Welcome to volume two of my blog paying homage to the football clubs I've visited all over the world and the wonderful people responsible for keeping them going and looking after the stadiums, and in some cases basic grounds.

Since I was a little lad I've been fascinated in football and more so where games are played. With my love of travel and curiosity of the game I wanted to visit as many grounds and see games wherever possible. I was lucky that my Dad also loved the game and spent so much of his spare time taking me to matches. As I got older the boundaries widened owing to my location and increased wages to Europe and indeed the world. The sight of a stand or a floodlight pylon in the distance immediately hightens my senses and eagerness for a closer look.

I hope this site gives you the chance to share in my pleasure and experiences and maybe one day set you on the road to adventure. If you get half as much out of the hobby as I've done I can guarantee some great memories, good friends and stories to pass on to future generations.

Give your local club a go today. They'll be pleased to see you!

Everlasting thanks primarily to my late and very much missed and dearly loved parents; my Dad Bob Bernard and my Mum; Ann, who put up with endless years of football chat and my brothers Nick and Paul who gave me the chance and encouragement to do what I have. Thanks to all my friends who offer encouragement and Sally and Stan who inspire and give me great pride. Young Stan is showing a keen interest in my hobby!

Please feel free to post any comments (please use sensible language - I want everyone to be able to enjoy reading) or ask any questions relating to visiting grounds or events. If you want to see any ground reviewed please let me know. It will take quite some time for everywhere to appear, but make sure you keep having a look as the site is continually updated.

If you click on a lot of the pictures you will get a larger version on your screen.

I have also added links to video clips on youtube where appropriate for those of you who are bored of reading or are filling in time at work. I haven't always gone for the most obvious choices, but items that will be in some cases unusual but always historically interesting.

Click to see volume one of HAOTW.

Rob Bernard

London

September 2015

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reading



Reading FC, from the county town of Berkshire were formed in 1871 after a meeting at The Bridge Street Rooms called by fixture secretary by Joseph Edward Sydenham. Reading turnes professional in 1895 and moved into their Elm Park home on Norfolk Road. The club were given the nickname of 'The Biscuitmen' as one of the main trades in the town was buscuit making at Huntley and Palmers.

The club were founder members of the Southern League in 1895, and they also fielded a side in the Western League for a period. They suffered one relegation and promotion during their spell in the Southern League and finished runners up on three occasions.



In 1920 The Biscuitmen became founder members of the Football League Division Three South. In 1927 they reached the FA Cup Semi Final before going down to winners Cardiff City at Molineux. Around this period, the club spent a short spell in Division Two. Although the club had always used blue and white as their colours, predominantly stripes, they first wore their famous hoops in 1938.

After World War Two the club remained in the Division Three South until re-organisation in 1958, when they were placed in the third tier. They spent the next thirteen years there until they were relegated. Promotion was won in 1976 around the time the mecurial Robin Friday showed off his magic for the team.




In 1983 'The Royals' as they were now known as, were relegated once more with the club hitting severe financial troubles and Elm Park in poor condition. Property tycoon Roger Smee saved the club and carried out repair works on the ground as the side won immediate promotion. In 1986 a further elevation to the Second Division was achieved and the following year the club won The Simon Cup, for sides in the top two divisions after a victory over Luton Town at Wembley under the managership of Ian Branfoot.

The run didn't last too long as The Royals were soon relegated. Branfoot departed to be replaced by Ian Porterfield for a short spell. In 1990 local businessman and founder of Auto Trader, John Madejski bought the club and installed Mark McGhee as player manager. Promotion back to the second tier was secured in 1994 before McGhee departed the following season. Jimmy Quinn and Mick Gooding took over as the side ended runners up, but were denied promotion as only the champions went up as The Premier League was streamlining back to twenty clubs. Instead they reached the Play Off Final against Bolton Wanderers.














The Wembley clash was one of the famous old stadium's more dramatic games. The Royals went two up and then missed a penalty. This allowed Wanderers back into the match and they went on to deny Reading by four goals to three. Terry Bullivant took over from the managerial pair a couple of years later, only to be sacked in March 1998, a couple of months before the club moved to their new Madejski Stadium to the south of the town.

Alan Pardew took over The Royals hot seat a few months later and led the side to promotion in 2003. After failing in the play offs the following season he left for West Ham, to be replaced by Steve Coppell. In 2006 Reading won The Championship to reach The Premier League and English football's top flight for the first time. Dave Kitson and Kevin Doyle had proved a lethal strikeforce at the time.



The Royals lasted two seasons in the top tier before suffering relegation. The following season they were defeated by Burnley in the play offs, with Coppell resigning after the game. Brendan Rogers took over before departing after just four months to be replaced by coach Brian McDermott. He reshaped the side as they played some fine football. McDermott led the side to the Play Off Final in 2011, where Rogers' Swansea City side saw them off in another great Wembley match.


Players were sold at the start of the next season to bring new ones in as Madejski looked for the club to be more self sufficient. In January 2012 he announced that he would be selling 51% of his shares in the club to Thames Sport Investments, who had Russian backing. McDermott's side went on an amazing run after New Year 2012 which led to them being crowned champions at the seasons end and a return to The Premier League.



However, the team found the step up in class too much. It was argued that McDermott had become a victim of his own success as he was sacked to be replaced by Nigel Adkins in March 2013. The Royals were relegated to The Championship at the end of the season.

Adkins side finished in a disappointing seventh place at the conclusion of the 2013-14 season. Things didn't really improve the following campaign, which led to the managers dismissal in December 2014, with Steve Clarke coming in as the new man to lead the side.


He took his side to the 2015 FA Cup semi-final before bowing out to eventual winners Arsenal, while Reading ended the 2014-15 season in a mid table berth. Clarke was dismissed in December 2015, with former hero Brian McDermott returning.

Reading FC will compete in the Football League Championship in the 2015-16 season.


My visits

Reading 4 Yeovil Town 2 (Saturday 30th October 1999) FA Cup Round One (att: 8,032)




I decided to take in this FA Cup clash at The Mad Stad as the ground had become nicknamed, to cross off another new ground and to hopefully see a cup shock. Reading were plying their trade in the League's third tier, while the visiting Glovers were a Conference side.


It was the second time I'd seen Yeovil play away that season. I was at their first match of the season when they got a proper pasting from newly relegated Scarborough. Yeovil hadn't been good, but Boro set up hope of an immediate return to the League. How little we knew!

I had a green Scarborough away shirt, so I wore it so I'd fit into the away end. I caught the train fromm Paddington and then took one of the special buses from outside Reading station to the stadium. It was early but I'd read that the ground sold beer inside. Unfortunately Reading had underestimated the volume of away support all wanting drinks so it was hard work getting served.


I took my seat in what I considered an excellent new arena. It was fully enclosed with the main West Stand having two levels with corporate boxes and the rest having one continuous tier. The view was first class.

It turned out that the bloke sat next to me was the son of Woking manager Colin Lippiatt, so we had a good chat for the afternoon. The atmosphere from the Yeovil fans was first class. They made a real racket. Some Reading youths were in the block to our right trying to respond.


Yeovil gave it a good go, but Reading seemed a good side to me and ran out reasonably easy winners in the end.

At full time I went out to catch the bus from behind the West Stand. The surrounds of the stadium were not completed and missiles were being exchanged between the two sets of fans for a few minutes. I managed to get onboard unscathed and was back at the station with a minimum of fuss and reading for my train back to London.


I enjoyed my afternoon out thoroughly at a good venue in a decent atmosphere.

Wokingham & Emmbrook 3 Highmoor Ibis 1 (Tuesday 22nd May 2012) Reading  Senior Cup Final (att: 545)




Having finished my set of night shifts I looked on Tony's Non League Forum for clues of a match to attend, to possibly complete my seasons viewing. As ever the invaluable outlet didn't let me down and offered an ideal opportunity for me to revisit the Madejski Stadium for the Reading Senior Cup Final and to take some photos, as well as seeing a game at excellent value.

I had decided to make a day of it, and already enjoyed a couple of train and a bus ride while visiting the homes of Burnham and Reading Town, before arriving in Reading town centre. I had planned to go to the home of one of the evening's finalists Highmoor Ibis, but time had beaten me. It was a choice of going there and struggling to reach the stadium in good time, or to relax with a pint and a meal.


I had worked out where the bus to the Madjeski park and ride left at St Mary's Butt and then set about finding the nearest Wetherspoons by using my IPhone app. Within minutes I was inside The Hope Tap in no time and as luck would have it, it was steak night. I sat back with a fine pint of Game On from the Lees Brewery and before long my gammon steak arrived. It was very tempting to remain there!

Instead I walked back to the stop and caught the number fifty bus out to the stadium. I had purchased a busabout ticket for £4, which gave me unlimited bus travel for the rest of the day. The stadium was definitely a long way out of town. I was concerned about getting back after the game, but the driver showed me where to catch the 9.08 service back to the station.


The whole area outside the Mad Stad had grown and been finished since my previous visit. Much of it had been landscaped too. The stadium looked really good. I followed the trickle of fans who were surprisingly heading to The East Stand, opposite where the main facilities were. Small posters in the holders confirmed that spectators needed to head to Gate Seven.

I paid £4 admission, which included an informative programme. I went upstairs and sneaked past the tape to get a better view of the stand I was in for my photos. I heard three chaps chatting about different games and went for a chat. I had guessed correctly that they were regulars from Tony's Forum. I had my Scarborough Athletic shirt on, so conversation was not thin on the ground. It was a glorious evening, but the sun shone into our eyes for an hour.


Kick off was put back by ten minutes as the crowds arrived late to find just one turnstile open. Apart from a small sprinkling of neutrals and Ibis fans, the rest were cheering on The Satsumas of Wokingham. It was great to see many of the clubs junior players in attendance wearing their club shirts.

My new friends warned my that the previous two finals had finished scoreless after ninety minutes and had gone to extra time. Apparently the previous years game had been an absolute shocker.


This match started off at a lively pace from end to end. Then the game hit a lull before Wokingham were awarded a penalty, which saw Matt Jones's spot kick saved. It looked like they would be made to pay for their miss when the tubby Ibis player manager Shane Small-King curled home a fine free kick. While he didn't have any pace, his ball control and hold up play was first class. The Satsumas were gifted an equaliser when the Highmoor keeper went walkabout and lost the ball around thirty yards out. It was rolled into an empty net by Dean Thomas.

Thankfully the sun dipped behind the West Stand not long after half time to offer some relief in viewing. Reading didn't deem it necessary to open a bar despite the decent turn out, so I forewent my half time refreshments.


After half time Wokingham were the better side. Highmoor's slow build up was well marshalled, whereas they attacked with a bit of pace. They took the lead when Adam Cornell scored a stunning overhead kick following a corner.

Highmoor Ibis had plenty of play but couldn't find a way through. It looked very likely to end two one. I said my goodbyes with around a minute of normal time remaining. I wanted to catch the bus rather than face a ridiculously long walk. Just as I got down to the exit point in the stand I watched Wokingham & Embrook break away to see Thomas complete a brace and deservedly win the cup for The Satsumas. Apparently he hit the woodwork in the last minute when I was walking round the outside of the stadium.


I walked across the huge car parks behind the West Stand and went through some lovely landscaped greenery to find a bus stop on Brook Drive in the Green Park Business Park. The whole area was really impressive. My bus arrived bang on time and took me back all the way to the railway station. I only had a few minutes to wait until a fast train arrived to take me back to Paddington.

I was sat in JJ Moon's in Kingsbury just over an hour later to enjoy a few pints of real ale and a lovely glass of Glenlivit. It had been a magnificent day and evening and even better the warm weather was to continue and I was going to The Oval the following day to enjoy some county cricket!








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