The Madejski Stadium

Ground No. 22
Visited - Tuesday 14th May 2003
Result - Reading 0-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers (1-3 on aggregate)
Competition - Nationwide League Division 1 Play-Offs (Semi-Final)
Attendance - 24,060

This trip had started 4 days earlier with the play-off semi-final first leg at Molineux. Despite trailing at half time we had turned it around to win 2-1, to set up a nail biting second leg at the Madejski Stadium. I'd been to Reading before, 6 years previously but that was to the old Elm Park, so this was to be a new ground for me.

I opted to catch the train down early, and arrived into Reading with plenty of time to spare, so had a walk around the town, which seemed a fairly nice place, although it was funny to see the numerous ‘City Centre’ signs that had prematurely been put up before they lost the race to become a city, to Wolverhampton, something which their local press had been using as a tool in the run up to the game. After a while I decided to get on one of the football special busses up to the ground, so walked back to the train station and caught one of those, which despite being full of both Wolves and Reading fans, had a fairly relaxed atmosphere.

The journey didn’t take too long, about 15 minutes, and once at the ground I decided to have a walk around and look at the stadium. From the outside it looks very nice, and defies the reputation these ‘identikit’ grounds have, but once inside it lives up to all its criticism, with despite being nice enough and having excellent facilities, offers little in originality, although the two tiered stand to the left of the away end does make it slightly different from Leicester and Southampton. Compared to the old Elm Park, it is a completely different world, and standing on the old small terrace there, open to the elements, you couldn’t even have imagined Reading then having a ground like the Madejski Stadium, so it’s a testament to their owner who helped build this and bring the club into the 21st century, when previously they were struggling to provide facilities for the 20th century!

The game got started, and there was a very tense atmosphere, from both home and away fans, although the noise created was excellent, I had read beforehand that Reading fans were particularly quiet, but they rose to the occasion and the ground was buzzing. Unusually, we'd opted to play a defensive game, and sit on our lead, whilst Reading had chosen to do the opposite and attack us from the off. The first-half was all them, with the few breaks that we were restricted to coming to nothing, but we were under constant pressure, and how our net didn’t breach in those 45 minutes is anyone’s guess. The second half was much the same, although Dave Jones and the team seemed to realise that we needed to start attacking as it was becoming inevitable that Reading would get at least one, which would give them the advantage with away goals, so we did start to get forward more, but it was still mostly the home side. When we bought Alex Rae on in the 75th minute, I was questioning the managers decision, changing the system that had been working well enough up until now, having gone from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1, but it showed what I knew, when with less than 10 minutes left, Rae picked the ball up on the edge of the area, weaving inside one defender, where we were screaming ‘shoot’, pulling back where we were dying for him to hit it, and with the keeper advancing he finally did. 1-0 Wolves, we were in the final. The celebrations were unlike anything I had known, we had actually done it, and had never deserved to either, but that didn’t matter because we had finally got over the play-off semi-final jinx. There was the small matter of 10 minutes and injury time to play, which went by agonisingly slowly, with attack after Reading attack striking our goal, but the defence, and the magnificent Matt Murray stood firm to confirm our place in the play off final.

After much singing and clapping we left the ground ready for the journey home. On coming out I could see the busses over to the right of the exit, but due to a bit of trouble, and the police directing the crowd flow I had to walk around the entire perimeter of the stadium back to almost where I'd begun, before getting back on the bus to the train station. On there it was full of Reading fans, and despite wanting to burst out in song, I had to keep particularly quiet, as all around the ground their fans had been going through the crowds trying to pick off Wolves fans, and the mood on the bus was much the same, so doing my best to hide my smile and look miserable I got back to the station in one piece, and back on a train to Oxford where I stayed the night with friends.

Overall it was an excellent day out, a nice ground, one that will always hold memories now, and an excellent game, with an excellent result to boot. If I could have changed one thing it would have been that I'd have gone with someone that night, but because of having to queue 5 hours and upwards for tickets, that had put most people off, so I was on my own, which was a bit of a shame, as to have experienced it with someone would have been good, but it was still a great night out, and one my the best experiences ever with watching Wolves

Ground No. 22 (return visit)
Visited - Saturday 18th March 2006
Result - Reading 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Competition - Coca-Cola Championship
Attendance - 23,502

My last visit to the Madejski Stadium had produced one of my top 5 football days out, with Wolves confirming their place in the play-off final, after a superb defensive performance was capped by a late goal to send us through to Cardiff. Having missed our trip there last year, choosing instead to see the Vetch Field’s last game, I was looking forward to making my second visit to the ground, and had had it pencilled in since the start of the season.

Unfortunately, when the day finally came around, I was less enthusiastic this time, with Wolves still struggling to grab a play-off position, and Glenn Hoddle insistent on boring us all to death with his ineffective brand of football. Despite this though, it was still a day out, and a chance to see a ground that I hadn’t got any pictures of, so off I set, leaving Wolverhampton just after 9:30am.

The train down to Reading was direct, so with no changes, it sailed through to Berkshire, and two hours later, we arrived into Reading station on time. Due to the Madejski being so far out of town, I’d decided not to bother going down there early, instead staying in the town centre for the next couple of hours, having a look round, before meeting up with a friend who had travelled separately. After meeting him, we went back towards the train station, where the fleet of busses was waiting, ready to whisk us away down to the ground.
As last time, there was a healthy mix of home and away fans, and with no signs of trouble the journey was fairly uneventful, and we got to the ground at around about 1:45pm. After getting off the busses, it was off around the ground we went, as usual taking a few pictures, until we finally got to the rear of the East Stand. Now, having taken pictures at grounds across the country, at all levels of football from the Premier League to the West Midlands Regional League, I’m quite used to stewards being under the impression that a camera is as dangerous a weapon as say a bottle top (it’s front line policing we’re talking about here!), and I have on a couple of occasions been asked to stop taking pictures during a game, but even I was surprised when standing about 40 yards away from the stand, minding my own business, one of the stewards deemed it necessary to come charging towards me, Rambo style in slow motion shouting “nooooooooo”! After being bored to death by a lecture, I eventually came to understand that apparently "in today’s climate, it's a bit silly to be doing it, isn't it" and "I didn't know where they could end up, the Turks could get hold of them". So there you go, people shouldn’t be allowed to take pictures of football grounds, because “the Turks might get hold of them”! Undeterred by this, after having stopped laughing, and out of his sight, I carried on threatening national security, before going in through the away turnstiles, where the stewards there were happy to let a terrorist collaborator into the ground, despite having seen my camera of mass destruction.

As last time, we were in the South Stand, and actually not far from where I’d been on my previous visit, sitting in the corner of the ground, just below the video wall. As expected, the facilities here were good, but what I’d forgotten was how good the leg room was, with it easily being one of the biggest amounts in the league, so that was good. To our left was the West Stand, which was the most distinctive stand at the ground, with two tiers wrapping around the corners with a row of executive boxes separating upper from lower. Opposite us, and to our right was the North and East Stands, both of which were identical designs, being fair sized single-tier stands, wrapping around to our end, creating a bowl effect. The only other difference to most new grounds was in the corners, where the seats rose and dipped to create a curved effect, which looked interesting, but other than this, sadly it was a pretty standard ground, with little to make it stand out from most post-Middlesbrough designs.

After having taken a few more pics inside, the game eventually got started, and from the off, Reading were straight at us. Postma was forced into a couple of saves early on, before we eventually went on an attack of our own, which Jeremie Aliadiere finished by putting the ball into the back of the net, only to be flagged offside by the linesman. It didn’t take the home side long to come back at us, and before long they had taken the lead. A poor clearance from Naylor went straight to John Oster, who squared the ball across the box, where Bobby Convey was rushing in to smash the ball home. The rest of the half was more even, with both sides having chances to score, after first Mark Davies had a shot cleared off the line, before Convey and Sonko both had opportunities to increase the lead.

In the second half, Wolves came out much the stronger, and after a few early Reading corners, we started to dominate the game, grabbing a deserved equaliser on 64 minutes. Ricketts had driven forward, before laying off a ball to Frankowski, who seemed to be fouled. Whilst claims of a penalty were coming from the away end, Kenny Miller picked up the rebound and smashed the ball home from the edge of the area, making it 1-1. Reading did have their chances after this, with Storey having a free shot in the area, but it was mostly Wolves, and Aliadiere had a great chance to make it 2-1, after he found himself unmarked in the area, only for Marcus Hahnemann to make a good save at his feet. Carl Cort went close later on, and Aliadiere again had the chance to give his side the lead, but managed to sky an effort over the bar, so when the referee blew his whistle, it ended with a result that was probably fair on both sides, given the Reading dominance in the first half.

Throughout the game, there hadn’t really been a great atmosphere. The home supporters just the other side of the segregation in the East Stand were doing their best to make some noise, but it rarely caught on in other parts of the ground, so that was slightly disappointing, but not so surprising.

After leaving the ground, and briefly stopping off in the club shop, there was a fair wait for the busses back to the train station, but we eventually got back, stopping off in Oxford for a drink, before carrying on home, getting back at about 11pm.

Overall, it had been a pretty good day. The game wasn’t too bad from a Wolves perspective, and it was certainly a welcome point, that we hadn’t expected to get beforehand. The ground isn’t one of my favourites, being far too bland for my liking (not to mention in the middle of nowhere), but it’s by no means the worst of the new ones, so no doubt this won’t be my last trip there (that’s unless the Turks blow it up first!).

Welcome to the Madejski Stadium

Rear of the West Stand

Rear of the South Stand

Rear of the East Stand

Club Badge

Rear of the North Stand

The Club Shop

Rear of the North Stand

The West Stand

The North Stand

The East Stand

The East Stand

The North Stand

The West Stand

The Madejski Stadium Panoramic

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