Martin O’Neill: “Reading are a team that have shown a lot of character simply to get into this league.
“Last season they went up as champions, and that said a lot about them because the previous season they’d suffered the awful disappointment of missing out on promotion in the play-off final.
“When you get that close, and fail to win promotion, it can really knock the stuffing out of a side.
“But they came back the following season to win the Championship, and that suggests there’s a resilience there among the coaches and the players.
“Newly-promoted sides always look to start the new season well in the Premier League and look to get some momentum going.
“But if that doesn’t happen, then you need a strength and resilience to keep going, and I think Reading have shown they’ve got that.”Saturday 2nd February 2013 Barclays Premier League QPR V Norwich 12:45 Arsenal V Stoke 15:00 Everton V Aston Villa 15:00 Newcastle V Chelsea 15:00 Reading V Sunderland 15:00 West Ham V Swansea 15:00 Wigan V Southampton 15:00 Fulham V Man Utd 17:30 Sunday 3rd February 2013 Barclays Premier League West Brom V Tottenham 13:30 Man City V Liverpool 16:00 READING - The Madejski What Is It Like For Visiting Supporters?
Away fans are located in one end of the stadium, in the South Stand, where up to 4,300 can be accommodated (although the normal allocation is 2,100). The facilities in this stand are good with plenty of leg room and the views of the pitch are superb, as there is good height between rows. Away fans can really make some noise in this stand, so make the most of it. The atmosphere is also boosted by a drummer in the home section. Entrance to the stadium is by ticket only and if tickets are still available for away supporters then they can purchase them on the day at the South Stand ticket office located between gates 9 & 10. You enter the stadium by inserting your ticket into a ticket reader which scans the bar code on the ticket and illuminates a green light to go in.
I first visited this stadium shortly after it opened and then a few times in recent seasons. When I first went in 1998 I truly believed that it was a fantastic stadium. Subsequently after going back and with a number of other new stadiums being built during that time, the Madejski seems just like another nice functional ground. Considering that as it also lacks character and that essential 'wow' factor and coupled with the fact that there are few facilities around the stadium such as pubs for away fans, then there is not a lot to 'write home about'. Add to that, that the security staff outside the away entrance seem to be rather over the top which sets the tone of the visit. I have also received reports of fans not being admitted into the away section for being (in the opinion of the stewards) 'too drunk'. Where To Eat & Drink?
There are no pubs as such near to the stadium. However I did locate a Holiday Inn which was around a 15 minute walk away. The hotel had a small bar inside it, but then attached had a larger Irish themed separate bar area, called Callaghans. This bar had Sky Television, but as you would expect was very crowded with away fans and served drinks at what I can only term as 'hotel prices'. Across the road from the hotel is a very good fish & chip shop. To find this hotel, leave the M4 at Junction 11 and take the A33 towards Reading, turn right at the first roundabout into Imperial Way. Go down this road and you will come to the hotel on your left. You can also park there at a cost of £7 per car. There is also street parking to be found in this area. On my last visit the Holiday Inn was mobbed, so I went in search of another pub. Passing the Holiday Inn on my left I turned left onto Basingstoke Road and walked up over a hill to find a pub on the right called 'The World turned upside down.' This chain pub had a mixture of home and away fans and also was popular for food. From the pub it is around a 15 minute walk to the stadium.
Dave Harris adds; 'If you arrive early, then you could drive to Three Mile Cross where there are a couple of good pubs to be found. Come off the motorway at J11 and head away from the stadium (signposted A33 Basingstoke). After 200 yards take the first exit at the roundabout into Three Mile Cross'.
Alcohol is available inside the stadium, where Courage Bitter & Fosters Lager (£3.50 per pint) are on offer. On the concourse, which can get very busy the food outlets offer a range of Shire Pies and Pasties, including the Chicken Balti Pie, all at £2.60, as well as rollover hot dogs at £3. The club offer a 'Pie & Pint deal' for £6.
Next to the ground on a Retail Park are the following food outlets; McDonalds, KFC & Pizza Hut. Otherwise it may be an idea, especially if you are making the journey by train, to drink in the centre of Reading before the game. Dave McKerchar adds; 'The Three Guineas on the station approach has been designated as an away fans pub. It offers a range of eight real ales and is listed in the CAMRA good beer guide. It has a big screen Sky TV and it also does food'. Will Butler a visiting Norwich City fan tells me; 'We were warmly welcomed at the Three Guineas Pub next to the train station. It has Sky Sports, and serves decent grub. The only thing they ask when you enter the pub is that you take your hat off!' How To Get There By Car & Where To Park
If you are travelling along the M4 from the west you can see the stadium on your left. Leave the M4 at Junction 11, bear left on to the A33 relief road which leads you directly to the stadium. The Madejski Complex is well signposted from Junction 11.
Kevin Gray informs me; 'Please note that as a recent visitor to Reading it is worth advising away fans that getting off the M4 at Junction 11, westbound can be a bit of a pain. On match days a long tail back can start on the motorway as far as one mile away from this junction. This should be approached with caution and patience. As kick off approaches it can take 40 minutes to complete the journey from the back of the Junction 11 queue to the designated parking sites. So allow extra time for your journey'. Car ParkingIf you arrive early enough then there is street parking to be had along Imperial Way. To find this, leave the M4 at Junction 11 and take the A33 towards Reading. After you come off M4 and head towards the stadium on the A33, turn right at the first roundabout into Imperial Way. There is also some parking at the Old Depot by the Courage Brewery on the A33/Imperial Way roundabout at a cost of £7 per car. Bon Hale a visiting Sheffield United fan informs me; 'We parked in at a warehouse car park located on Acre Road at a cost of £5. Passing the Madejski on your left, follow the A33 for about half a mile, then turn back on yourself, passing Bennet Road on your left, and then take the next left into Acre Road. You will see sign "match parking", where there is a large warehouse on the left. It is gated with security. It is then only a short walk to the ground from here. We also spotted another matchday car park in Bennet Road but this cost £10.'
There is some limited parking available at the stadium itself for a cost of £8, but it can be a bit of lengthy process to get out of the car park at the end of the game. Richard Buckingham adds; 'You can also park on the site of the now demolished greyhound track, close to the stadium. From the M4 at Junction 11 take the A33 towards Reading town centre. Follow the dual carriageway past the stadium and McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut outlets, then look for the 'Alternative Parking' signs ahead. On the left you will reach a small slip road into the parking site (which incidentally is an official stadium car par). It is also £8 to park there. It is stewarded and has the advantage of a quick post-match exit either back to J11 or towards Reading. The car park is a 5-10 minute walk away from the ground.'
Mark Sugar informs me; 'Don't park in the nearby Business Park, unless there is an individual unit charging for matchday parking. You may find yourself with a parking ticket if you do, or even clamped'.
Alternatively the Club operate a 'Park & Ride' scheme at Foster Wheeler at Shinfield Park. This costs for the return shuttle bus; Adults £3.50, Children £2. From Junction 11 of the M4, take the B3270 towards Earley and then follow the signs to 'Football Car Park C'. The car park opens at 1pm for Saturday afternoon games with the first bus departing at 1:30pm. Supporters should not attempt to park in the residential estate next to Foster Wheeler. As there is a residents only parking scheme is in place as well as an active clamping company in operation.
Reading railway station is situated just over three miles away from the Madejski Stadium. Probably the easiest way to get to the ground is to catch the F1 'Football Special' bus, which leaves just down from the nearby bus station, commencing at 1pm for Saturday afternoon games. As you come out of the main station entrance go straight ahead and after a short distance turn right into Garrard Street (this is a small side road that normally contains taxis waiting to move off to the railway station). The bus station is down the end of this road on the right. Dave Stuttard a visiting Leicester City fan informs me; 'I would recommend getting in the bus queue no later than 45 minutes before kick off as all football traffic goes down the same dual carriageway to the stadium'. The fare is £4 return for adults and £2.50 for children and normally takes about fifteen minutes to get to the ground. A single fare costs £3.50 for adults and £2 for juniors, so don't lose that ticket! Please also have the correct fare in hand as the drivers do not give out change. Paul Willems a visiting Bristol City supporter adds; 'the bus from the station is good provided that away fans do not cause any trouble. If you do then the buses (quite rightly, editor) refuse to pick you up after the game. I have a bitter experience of this, when the slowest police escort in history by Thames Valley Police got me back to the station at 7.30 pm!'
Nicholas Small provides the following walking directions from the railway station to the ground:'I would estimate that the ground is about three miles away from Reading Station, and that unless you walk quite quickly, the journey could take over an hour: Leaving the station, head straight up the road in front of you, crossing over Friar Street onto Queen Victoria Street and heading towards the town centre. Upon reaching Broad Street, you will find yourself opposite the John Lewis store. Cross and head down a narrow passageway (Chain Street) which runs down the right hand side of John Lewis. Soon, you reach a churchyard, which you can cross, bearing right, to the corner of Gun Street and Bridge Street. Cross to the other side of Bridge Street and continue down, turning right into Fobney Street. At the end here, you will soon encounter a couple of blue footpath/cyclepath signs, which point the way to the Madejski Stadium. These will lead you down the left hand footpath alongside the busy A329, which becomes the A33 after about 1200 yards. Keep following this road and eventually you will come to a roundabout. Take the road ahead and continue walking along the roadside. You will briefly walk along a dirt track by the roadside as the A33 crosses a waterway, before walking down the bank to the towpath. The towpath now continues straight ahead towards the stadium, still following the blue cycle path signs. You can't miss it from here, but it is still at least a further 15 minutes walk away'.