For Boro’, it sometimes feels like there are clubs who we’re always paired with in cup draws – whether we like the fact or not. The likes of Stourbridge, Ipswich Town, Wycombe Wanderers (in the Football League Trophy), and these folks at Reading are the ones that come to mind. With the Royals, we’d gone together like birds of a feather in the FA Cup. Three times in eight seasons we managed to get them paired with us. The most famous occasion, perhaps, was our 1-0 win at their place during our 2011-2 FA Cup run.
But make a note of the year 2023. Why? Well, the Royals had a bit of a mare in the Championship; not helped, of course, by having points taken off them. It cost them their status as a tier two side… and down into League One they came. It happened to coincide with the same year in which Boro’ made the triumphant return to the third tier after a nine-year absence. The outcome? The first-ever league meeting between us and them. And the latest ex-Premier League team to find themselves on equal terms with ickle old Boro’. Aw.
We’re not long past a major milestone in the life of the Royals; 2021 marking the club’s 150th birthday. But, while their story stretches right back to 1871, it took them a long time to climb the rankings. And that’s despite being called “the finest foreign team seen in Italy” in 1913. At that time, they hadn’t yet become a Football League side; joining Division Three South in 1920. The first few years were tough. Soon enough, however, they started to find life a little easier.
In 1926, the Royals were promoted to Division Two as champions; making it all the way to the FA Cup semi-finals a year later. The good times didn’t last, however. After avoiding the drop in 1930 on goal average, back down they went in 1931. There were a few runners-up medals after that: 1932, 1935 and again after the Second World War. But it wasn’t until the arrival of John Madejski in 1991 did the club return to the second tier.
And even that took a further three years.
It could’ve been even better for the Royals too. The 1994-5 season saw ’em finish second in the old new Division One. With the Premier League reducing the number of teams from 22 to 20, however, they didn’t get automatic promotion. The bitter pill was made harder to swallow when defeat in the playoff final cost them a shot at the top tier for the first time. It was a long 12 years – including four back in the third tier – until they finally achieved their aim of Premier League football. Not nice to be denied promotion on a technicality, is it?
Why do we know the Royals?
Well, it ain’t because our glorious spell as a Premier League team – is it? No, our reason for knowing the Royals is all rooted in cup football. Our first encounter with Reading would be our reward in the 2010-1 FA Cup Fourth Round for toppling Newcastle. Not sure it felt like much of a reward – with the greatest of respects. Somehow, the footballing gods thought it was so much fun to pair us together that we had the pleasure of their company again the following season. Mind you, there were three differences. It was at their place, it was a round earlier, and we won…
How to get to Reading – Travel Information – Distance: 63 miles
Getting to the Madejski Stadium is a simple affair by road, with the stadium pretty much located just off Junction 11 of the M4. From Stevenage, head south on the A1 and cut across on the A414 to join the M25 towards Heathrow Airport. At Junction 15, take the westbound M4.
It is around 23-and-a-half miles from the M25 to Junction 11, from where you need the A33 for Reading. Continue towards the town centre through three roundabouts, before taking the first exit at the fourth for Northern Way. Turn left onto Hoops Way and again onto Shooters Way.
If you want, there is parking at the ground. But this will cost you a tenner and is limited. It can also take ages to get out after the game. Booking in advance is the only way to be sure of a parking space on matchday, subject to availability.
The car park at the nearby hotel, meanwhile, is for guests only. There are, however, a few other options listed on the club website – together with cost. Park and Ride car parks will be the cheapest options. But it all comes down to personal choice on the day, to be fair.
Services to: LONDON PADDINGTON
Reading’s train station is located in the centre of the town, but connects with the stadium through the Fasttrack Park and Ride green bus. You could try the walk – but it is a three-mile trek and will take you the best part of an hour.
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