Reading Football Club are saddened to learn of the death of former player and groundsman, Gordon 'Fred' Neate, at the age of 78.
Gordon was one of Reading Football Club’s most loyal and popular figures, having served as player and groundsman for over half a century.
Given the nickname ‘Fred’ by friend and colleague Maurice Evans, the local lad arrived as an apprentice at Elm Park at the age of 15 in 1956 after an impressive career in schoolboy football.
Gordon played for the club’s minor teams before turning professional in March 1958 and made his first team debut away at Colchester in April 1959. His home league debut came on the final day of the season, when Reading thrashed Accrington Stanley 5-0.
The full-back was in and out of the side over the next seven years due to terrible luck with injuries, and was forced to hang up his boots in 1966 at the age of just 25.
In his last playing season Gordon had some consolation when he picked up a Football Combination Division Two championship medal as part of the reserve team.
Reading chairman Alf Smith then offered Gordon the post of groundsman and, after assisting Bill Smith briefly using the knowledge he’d gained working on the pitch during his time on the ground staff, he took on the task of tending the turf along with general ground maintenance.
During his time as groundsman there was a competition to find out who had the hardest shot in the club. Gordon won it – beating the two goalkeepers into second and third place. All the forwards missed the target! Gordon liked a laugh, a chat and a friendly word with the fans – except when they got on his pitch.
Gordon’s long service and loyalty was recognized as he received a Canon League Loyalty Award in 1985 and a Football League Long Service Award in 1996.
He followed the club to Madejski Stadium in 1998 as groundsman before eventually retiring in 2009 at the age of 68, meaning that he had served Reading Football Club with distinction for a remarkable 53 years.
An emotional Gordon waves to the Madejski Stadium crowd as he retires from duty after 53 years of loyal service.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to Gordon's family, as we mourn the passing of one of Reading Football Club's greatest-ever servants.
For those who knew Gordon, a funeral will be held at Reading Crematorium on Wednesday 22nd May at 10.45am. A wake will be hosted by his family in the Royals Suite at Madejski Stadium from midday onwards.