Elm Park was home for the Royals for over 100 years, until they moved to Madejski Stadium. The first game was held on 5 September 1896 between Reading and A Roston Bourke’s XI - which saw Reading leading 7-1 before the match was prematurely ended due to torrential weather. The final competitive match at Elm Park saw Reading play Norwich City on 3rd May 1998.
The ground consisted of four stands: North (Known as Norfolk Road), South (Tilehurst Terrace, also referred to as the South Bank), West (Tilehurst End) and East (Reading End, also referred to as the Town End). Both the North and South Stands were covered, while the east and west stand were uncovered terraces. The East Stand was reserved for away supporters, as well as a small section of the North Stand.
Our greatest ticket revenue at Elm Park was on 27 January 1996, when the club hosted Manchester United in the fourth round of the 1995/96 FA Cup.
The record attendance was achieved in 1927 when 33,042 watch Reading beat Brentford 1-0 in the fifth round of the 1926/27 FA Cup. As a result of the Taylor Report, Reading were forced to implement changes to the ground which reduced the capacity to 14,800. Elm Park will remain a vital part in Reading’s history, playing host to some memorable moments.
Club Historian David Downs picks his ten greatest games played at Elm Park.
Reading 1 Aston Villa 0
FA Cup 2nd round (replay), February 7, 1912
Reading were members of the Southern League and had beaten Southall, Castleford Town and Southport in previous rounds before drawing Aston Villa, the previous season's runners-up in the Football League. Although the mighty Villa fielded nine internationals, Reading scored the only goal of the game. Alan Foster finding the net at 3.20pm. Reading's valiant defence, led by goalkeeper Caldwell, held out under continuous pressure for the remainder of the tie.
Reading 7 Brentford 1
Division Three (South), May 1, 1926
Reading were neck and neck with Plymouth Argyle for promotion to Division Two on the last day of the season. They needed to beat Brentford at home and hope Plymouth would lose at Gillingham.
A crowd of 17,112 watched as Frank Richardson gave the Biscuitmen, as we were then nicknamed, an early lead. Brentford quickly equalised before Hugh Davey restored the lead. Richardson converted a penalty kick for the third goal just before half time, and a loud cheer went up. Richardson completed his hat trick, whilst at the other end of the field, goalie Joe Duckworth was saving every shot the Brentford forwards could fire at him.
In the second half, Richardson netted again and Davey twice more, to give the home team a convincing victory. All the crowd could do now was to wait for the result from Gillingham. Shortly afterwards, a young lad carried a blackboard round the ground with the score 'Gillingham 2 Plymouth 1' chalked on it and the crowd streamed on to the pitch. Reading were champions of Division Three (South).
Reading: Duckworth, Eggo, McConnell, Wilson, Messer (captain), Inglis Kennedy, Braithwaite, Davey, Richardson, Robson.
Reading 1 Brentford 0
FA Cup 5th round, February 19, 1927.
Supporters began queuing outside the ground at 9am for a game which was to set the Elm Park attendance record of 33,042, which still stands to this day.
Reading were quickly in control against their Division Three (South) opponents, and nine minutes before the interval took the lead, as Braithwaite and McDonald combined to set up a chance for Richardson to crash the ball high into the net. Brentford nearly equalised with a shot that hit Duckworth's post with the goalkeeper well beaten, but Reading held out to reach the sixth round for the first time in the Club's history.
Reading: Duckworth, Eggo, McConnell, Inglis, Messer (captain), Evans, McDonald, Braithwaite, Johnstone, Richardson, Robson.
Reading 8 Corinthians 3
FA Cup 1st round, November 30, 1935.
A crowd of 15,998 paid a total of £1,005 to watch a tie against the Corinthians, a popular amateur team, who played only friendly and cup matches. They included a number of England amateur internationals in their side and were the better team for the first twenty minutes during which they took the lead.
Reading equalised through Tommy Tait, then Fielding scored twice to give the home side a 3-1 interval lead. In the second half Reading's superior fitness began to overpower the amateurs and excellent finishing produced five more goals. Tait scored again, Liddle completed a hat trick and McGough finalised the scoring for what is still Reading's highest victory in an FA Cup tie.
Bernard Joy, the Corinthian's centre-half, speaking many years after the tie explained: "We had a move straight from the kick off that we thought might win the game for us. Do you know, we had nine opportunities to try that move during the match!"
Reading: Whittaker, Gregory, Robson, Johnson (captain), Hayhurst, Wright, Liddle, McGough, Tait, Paterson, Fielding.
Reading 10 Crystal Palace 2
Division Three (South), September 4, 1946
A bright Wednesday evening saw Reading meet Crystal Palace in the first home game of the season. Manager Joe Edelston included his son Maurice in the team, as well as Vic Barney who had walked into the ground and asked for a trial a fortnight previously.
The game became one for the record books. Reading were three goals ahead after the first fifteen minutes, through Deverall, Barney and Edelston, though the visitors pulled back two before half time. Two minutes after the interval Edelston netted a penalty after MacPhee had been tripped, then the Palace defence crumbled into insignificance.
MacPhee headed the fifth, Deverall scored from outside the area, then MacPhee scored twice more to complete his hat trick. Edelston got his third from an acute angle, and in the closing seconds of the rout Reading reached double figures, as MacPhee finished a move begun by Barney and carried on by Edelston.
Reading: Groves, Glidden, Gulliver, McKenna, Ratcliffe, Young, Chitty, Edelston, MacPhee, Barney, Deverall.
Reading 1 Manchester United 1
FA Cup 3rd round, January 8, 1955
Reading were near the bottom of Division Three (South) when they entertained the mighty Manchester United, who boasted an international defence, in front of an all-ticket crowd of 26,500. A giant killing seemed highly unlikely, but the young Reading side fought like tigers from the kick off and took a surprise lead after twenty five minutes. Denis Uphill was put through by Wally Hinshelwood and his powerful shot was deflected past goalie Wood by centre half Chilton.
United fought back but Reading defended desperately, and came close to getting a second goal as the lively Hinshelwood dribbled past three defenders before hitting the post when it seemed easier to score. Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby confessed that he had almost given the game up, when one last frenzied attack by his team enabled centre-forward Webster to grab a late, scarcely-deserved equaliser.
Reading: Meeson, Penford, Leach, Davis, Livingstone, McLaren, Simpson, Hinshelwood, Campbell, Uphill, Mansell.
Reading 1 Wimbledon 0
Division Four, May 2, 1979
A total of 13,131 supporters came to the final home game of the 1978/79 season to see if Reading, already guaranteed promotion, could clinch the win which would almost certainly bring the championship to Elm Park.
Wimbledon were their closest rivals, but Reading's rock-solid defence, which had not conceded a goal for nine games, kept yet another clean sheet in a game of very few chances. The only goal came in the 24th minute, as John Alexander fastened onto Mark White's pass and shot against goalkeeper Ray Goddard's body. The rebound fell to Alexander, and he had little difficulty in stabbing the ball back past the prostrate keeper.
After the final whistle manager Maurice Evans led the Reading team on a well-merited lap of honour. Reading secured the championship with a 3-0 win away at Port Vale in the final match of the season.
Reading: Death, Peters, White, Bowman, Hicks, Bennett, Earles, Alexander, Hetzke, Shipley, Sanchez.
Reading 4 Plymouth Argyle 3
Division Three, December 21, 1985
Reading were running away with the Third Division title when they met Plymouth, but they were rocked by the visitors, who gained a 2-0 interval advantage, and then scored a third shortly after the break.
However, Reading's spirit and determination brought the Royals back into the game, though it was not until the 65th minute that they pulled a goal back as Dean Horrix netted from the spot after Bremner had been fouled. Most of the crowd looked on that as a consolation goal. But none of the home players thought so, and they roared into action with Senior scoring after 70 minutes, then levelling the match to 3-3 just two minutes later.
Seven minutes from the end, Bremner, whose switch to striker had made all the difference, got the winner, forcing the ball over the line after Hicks had flicked on Peters' long throw, after Senior's first effort had been blocked. One fan became so excited when Reading's fourth went in that he fell over on the end terrace and broke a leg!
Reading were Division Three champions that season, and set a Football league record by winning their first 13 league games.
Reading: Westwood, Peters, Bailie, Beavon, Hicks, Wood, Rogers, Horrix, Senior, Bremner, Gilkes (Sub: Burvill 51 minutes)
Reading 1 Coventry City 1
After extra time: Reading won 4-3 on penalties
Simod Cup Semi-Final, March 2, 1988
Reading had beaten three First Division teams to reach the semi-final. The kick off was delayed until 8.15pm to allow the crowd of 15,348 to squeeze in, and a tense battle saw Neil Smillie give the home team a 57 minute lead. Speedie equalised for Coventry 11 minutes from the end, and with extra-time failing to separate the two teams, the decisive penalty shootout began.
Coventry led 2-0 at one stage as Keith Curle's spot kick was saved by Ogrizovic, but Beavon, Horrix and Williams all converted successfully to bring the scores level. Steve Francis had already saved one penalty, then dived to his right to block another. This left Michael Gilkes to score from the spot to take the Royals to Wembley for the first time in the Club's history. His shot flew to the right of Ogrizovic and into the net off the inside of the post.
Elm Park erupted, the Reading players and coaching staff fell in a heap on top of Gilkes and the game finally ended at 10.50pm, the latest ever finish to a competitive game in England. Reading kept up the good work in the final at Wembley, beating yet another First Division club, Luton Town, 4-1.
Reading: Francis, Bailie, Gilkes, Beavon, Hicks, Curle, Jones (Williams) Taylor, Tait, Horrix, Smillie.
Reading 0 Tranmere Rovers 0
Division One Play-off Semi-Final Second Leg, May 17, 1995.
Reading were favourites to reach the Division One Play-off Final at Wembley after beating Tranmere Rovers 3-1 at Prenton Park on the previous Sunday. They only needed to protect that lead to be just one game away from the Premier League, but had to cope with an extremely physical visiting side, who realised their only chance was to rattle and upset the Royals.
Even so, Reading refused to sit back on the lead, and came close to extending their advantage on several occasions, notably through Mick Gooding, whose fierce drive was parried by Coyne, Simon Osborn who chipped just over the crossbar, and Scott Taylor, dribbling past three defenders before sidefooting the ball at the goalkeeper. At the other end Shaka Hislop ensured a clean sheet for the home side by blocking a close-range attempt by Malkin.
At the final whistle the Reading players appeared in the Director's box to celebrate reaching Wembley, the Club's second appearance there in just seven years.
Reading: Hislop, Bernal, Osborn, Wdowczyk, Williams (Hopkins), McPherson, Gilkes, Gooding, Nogan, Lovell (Quinn), Taylor. Subs not used: Sheppard.