. Throughout the game, an old, knackered, out of favour centre midfielder has been playing out of his skin at right back. We shuddered when we saw the line-up before the game, but to me, Brynjar's performance in that game is the single most unexpected (and therefore best) performance from a Reading player I've ever seen. After countless overlapping runs, he caps it off with a perfect cross for Shane Long to nod home the winner. The Icelandic Cafu.

Hob Nob Anyone? started in 1994 and was the first Reading FC website by many years. It was also one of the very first football websites. We would like to thank all contributors to the website past and present. Special thanks to the team of forum moderators and current reporters and contributors: John Wells, Dave Roberts, and Nigel Meek. If you would like to become a writer for Hob Nob Anyone? then please get in touch.

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