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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

End of Season - Open Top Bus Tour of Reading

As a football fan first, and an amateur photographer second, I shall always remember the 2005/6 Season at Reading FC for the football, for the atmosphere and excitement generated by a winning team, an experience that I was to enjoy time and time again PITCHSIDERFC. When I say winning team, what I really mean is the fans, for it is the fans, the supporters that make the atmosphere and generate the excitement. 

Like most football supporters, I could only ever really guess what it’s like to score a goal in front of 20,000 plus fans, to hear the roar of the crowd, and to receive such adulation, as deliriously happy fans celebrate your achievement. 

Now that I have experienced this close up, through my lens, sensed that a move was building, an opportunity to score, the crossed ball, the leaping forward, the anticipation in the crowd, the moment of impact player and ball, without seeing the end result, the explosion of noise from the crowd, the reaction of the player, telling me that he had scored.

The player running towards you, arms outstretched, chest out, as if soaking up the atmosphere, some times close enough to touch, I now know what it is really like to score a goal. It is these moments that I will always remember from this first season with Reading FC, treasure, if you like.

And then there will be those other moments, experiences that I had no idea would come my way at the start of the season. There were many of these, but if I had to list a few, they would have to include:

The home game against Crystal Palace at the start of the season, great game, great goals, in particular Leroy Lita’s overhead, which I snapped perfectly.

The Carling Cup game, away Arsenal in their last season at Highbury. Coming face to face with Mr Wenger (miserable git), sitting alone in the Arsenal dressing room, and then being shown the front door through the main reception.
Arsene Wenger

The 2-1 home win against Sheffield Utd in the league, and that wonderful last minute winning goal from Bryjar Gunnarsson to clinch the points.

Reading players celebrate, Sheffield Utds despair

Travelling to the Walkers Stadium, and hearing the news at full time that Reading had achieved certain promotion, then witnessing the scenes of celebration of the travelling fans and players. Being shoved through the dressing room door to photograph and share in the joy of the moment.

Kevin Doyles equaliser against Leicester City
Winning the Championship in such an emphatic way, beating Derby County 5-0 at home. Making it to the Directors Box, via the Home dressing room, to see the pitch covered in fans.
View from the Directors Box

The final game of the season, beating QPR 2-1 with only minutes to spare, Graeme Murty scoring only his second goal for the club in 5 years, to earn Reading a points total record of 106. The Championship Trophy presentation after the game, and lap of honour.

Champions 2005/6
And so finally, one of those once in a lifetime opportunities, to be part of an Open Top Bus Tour of the “City”, as the Reading Team showed off their Trophy to their adoring fans. How many times have you watched this type of thing on the news, and thought to yourself, I’d love to do that, or I wonder what that must feel like. Well I got to experience just that on the day after the QPR game, when I was put on the second bus carrying family members, club officials, radio, KINGSLEY, oh and a certain Brian McDermott, the then Reserve Team Manager and Chief Scout, I wonder what happened to him?

So here to round off an historic season for the Royals, are just some of the images I captured from the Open Top Bus Tour, and Stadium Lap of Honour.

Marcus Hahnemann ready to take some pictures of his own
Kingsley prepares to meet the crowds
Fans cheer the passing bus

City Centre packed with cheering fans
Players Bus
The crowds of fans gets bigger
These two fans get the best view
This Young fan brought his own Kingsley
A very Happy Glen Little
Marcus Hahnemann shows off the Championship Trophy
A young Royals fan
Blue Army
The Reading "Wags"
Ivar Ingimarsson takes his own picture
Steve Sidwell shows off the trophy

and kiss it

A true blue supporter
Team Bus getting near the Stadium
Sir John madejski arrives with the Trophy
Marcus Hahnemann
Steve Sidwell, wife and new born son Harry
Ibrahima Sonko
Leroy Lita
Kevin Doyle
The Chairman, Captain and Karen his wife
Graeme Murty lifts the trophy
Shane Long
Leroy Lita shows the trophy to the fans
Bobby Convey and Trophy
Graeme Murty
Graeme Murty with wife Karen
Steve Sidwell and son Harry
Nicky Shorey and his Mum
James Harper with physio Fearn
James Harper and family
Steve Coppell, The Manager
After we, myself and the other club photographers, had thought we were finished for the day, there was one more job. We were told to bring one camera, and go pitchside. When we arrived, the Stadium was completely empty, eerily quite, save for one camera crew interviewing someone or other. 

In what was a nice touch, and certainly very much appreciated, we were each handed the Championship Trophy to have our pictures taken with it. Here is mine, complete with a stupid grin.

To tell the truth I felt quite honoured to be holding such a prestigious trophy, being that it was the old English Football League Championship trophy, designed and manufactured by Vaughtons of Birmingham in 1890.

Known sometimes as “The Lady” because the lid bears the figure of a woman, the trophy has been presented to some of English football’s legendary teams. They include the great Huddersfiled Town triple title winners of the 1920s and the Arsenal teams that won five titles in eight seasons in the 1930s. Manchester Uniteds Busby Babes carried off the trophy in 1956 and 1957 before the Munich air disaster and Liverpool collected the trophy 11 times in 18 seasons between 1972/73 and 1989/90. The last team to collect the trophy as English champions were Leeds United in 1991/92.
So in other words, I was now holding the same trophy that had been held by every major football player and manager to have won the league title,  played in England since before the start of the last century. That’s a bit mind blowing, Matthews, Best, Charlton, Blanchflower, Hurst, Busby, Law, Graeme Murty, the list goes on.

It doesn’t get much better than that, and seemed a fitting way to end the 2005/6 Championship winning season.

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