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The story of an incredible photo

5 March 2015

FA Cup memories from 1901

In a week where the FA Cup Quarter Final is the talk of the town, the Royals have been sent this fantastic shot from over a century ago.

In 1901 the Biscuitmen reached the Sixth Round of the tournament for the first time in their history, lining up against Tottenham Hotspur to contest a place in the semi-final.

Reporting at the time, the Reading Mercury said: "Greater interest was taken in the tie because of the fact that the teams were the last of the southern clubs left in the competition. Under the circumstances it was not surprising that Reading was literally invaded by football enthusiasts on Saturday; several train loads arrived from the metropolis and towns in the districts of Berks, Bucks, Oxon, Wilts, Hants, Surrey, Sussex and even further afield. Half-past three was the hour fixed for kick-off, but a long while before the ground had been besieged and nearly every available place occupied.

"The committee of the Reading FC had made capital arrangements for the accommodation of the numerous spectators who, it transpired, totalled between 14,000 and 15,000 (a new ground record). All the players were in first-class trim, having undergone a special course of training, the Reading men at Nettlebed, and the Spurs at Chingford."

The match itself finished 1-1, and carrier pigeons were used to spread the news. Reading were robbed of a win after a Spurs defender punched the ball off the line late in the game, and the London side won the replay 3-0. Tottenham went on to win the final, becoming the only non-league team to win the FA Cup since the formation of the league.

In the photo shown to the right of this page, the team is shown in standard formation for the time of two backs, three half-backs and five forwards, and they are pictured in front of Elm Park's town end less than five years after the ground opened.

Many thanks to for the photograph. The archives go back even further, click here to turn the clock back to 1893!

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