I lived in Reading during the 90’s. Was going to stay for 18 months but it ended up being 8 years.

Yes I stole that from Douglas Adams.

Smelly AlleyI like Reading. It is a good town to live in and I still have friends there. In fact it was the first place I stopped when I first moved south. (I was going to Henley so no choice) After a couple of years in Henley – I always took the opportunity to travel to Reading on my days off, I eventually ended up getting a job there. I rented a flat on Caversham Road, right next to the bridge. A perfect location because both Caversham and the town center were both only a five minute walk. Reading was very convenient for getting to London, lots of fast trains and you could be in the capital in 35 minutes. I do miss that and living there.

Funny/weird fact: When I was down south I never lived more than 500 yards away from the River Thames. In Henley-On-Thames, then Reading and then Abingdon.

It was @mirkobolesan (Spirit of Mirko) who pointed my attention to a picture of a cassette single posted by @urzz1871. I’ll get to the that cassette in a moment, but it did help stir up some memories.

I always believe in supporting your local team so natually I went to Elm Park and it was an interesting time to be following them. In the early 90’s they were a mid-table resident lower division side. But then Mark McGee was just appointed as player-manager and the football got interesting. Promotion to the 2nd tier (this was around the time of change in the leagues, with the Premier League being formed and those other lower divisions being rejigged) and some very entertaining seasons followed.
Reading FC - team photo 94-95 season

I regularly stood in the Tilehurst End and got to watch “Shaky” Shaka Hislop up close. Then after him it was Bobby Mikhailov and that wig. How he kept it on I don’t know. It must have been a superiour brand of glue. That rug never moved once.

I’ve wandered off there… Back then the Reading team had the veteran striker Jimmy Quinn who found a second wind and was knocking them in for fun. Also in the team was Phil Parkinson, Michael Gilkes and Ray Ranson winding down his career.
It was 1994 and 1995 which were the most fun for me. Mark McGee had legged it to then Premier League relegation threatened (what’s changed !) Leicester City and Jimmy Quinn, along with Mick Gooding were appointed as the player-co-management team.

I don’t know what it was, but as a football watcher you’ll have seen. Suddenly these eleven men click. The players gel and there in front of you is a real team. Reading finished 2nd but this was at the time when the Premier League was slimming down to 20 teams and they were denied automatic promotion. They had to go into a playoff and were eventually beaten by Bolton Wanderers in what was a hell of a game. I don’t know if it’s on YouTube or somewhere, but you have to watch that match.
Reading FC programme - April 1995 v Bolton
That playoff defeat affected them somewhat because the season after they never really challenged. The season after that was pretty much the same. Another lower table finish and the eventual release of Quinn and Gooding. The 1997–98 season was one of big changes. I just want to insert something at this point: Andy Legg you useless waste of space. Pointless signing. Three managers in one season (Terry Bullivant, then some bloke called Pardew and then Tommy Burns) and then relegation. Then they moved into the the Tory boy egotistically named stadium on the outskirts of town.

It was at this point that I started drifing off, it might have been because of the move. Before it was a relativly easy walk or bus from the town center to Elm Park, but now it was a long and difficult bus journey and a bit of a nightmare getting back. Never enough buses. The stadium was nice…ish. I still remember the cold breezeblock slightly dark corridors under the stands. The atmosphere wasn’t there though. Yes, yes maybe because of the seating. But also because it was a bigger stadium, a lower division and the higher prices being charged.

Since then despite my absence it seems that Reading have thrived, and dipped, and thrived… But I want to go back to that mid-90’s period and the tweet from @mirkobolesan which brought back a forgotten memory.

As you were standing there waiting a song was played around 15 minutes before the match kicked off. This was (I think) played before every game. The reason for it being played at that specific moment ? You’ll hear in the first line of the song:

All I can find of Kevin Girdler now is this old MySpace page. Sadly that’s all I can find of him. Where he is and what he’s doing now I wish I knew.

Additional…

I read that after Reading moved to the new ground they stopped playing the song. It may had to do with the 2nd line in the song which mentions Elm Park. But still.. it doesn’t make sense. Every club has their anthem, it doesn’t matter if it is good or bad. If that is your song, play that song.

– There was a vote held on Reading FC’s official website to decided on what other song should be their new anthem. Among the candidates was Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline.
The winner though was this insipid effort from Embrace:

But…

It seems that because of some former players, the Neil Diamond ditty has replaced the above:

“It all started when we won the League (2005/06 Championship winning season) just before the end of the season we were all in Marbella in an Indian restaurant, seven of us players, we just started singing it…

… It just stuck from that holiday, it became our song.

We played Sweet Caroline at the promotion party, we thought it might stick … So we thought we’d make it our song at Reading.”

So now the Reading anthem is a song that the-then 28 year old Neil Diamond wrote about John F. Kennedy’s then 12 year old daughter. Creepy.

Postscript…

There are more/other songs about Reading:

» Created by local producer Greenfly – Reading Fc Drum and Bass:

» There’s this wonderful tongue-in-cheek tribute to former boss Brian McDermott:

Slightly related – I think… this is another cheeky tribute. It can’t be a serious attempt can it..? Can it…?!

This post is dedicated to my mate Adam (Fatty !) The three chord wonder.

One Comment

  1. helengirdler@gmail.com

    Hi, I am Kevin Girdler’s wife – happy to report he is alive and well and now living in Cornwall. I wish the Royals Anthem was still played on matchdays – it is the best club song and always will be!

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