27th October 2007
The Mad Stad was opened in August 1998, and was the creation of Reading owner and multi millionaire John Madejski, the man may have a bit of a dodgy nappa*, but earned his fortune as the founder of (if your buying a car, Britain’s biggest by far is..) Auto Trader magazine. The club were struggling in Division Two(Division 3 in old money) at the time of the grounds construction, but the building of an ambitious Premier League type stadium was rewarded when the Royals won promotion in 2002 and reached the football summit after winning the Championship(Division 2) in 2006.
The ground was built at a cost of £50m upon the site of a former household dump, surrounding the stadium there’s metallic posts topped with cylinder discs, these act as methane gas vents which control the built up of underground gases, the exterior of the ground is silver coloured with the club crest on a red background in each corner. There’s the Premier Wall where supporters can have their names engraved and behind the East Stand is The Jazz Café, outside the venue is a list of the artists that have appeared there, I recognised all the names listed which included amongst others the Average White Band, The Real Thing and The Stylistics, but I don’t know of a group called Hot Choco Ate.(see web album)
The ground has a capacity of 24250 and has three similar stands of a single tier of blue seats, the West Stand has two tiers divided by 28 executive boxes and a different look with a curved roof and has the 4 star Millennium Madejski Hotel behind. I was seated with the rest of the away fans in the South Stand, sitting in front of the big screen in the far corner, the view of the pitch was first class and there’s two steps between each row of seats which means ample leg room.
This was my first visit to Reading since January 1990 that was back in the old Elm Park days, the clubs home for the previous 102 years. My vague memory of the 3rd round FA Cup tie being a brace from Mark McGhee and an injury time equaliser from Michael Gilkes to make it 3-3, meaning forking out again for the replay at St. James’ Park (won 4-1) and being hit by a snow blizzard from Scotch Corner on the way home with myself and Jimmy Jimmy getting soaked walking home after the coach dropped us off, and to make matters worse we just missing last orders.
It was an early start, departing at 6.30am for the long drive south for myself, Ian and his son Lee, for Lee it was a special occasion, being his 100th ground, so today he was giving his pin badge and squad number 79. My first memory of seeing Lee at a football match was when he was only 3 years old, on his Dads shoulders after being chucked out of the Fulwell End at Roker Park and being escorted amongst others around the cinder track to the safety of the Roker away end, as he’s grown up Ian’s took Lee around the country and throughout Europe watching the Toon , now a young man of 20, he has now achieved his first century of grounds, like myself and Ian beforehand all watching United.
With the help of Ian’s comedy sat-nav we arrived in Reading at 11am, prior to departure I found a free place to park that was within walking distance of the ground as the club advised us to park in Reading town centre, then get the shuttle service to the stadium. As we tried to locate the street where we wanted to park it was then that the comedy sat-nav really kicked in, after an hour of touring the streets of Reading, stopping at red lights for an eternity and one or two cases of road rage from Ian at the wheel, we finally found our parking spot at 12.15pm, how the posh lady who navigates our path manages to keeps a degree of decorum and not burst out laughing, I’ll never know.
We arrived at the turnstiles at the away section, where we were frostily greeting by the Reading stewards, there attitude was of a modern day Gestapo; everyone was searched thoroughly, but thankfully without the inconvenience and embarrassment of an anal exam, if you had been drinking you were flatly refused admission with each steward congratulating each other when a fan was rejected, what a bunch of barstewards(misprint) they are. Inside the ground there’s no alcohol for sale, even though it’s advertised on the pricing boards, you obviously can’t smoke, but the other three sections of the stadium conveniently allow you to pop outside for a quick tab. We were unable to have a punt on the game as there were no betting facilities, so three Geordie vices of drinking, smoking and betting that aren’t allowed, hence “don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?” Only goody two shoes Adam Ant would feel at home here.
The game itself was a poor affair, Newcastle’s negative tactics of no width and a cramped midfield meant chances were limited on both sides, a great strike from Dave Kitson on 56 minutes opened the game up and United were fortunate to grab an equaliser in the 76th minute when an Emre free kick wide on the right was fumbled home from Michael Duberry to score his second Newcastle goal(he scored for us in his Leeds United days) this spurred the Magpies on in search of a winner, but that was to come at the other end, when substitute Shane Long took advantage of a hesitant Toon defence to score with his first touch of the ball, so overall a fair result as the performance from the visitors was simply not good enough with Reading worthy of the precious 3 points, another disappointing away day for Newcastle and a 280 mile trek home to look forward to, but full marks to Ian on another quality driving display, as I was home just before 10pm, nicely timed for a few cans of beer and Match of the Day.
The ground is known as the Mad Stad, this is suitably named as the madness of the club stewarding with their small town small mind mentality, bully-boy tactics and their mindset still in 70’s-80’s football culture making this ground visit a gloomy experience. The local populace of Reading were friendly enough and I don’t have a problem with the Reading supporters and R.F.C, they have a lovely little stadium, but it’s one I’m afraid I’ll never return to.
*Translation -Dodgy nappa -someone with a bogus looking haircut/style.
Ground no.150 Madejski Stadium – Matchday Web album (14pictures)