For the last two seasons, Reading Football Club has delivered the team to the town, placing the squad at the heart of its community. And today, we achieved the same for 2018-19!
After successful photoshoots in Forbury Gardens and in front of Reading Town Hall in recent years, today we took over the newly re-opened Abbey Quarter in Reading!
This year, the Abbey reopened its site after a forced closure of nearly ten years brought about by safety concerns over its near-900-year-old masonry. Its relaunch in June successfully aimed to put the historical site back on the map and the ‘Abbey Quarter’ is now a focal point for Reading residents and so many of our supporters.
To give the Abbey some historical context, it was once one of the grandest and largest monasteries of its kind in northern Europe – longer than Westminster Abbey and larger than Durham cathedral!
And, relating it to the town as we know it now, the Abbey influenced Reading considerably - The Great Street (now Broad Street) and London Street were laid out to divert trade from the old market in St Mary’s Butts to the new market by the Abbey. Lower rents were offered on New Street (now Friar Street) to encourage settlement closer to the Abbey and the Forbury Road (now part of the IDR) runs along what was the north wall of the Abbey precinct.
In previous years, Reading Football Club has doffed its hat to both the lion and the crown in the club’s crest - a large statue of Queen Victoria oversaw the first team photo last September while the Maiwand Lion provided the backdrop in 2016-17. And once again, the crown in the crest comes to the fore; King Henry I founded the Abbey in 1121 and was buried there in 1135.
He is not the only famous name to be associated with the Abbey; the conservation included a restoration of the gatehouse which led what would become a schoolroom that, in 1785, taught a young girl called Jane Austen.
The relaunched site now consists of the south transept, the treasury, the chapter house, the dormitory and the refectory. And since the site was officially reopened by mayor Debs Edwards and the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire James Puxley, it has once again become a landmark which Reading can be proud of.
So, the Abbey provided a perfect location for our photoshoot. First team players and staff boarded a bus into town and headed for The Abbey Quarter to take part in another truly unique official squad photo!
Blessed with a glorious sunny afternoon, the players walked through the Abbey Gateway and through Forbury Gardens, mixing with the local community on an enjoyable afternoon for everyone – including five competition-winners who joined the group to take their place as part of our first team too!
There was opportunity for some supporters to pose for selfies with the first team stars and David Meyler briefly joined in with a group kicking a ball about in the Gardens before the players all boarded the bus back to the training ground.
A special thank you to Reading Borough Council and Stewarts Coaches for their support in helping us stage the photo in such an iconic location.
Back (left to right) | Alex Forsey (Assistant First Team Performance Analyst), Scott Madle (Lead First Team Performance Analyst), James Hooper (Lead Soft Tissue Therapist), Omar Richards, Marc McNulty, Andy Rinomhota, Yakou Méïté, Pelle Clement, Callum Harriott, Josh Sims, Stewart Bannister (Kit Manager), Luke Bishop (First Team Kit Assistant), Phil Adkins (First Team Strength and Conditioning Coach).
Middle row (left to right) | Danny Flitter (First Team Sports Therapist), Eddie Lattimore (Head of Physical Performance), Modou Barrow, Sam Baldock, Leandro Bacuna, Tyler Blackett, Jón Daði Böðvarsson, Sam Walker, Vito Mannone, Anssi Jaakkola, John O’Shea, Saeid Ezatolahi, David Meyler, Andy Yiadom, Adrian Popa, Matt Hirons (First Team Physiotherapist).
Front row (left to right) | Liam Kelly, Garath McCleary, Tiago Ilori, Paul McShane (captain), Michael Gilkes (First Team Coach), Karl Halabi (Assistant Manager), Gianluca Nani (Sporting Director), Paul Clement (Manager), Ron Gourlay (Chief Executive), Nigel Gibbs (Assistant Manager), Dave Beasant (First Team Goalkeeping Coach), Liam Moore, Chris Gunter, John Swift, Sone Aluko.