December 1, 1990 is one of the most important dates in Reading FC history. That was the date local business man John Madejski saved the club from the receivers and became chairman.
A year later, after Robert Maxwell’s demise, Madejski purchased the shares left from his failed attempt to merge the club with Oxford United, eventually holding 98 per cent of the shares. Thames Valley Royals were a distant nightmare and finally the club had stability and a bright future.
Fast forward 20 years and the changes both on and off the field have been remarkable. When Madejski took over we were in the third tear with low attendances and a stadium in need of a make-over. His time in charge has seen three promotions, two relegations, nine different managers, a knighthood and a move to the Madejski Stadium, with average attendances of the last few seasons greater than the total capacity of Elm Park.
We also have training facilities to rival many Premier League side and an academy in place that is not only highly thought of, but able to produce real star players. His brick by brick approach to the club has also seen us record some of our highest league finishes, culminating in the record breaking side winning the Championship and the clubs first taste of top flight football in over 130 years.
Some fans may no longer see Madejski as the saviour he once was, but this change in mood seems to stem more from changes in the expectations of fans than in anything else. Heavy investment in the squad is not always a guarantee of success, and it is always easy to spend other people’s money. It is also wise to remember, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
The main thing we can aim for as a club is to exist, and there are plenty of clubs around that will look at our situation with envy. Whilst it may not promise promotion, the brick by brick approach ensures we have a team to follow, and makes any achievements all the sweeter.
So what does the future hold? Madejski has not tried to hide his desire to sell the club, but with his intention to only sell to someone with deep pockets and the best interest of the club at heart, he may be sticking around for a few more years.
All that is left to say is 'thanks for everything'.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.