Life at Madejski Stadium began in style on 22 August 1998, with a 3-0 victory over Luton Town. After a somewhat unsteady start to the campaign in Division Two, the Royals picked up and were at one point in contention for a play-off place. But it wasn't to be, and Reading finished their inaugural season at Madejski Stadium in 11th place. The new ground was, however, voted as the third most popular arena in the country - only beaten by Old Trafford and Highbury.
Manager Tommy Burns was eventually replaced by Alan Pardew early on in the second ever campaign at Madejski Stadium. After a slow start, excitement began to build as the side produced Championship form - winning 12 and drawing four of their final 20 fixtures to secure a top ten finish. A fresh air of optimism was created around Reading Football Club, and fans were very much looking forward to the subsequent campaign.
Reading overcame the pre-season loss through injury of Nicky Forster to spend the vast majority of the campaign in the top six of the table, hunting for promotion to the second tier of English Football. The goals of Martin Butler and Jamie Cureton were a key factor - the strike duo firing more than 50 goals between them. And after a close battle with Rotherham and Millwall, Pardew's side eventually had to settle for third place and the play-offs, where they were very unfortunate to lose 3-2 after extra time to Walsall in the Millennium Stadium final.
Despite the crushing play-off defeat in Cardiff, excitement and expectation was still prevalent among Reading fans. And this was to be Reading's year. The Royals secured the second automatic promotion place on the final day of the season with a nail-biting 1-1 draw at 3rd placed Brentford. The crucial goal was scored by Cureton just 12 minutes from time, much to the delight of 2,500 travelling fans and 6,000 more watching on a big screen back at Madejski Stadium. The club also enjoyed an average home crowd of more than 14,000 - the highest figure for 50 years.
There was a feeling of ecstasy around Madejski Stadium - and this wasn't going to stop any time soon! The Royals raised eyebrows once again as they finished in 4th place in their first season back in Division One. Reading went into the play-offs eyeing a second promotion in as many seasons - but the drama was to be cut short as Wolverhampton Wanderers ended our Premiership hopes in the semi-finals.
Never a full moment at Madejski Stadium, and this season was no different. Boss Pardew departed Berkshire for West Ham United, and the board opted for former Crystal Palace, Brentford and Brighton manager Steve Coppell, who made a solid start to his reign by steering the club to a ninth-placed finish, just three points outside the play-offs - leaving a suggestion that there could be more excitement around the corner under Coppell.
The Royals remained healthy and stable in Coppell's first season in charge, with a very positive season spent almost entirely in the top-half of the newly named Championship. As the season cantered towards the end, Reading had their eyes firmly set on clinching promotion via the play-offs - but only to miss out in dramatic fashion on the very last day of the season.
The next page of the club's exhilarating chapter in history was soon to unfold. After securing the £1 million record signing of Leroy Lita, an inauspicious 2-1 home defeat to Plymouth Argyle was the start of one of our greatest seasons ever. Coppell's men then went on a brilliant run - losing just one more league game and romping to the title with a record points total of 106 points. On their way they recorded 31 wins, 13 draws and just two defeats, scoring 99 goals and conceding just 32.
Promotion to the top flight for the first time was assured with a 1-1 draw at Leicester City on 25th March, with the title coming a week later thanks to a 5-0 triumph at home to Derby County. And, in fitting style, Sunderland's points total record was beaten on the final day of the campaign at a euphoric Madejski Stadium, when popular club skipper Graeme Murty converted a late penalty - his first goal in five years - to hand the Royals a 2-1 win at home to Queens Park Rangers.
And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, it did. Reading's first ever season in the top flight was as breathtaking as the previous year, as the Royals defied all logic and expectations to gallop to an eighth-placed finish - just one position off qualifying for the UEFA Cup. An amazing 3-2 victory over Middlesbrough on the opening day set the tone for a marvellous season in the Premiership - which will live forever in the memory of all Royals supporters.
Unfortunately, our second season in the top flight ended in disappointment - but it was captivating from start to finish nonetheless. From denying Champions Manchester United to a goalless draw on the opening to playing our part in 6-4 and 7-4 thrillers (the latter against Portsmouth a Premier League record), it certainly didn't lack drama. But it was heartbreak of the very last day of the season, as a 4-0 victory away at relegated Derby County wasn't enough to remain in the top flight, as the Royals were cruelly relegated on goal difference.
The Royals returned to the Championship for 2008/09, searching for an immediate return to the Promised Land. Reading maintained a promotion bid throughout the season, but an agonising play-off semi final defeat to Burnley ended our hopes for this campaign. Coppell resigned at the end of the season, with Brendan Rodgers stepping in as his replacement.
Rodgers remained in place until December of 2009, when Brian McDermott took over, initially on a temporary basis. But, once again, there was excitement ahead as McDermott led us to an historic FA Cup quarter final, including a sensational replay win away to Liverpool along the way, as well as a superb run of League form. Optimism was yet again at a high around Madejski Stadium as McDermott prepared for his first full season in charge.
This was another season of thrills, drama and stimulation as Reading reached the new Wembley for the very first time ever. A solid, ever improving season under McDermott earned the Royals a 5th placed finish and a 3-0 second-leg semi final win over Cardiff City booked Reading a place in the final. But while the Wembley showpiece was as enthralling as the season itself, it ended in heartbreak as Rodgers' Swansea clinched promotion with a 4-2 win.
There's always a new twist to come at Madejski Stadium and this season was the prime example of it. The Royals managed to pick themselves up after the disappointment of Wembley - and after a slow start to the new season - to remarkably propel themselves to the summit of the league and secure promotion back to the Premier League. Aided strongly by a 51% acquisition by Anton Zingarevich's Thames Sports Investment, McDermott's men won 15 out of 17 games in an unbelievable spell of form towards the end of the season - the 15th a 1-0 victory over Nottingham Forest on a memorable night at Madejski Stadium.
An exciting new challenge and a new era was upon us as the Royals began life back in the Barclays Premier League. Although it ultimately ended in relegation for the Royals, there was never a dull moment - as there rarely is. In the first half of the season, Reading were involved in a number of high-scoring thrilling games at Madejski Stadium, including a dramatic 3-3 draw with Fulham, a bizarre 4-3 defeat to Manchester United in which all seven goals were scored in the first half, and that extraordinary Capital One Cup 7-5 thriller against Arsenal.
The Royals enjoyed a post-Christmas surge - winning six games out of eight in all competitions, a run of games that earned Reading the 'Comeback Kings' tag. Current boss Nigel Adkins replaced McDermott in March, with his first win coming away from home in a thrilling 4-2 victory at Fulham - signalling that the potential is there for the Royals to have yet another exciting season when 2013/14 comes around.
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