My Team & I: Reading

By Dave Stevens

Twitter: @shakefon

Why Reading?

Well, picking a team to throw my loyalties behind was a slow burner for me. No one in my immediate family had any interest in the game,but I was a fervent fan of Football from as early as I can remember. There are pictures of me in a second hand Spurs kit at the age of 5 (I had an Uncle who loved Spurs), dabbled with Liverpool for a year or so because my best friend supported them and got quite involved with following Glasgow Rangers thanks to the most passionate football fan related to me, an Uncle who was Glaswegian through and through. But

none of these dalliances meant all that much – I wasn’t a Londoner, I wasn’t a Scouser and try as I might have done aged 7, I was not Glaswegian. So it came to be that I happened upon a team that had been right under my nose the whole time. Born in the Royal Berkshire Hospital and raised in and around Reading since then, the mighty Royals were never more than 3 miles from home and I started following there results from the lazy comfort of my sofa (and teletext -remember that?) whilst living vicariously through friends who would tell of trips to Elm Park. I didn’t attend the games with them, as my parents, memories fresh with news reports of hooliganism at each and every football ground, didn’t much care for the idea of me going along as a scrawny 11 year old.

Fast forward to my teenage years and some modicum of making my own decisions. First decision was “I need a job” and second decision was “Yes, Brian, I *will* take a job at the Madejski stadium serving food to the masses”. I left that as Brian just to give some suggestion that it was maybe current managerial incumbent Brian McDermott speaking to me, but I’ll have to come clean and admit it was just my mate Brian from school. Anyway, as my potential (i.e. they noticed I could work the till without being monitored) was noticed, I was promoted to supervising an alcohol only kiosk. Now what does this have to with anything? Well, the fine folks who make the laws of the land decreed that alcohol could not be served during the time the match was in play, so for each half of that entire Division 2 (as was) season, I was able to watch every minute of every home game, while being paid on top of everything. That season changed everything for me and it was etched in stone – Reading til I die! That season ended with the 1-1 draw at Brentford that took us up to the old Division 1 – and Jamie Cureton, I’ll never forget you for that moment…

Favourite Player?

Ouch, I was dreading this question. It’s between 3 for me, Nicky Forster, Bobby Convey & Kevin Doyle. That there would be two from that remarkable 05/06 record breaking season in there is no surprise, and those two tore up the division with incredible ability, but I’m going to go with sentiment, happy memories and let the good times live on with Forster, or Fozzy as he’s known to those who’ve followed him through the years.

The Fozzy-led attack was the spearhead of the team I followed around the country in 02/03 and 03/04, making grand use of that Student Loan and the nation’s much maligned railways. The mere mention of his name instills a strong sense of pride within me, he’ll always be a Royal in my mind and watching him bang in the goals was a treat.

Favourite Game?

I’ve been lucky enough to see some great encounters over the past 10 years or so, but the one that sticks in the mind as I think of it now is the home game v West Ham, 3rd April 2004. Alan Pardew’s first return to the Madejski after leaving us for “a bigger club” in the Hammers, it was very much personal. Dave Kitson (what a bargain! What a bargain!) a recent signing, one of the first few made by new manager Steve Coppell and had yet to score at home. We really wanted it that day and Kitson stepped up to slam home a brace, Reading running out 2-0 winners. It was a great performance and an amazing feeling to stick it to Pards for jumping ship. I’ve just about let that go, by the way – but I will admit I had a little laugh when Newcastle sold Andy Carroll out from under his feet last month…

Favourite Kit?

This one from 03/04 РI practically lived in the replica shirt I had of this one. Something about this design just worked and of course, had the full hoops.

Worst thing about being a Reading fan?

Most years, with the obvious exceptions of 01/02, 05/06 and 06/07, of being the nearly men. So often there’s the promise that this year, we’re going to do something and then letting it slip with a poor run of form that we never recover from. I don’t know if it’s nerves, or if we’re just cursed with bad luck, but whenever it looks like we’re going to challenge for promotion, so often we fall tantalizingly short.

That, or the negativity. I don’t know if there’s something in the water, but the amount of negative supporters you’ll encounter following this team is remarkable. Not the true fans, the ones going to the away games, following the team through thick and thin – no, the ones sat comfortable in their seats at the Mad Stad complaining about whatever’s bothering them that week.

Actually, I’ll tell you the worst thing. Getting mistaken for a QPR fan while wearing the blue & white hoops. Hate it.

Funniest Moment?

During the petrol crisis, I forget who we were playing but the away fans had traveled a fair distance. After taking a decent lead, the chant went up “What a waste of petrol!” – priceless.

I’ll also give a nod to the Norwich fan who, a few pints worse for wear, started making his way down the steps from the top of the away stand at the Madejski a few years back, set out at a confident jog and had the pace get away from himself, tumbling from top to bottom in pure slapstick fashion. As far as I know he was alright…

Favourite Moment?

The obvious choice was the mass celebration and pitch invasion following a 5-0 thumping of Derby at home to be crowned Champions in 05/06. Despite the season we’d just experienced, it still didn’t feel real in some ways, we just never got to feel that kind of rush. There are countless other less momentous¬† memories but that one will, for obvious reasons, never leave me.

A special shout to Wigan away in 04/05 though, inflatables day and “let’s pretend we’ve scored a goal” followed by a Conga through the stand, which ironically coincided with our first real shot on target and our only goal in a 3-1 loss that saw Wigan promoted to the Premier League.

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