Reading FC to make the semis? That'll take the biscuitBy Jonny Fordham
March 05, 2010
Royals reporter Jonny Fordham caught up with Reading FC historian and getreading columnist David Downs ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final with Aston Villa
People often talk about a week in football being a long time.
So 83 years, the length of time since Reading reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, can only be described as an absolute eternity.
If any Royals fans from the time are still alive today, they may recall witnessing the great cup run of the 1926-27 season when Angus Wylie led his side to the last four of the most famous competition throughout the world of football.
Teetotal and dour Scotsman Wylie has gone down in Reading folklore for his achievements, guiding the blue and white hoops to the most successful FA Cup run in their entire 138-year history.
The whole town was buzzing with a carnival atmosphere and on the morning of the semi-final game against Cardiff City hoardes of fans were pictured queuing outside Reading station to go to Wolverhampton for the tie.
And one man, who wasn’t born then, but knows all about it is Reading FC club historian and getreading columnist David Downs (pictured below).
He explained: “Legend has it, that one of the reasons that Royals lost in the semi-finals was that they played three centre-forwards and the trio kept on bumping into each other.
“I actually spoke to one of them 25 years ago, who confirmed that to me.
“His name was Frank Richardson and I met him when Reading were Division Three Champions.
“Richardson was invited to the celebrations at Elm Park and he was all of 90-years-old then.
“They wheeled him onto the pitch in his wheelchair and he also had a walking stick that he was waving to the crowd with. It was a lovely touch and sadly he died not too long after that.”
Reading’s cup run that year saw them play a total of nine games to reach the last eight, three more than they have in this campaign.
Reading only just made it through the first round after a battling 4-4 draw with Weymouth at Elm Park followed by a comprehensive 5-0 thrashing of the Terras in the replay.
Unusually the replay was also played at Reading’s ground as Weymouth were in financial difficulties at the time and would benefit from a share of the gate at Elm Park.
In the second round Southend United were the victims as Reading won 3-2 before narrowly defeating Manchester United 2-1 after initial 1-1 and 2-2 draws.
Next up were Portsmouth who lost 3-1 to Royals in the fourth round followed by a historic game against rivals Brentford.
That game also saw the all-time attendance record that still stands today of 33,042 at Elm Park as the home side won 1-0.
Reading beat Swansea City 3-1 in the quarter-final in Wales before eventually being knocked out by the competition winners Cardiff City as they lost 3-0.
The Bluebirds’ triumph over Arsenal in the final was also the first and only time that the cup has ever left England.
To mark the milestone by Reading, the now defunct Huntley and Palmers biscuit factory commissioned several special pieces of memorabilia, as Downs describes.
“When Reading reached the semi-finals for the first and only time back in the 1926-27 season, the club were of course known as the Biscuitmen because of the Huntley and Palmers biscuit factory.
“Huntley and Palmers was the main employer in the town and to mark the achievement by the football club, they decided to make a biscuit tin, full of biscuits, in the shape of the FA Cup.
“It was to be sold if Royals were to reach the FA Cup final, but that never happened and only a couple of hundred prototypes were ever made.
“I believe it would have been about five shillings for the biscuit tin, but nowadays, because of its rarity, it could be worth something in the region of £400.
“The tin might have also been made at their other factory in London Street at the time and they would have been given to the players who were part of the cup run.
“Huntley and Palmers also produced a favour, a kind of forerunner of a rosette (pictured right).
“Fans would wear them pinned to their coats and on it was the list of all the teams that Reading had beaten, a model of a Huntley and Palmers Osborne biscuit and the words ‘Play up Reading’.
“Factory girls handed out the favours at Reading station and they were given away for free on the morning of the game.
“Again, just a few of those souvenirs have survived so they could be worth a couple of hundred pounds at auction.”
This season seventh-placed Premier League side Aston Villa stand in Royals’ way of repeating the heroics of Wylie’s men.
The giant-killing season of 2009/10 will always go down in history after Royals defeated Liverpool 2-1 after extra-time at Anfield before heaping revenge on Burnley at Madejski Stadium with a 1-0 win in the fourth round.
The 3-2 win at West Brom after a 2-2 draw at Madejski Stadium completed the current rich vein of cup form against three sides that Reading were tipped to be defeated by.
And, like the Liverpool game, a capacity crowd will be there to cheer on their team against Villa for what is surely one of the most eagerly-anticipated 90 minutes of action for Royals in 2010.