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Alex to make history?

1 June 2013

A McCarthy cap could repeat Shorey's feat

On Wednesday night, Royals keeper Alex McCarthy was forced to watch from the sidelines as one of Roy Hodgson's unused substitutes in England's 1-1 draw with the Republic of Ireland at Wembley.

But on Sunday, as part of Hodgson's Three Lions squad out in Brazil, our 23-year-old stopper will be part of the England experience in the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro and could be handed his first cap.

The last time a Reading player was given an England debut was exactly six years ago today...and, fittingly, it came against Brazil!

That man was Nicky Shorey, who played the full ninety minutes alongside the likes of David Beckham, Michael Owen, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, against Brazilian stars such as Robinho, Kaka and Ronaldinho in a 1-1 draw on 1st June 2007. 

That match was on home turf, but could McCarthy feature against Brazil tomorrow and repeat Royals history?

McCarthy, if utilised by Roy Hodgson on Sunday, would become either Reading's fourth or fifth England international in history. Royals historian Alan Sedunary wrote this article for after Shorey's debut, explaining all, and demonstrating how historically important an England cap is to Reading Football Club as well as the player himself...

"Nicky Shorey's impressive England debut against Brazil made him the third Reading player to be capped by England. That is, according to the record books, but some Reading fans believe the record books are wrong.

"Certainly, he was our first full England international since the legendary Herbert Smith won the last of his four caps back in March 1906.

"Like Nicky, Herbert was a left back and although physically different to our current star they were similar in other ways. Herbert was described as 'a brilliant defender' whose 'dexterous left foot was almost legendary' and he was 'scrupulously fair' - a description that could easily be used in Nicky's pen picture.

"Before Herbert, Johnny Holt won the last of his 10 England caps on 17 March 1900 at which time he was a Reading player. At just over 5ft 4 inches tall Johnny was the shortest centre half ever to play for England and he overcame his lack of height 'due to timing, judgement and getting an extra lift via his opponents' shoulders' so no-one is ever going to describe him as being scrupulously fair!

"So who is Reading's missing fourth English international? On 6 March 1875 Edward Brownlow Haygarth played right back against Scotland at The Oval and despite giving a hardworking display on a muddy pitch he was never selected again.

"All record books show E.B. as a player with Swifts, a club based in Slough, but Reading have a strong claim to be credited instead. In those early, amateur days players were not tied to one club and the better players, which Haygarth certainly was, tended to pick and chose who they would play for, depending on the attractiveness of the fixture. Even so E.B. was a regular for Reading for several years either side of his international appearance.

"Thanks to research by former Supporters' Club chairman, Roger Titford, we know E.B. certainly played for Swifts at the beginning of that year but he then played twice for Reading, including a game against Southall the Saturday before the international.
Indeed, one contemporary report of the international refers to him as 'the Reading captain'.

"One possible reason for Reading being unjustly omitted as E.B.'s club was that we were not members of the FA at that time. And that was not the last time Reading were denied credit for an international. Herbert Smith helped England (and yes, it was England, not Great Britain, in those days) win the Olympic gold medal in 1908.

"Despite having been a first team regular and captain at Elm Park for five seasons his club was shown as Oxford City, presumably because the FA did not want a professional club's name being recorded in the amateur competition.

"Even if we cannot claim E B Haygarth as our first England cap (for the time being) he still has an unequalled place in our history. Not only did he play in Reading's first ever game, he also scored our very first goal when, on 20 November 1872, he netted (or would have done had there been nets!) against Windsor Home Park."

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