Celebrating quarter of a century with the man who transformed this club…Today, Tuesday 1st December 2015, marks exactly 25 years since Sir John Madejski first oversaw his first match as Chairman of Reading Football Club.
The previous week, 3,927 supporters had watch Reading crash to a 4-2 home loss to Southend at Elm Park – a sixth defeat in seven games – to drop to 15th place in Division Three. That followed an FA Cup exit to non-League side Colchester, and struggling business fortunes of owner Roger Smee led to the football club – and all 20 of its playing staff – being made available for sale due to ‘the economic situation and the financial difficulties at the club’.
It was an uncertain time at Reading, but Sir John’s arrival heralded a new and exciting era for the football club – few would have believed that 16 years later, a crowd of 24,110 would bear witness to the Royals taking one of their first major Premier League scalps at Madejski Stadium with a 3-1 victory against Tottenham Hotspur!
The impact of Sir John Madejski’s arrival was immediate – Stuart Lovell, making his debut for Reading that early December afternoon, scored the match-winning goal against Fulham as the first line was penned in an exciting new chapter of Reading Football Club.
Since then, we have enjoyed successes which seemed beyond the realms of possibility. With Sir John Madejski at the helm, the club has achieved four promotions (two of which to the promised land of the Premier League, and each campaign ending with the lifting of the second tier title), including the record-setting 2005/06 season when we accrued an as yet unparalleled 106 points.
Our previous best-ever league finish before Madejski’s arrival had been 13th in Division Two, achieved back in 1986/87. Since the Chairman’s arrival, that feat has been bettered on no fewer than 13 occasions in what has been by far the most successful era ever seen in the club’s 144-year history.
Aside from the on-the-pitch successes, we have also seen the club change immeasurably away from the field of play during the past 25 years. Only through Sir John’s vision for the club has Reading become the successful, ambitious, forward-thinking and much-admired club that we are today.
In a state-of-the-art new home at Madejski Stadium since 1998, with an Academy which was born and has since flourished under Madejski’s leadership - constantly producing a stream of exceptional home grown talent since its inception in 2001 – and as we continue to serve the local community on a daily basis through the flagship work of our Community Trust, it is little surprise that Reading Football Club commands such respect in the football world and within the local community.
When Sir John Madejski bought a controlling share in the club to pluck Reading from the jaws of the receivers 25 years ago, he said: “I owe a lot to Reading and I’m proud of it – I just want to make my own contribution.” During the last quarter of a century, that contribution has been the driving force behind the club. And what a contribution!
On Thursday night, Sir John Madejski will lead the two teams out onto the Madejski Stadium pitch and place the match ball in the centre circle ahead of kick off between Reading and QPR, 25 years on from his first matchday experience as the club’s guardian and as an ardent Royals fan. We will publish an exclusive interview with Sir John Madejski in this week’s matchday programme, reflecting on 25 years as a custodian of Reading Football Club, so be sure to come along to help us honour our Chairman and all that he has given to Reading Football Club during 25 glorious years at the top.