Steve Death - A tribute to a Reading Legend

A minutes silence was held at the Madejski Stadium, before kick-off against Huddersfield Town on Tuesday 28 October 2003, in honour of Steve Death who passed away the previous Sunday. Steve will remain in the record books for his unbeaten league record of 1103 minutes without conceeding a goal while playing for the Royals. Steve was first choice goalkeeper throughout the 1970s after signing in 1969 and went on to make 537 starts for Reading. Steve Death was a true Reading legend that provided fond memories for many Reading fans:

It was with great sadness that I read of the passing of Steve Death. Steve was part of the first and one of the best Reading sides I saw, which stormed towards the 1978-79 division four title. Part of a virtual ever present back five of Death, Peters, Hicks, Bennnet, and White Steve went on to finish the season with eleven clean sheets and went on to set a league record of over a 1000 minutes without conceding a goal. It was often said of Steve that his lack of height that prevented him from playing at a higher level, if that was so then it was to Reading's gain. Steve was a great shot stopper extremely agile and despite his lack of height could dominate his area when he needed to. I'm sure any Reading fan from that era would be hard pushed to think of a goal conceded that was down to Steve. He always struck me as a bit of loner, a quiet man who just got on with doing his job with as little fuss as possible. I got the impression that he departed the club on bad terms as he seemed to disassociate himself from the club in later years, which I find sad as Steve was a Royal's legend in every sense of the word.
Peter Richardson, Woodley

I just wanted to get a message to you as I have just heard about Steve Death. I am shattered, the man was my hero, my all time Reading star. I saw his first ever performance for the Biscuitmen v Brighton in 69/70 - from the start he was a huge improvement over Roy Brown (god only knows why Roy Bently sold Mike Dixon & Arthur Wilkie to buy Brown!). He was tiny (5'7'), and couldn't kick to save his life but he was brave and agile, and wonderful to watch. In that first season he was playing behind an invisible defence (we had the most prolific attack in the league but no defence - hence results like 2-6 Southport, 5-1 Tranmere, 6-2 Barnsley, 6-3 Barrow) (hey, I did that from memory, how sad is that!).
The best of Steve? - 1976, we had gone up from Div 4 (under Charlie Hurley, see Eamon Dunphy's book) and were struggling, on a very wet Autumn day Swindon came to Elm Park and proceded to piss all over Reading, but Steve was breath taking, many great saves, perfect handling (greasy ball, no poncy modern latex gloves, just bare hands), and a brilliant penalty save. Meanwhile Reading had four attacks and scored four goals; finally near the end of the match Swindon lobbed one over little Steve to an enormous cheer, and I heard a Swindon supporter shout "pick that one out you bastard" - the cheer wasn't ironic, but grateful that at last they had actually beaten Steve.
Such is Steve's influence on me that in my late 40's I am still a goalkeeper, it is all I wanted to be. Admittedly now it is in the works seven a side league, but I like to think it is a suitable tribute to Steve.
Jon Linin

As one of the older-but-not-quite-so-older generation of Royals fans, I can feel proud of having seen this "giant" many times at Elm Park. However, you asked for memories, and the one that struck me this evening was seeing him play the proverbial blinder against Sunderland, FA Cup 3rd round 1973. He literally stopped everything the likes of Porterfield, Tueart, Hughes, Watson, etc. etc. threw at him for 90 minutes. But for one mistake, when he dropped the ball at Tueart's feet, who made the score 1-1, Sunderland wouldn't have got anywhere near to Wembley that season, so Leeds probably would have won the Cup instead. The only other time they got the ball past him, it was disallowed!
A fine, fine player; what would he be worth these days? They said when Bobby Moore died, Heaven's 11 captain had arrived; with him in defence, Steve in goal, and a certain Mr Friday up front, what a priceless team they would have.
Geoff (a South Bank and Tilehurst End regular 1968 onwards)

Very sad news about Steve Death - He was my favourite player from the early/mid seventies. In one game during the promotion season of 75/6 when he had his head badly kicked during a 1-0 win over Hartlepool (a late winner I seem to remember). After the game I saw Steve with his awful injury which kept him out for the rest of the season (for John Turner to deputise) but he still stopped to sign an autograph for me - he had a pen in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
I was also at the Port Vale game at the end of the 78/9 season when the record was broken and we won the league - Happy Days. The only mistake I seem to remember was him rushing out of the box skidding on deep snow against Scunthorpe (the game should have been postponed) he missed the ball only for a goal to result we lost 1-0, but still won the league.
Tim (CanaryRoyal)

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