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Royals fans still remember the balmy record-breaking days of 1985

Sunny days in October are making a welcome change this month as weather watchers happily inform us we haven't had it so good since 1985.

But fans of Reading FC have more than one reason to fondly remember those balmy days of 26 years ago.

That's because it was Ian Branfoot's Royals that were making things equally hot for their opponents in Division 3.

Not since Bill Nicholson's legendary double-winning Tottenham side of 1960-61 had a team gone through the first 11 games of a Football League season with a perfect record of 11 straight wins.

That all changed on October 5, 1985 when a close range finish by Steve Wood earned Reading a 1-0 win over Bolton Wanderers at Elm Park to equal Spurs' impressive start.

Tailed off 

The irony is that Manchester United had also made a blistering start in 1985-86 and could have equalled Spurs' Division 1 achievement on the same day.

But a 1-1 draw at Luton put a halt to the march of Ron Atkinson's men and the Red Devils' form tailed off as they ended the season only fourth to Kenny Dalglish's own double-winning Liverpool side.

There were no such problems for Reading as they eyed a new record when the travelled down the M4 and over the Severn to play Newport County on October 12. Convoys of coaches and cars from across Berkshire headed westwards on an unseasonally warm autumn day.

Despite an early injury for leading scorer Trevor Senior, Royals refused to allow the determined Welsh side to knock them out of their stride.

The deadlock was broken later in the first half when Stuart Beavon drove past County 'keeper Mark Kendall to send Reading's fans into raptures at Somerton Park.

Bitter-sweet

It must have been a bitter-sweet moment for former Spurs midfielder Beavon, who was one of Nicholson's last schoolboy signings at White Hart Lane before the maestro retired from management in 1974.

And what made it even more intriguing was that Kendall signed for Spurs at about the same time!

Substitute Kevin Bremner sealed a 2-0 win for Reading with a powerful second half header. The next day pictures of Branfoot and goalscorers Beavon and Bremner adorned national papers as Reading's achievement was given star billing.

But the Reading juggernaut still hadn't finished rolling as, the following Saturday, an overhead kick by Senior earned a 1-0 win at Lincoln to make it 13 successive wins.

Struggling Wolves surprisingly ended Royals' run four days later by holding them to a 2-2 draw at Elm Park.

But Reading continued to sweep all before them that season.

Almost out of sight

By the end of 1985 their record was a highly impressive; played 24, won 20, drawn two, lost two and they were almost out of sight at the top of Division 3.

Despite losing their way a bit in the New Year - including a 6-0 thumping against Walsall at Fellows Park - Royals somehow maintained their lead and finished the term seven points clear of runners-up Plymouth Argyle.

That day arrived on May Day Bank Holiday when Reading celebrated lifting the Division 3 title with a 2-0 home win against Doncaster Rovers.

Both goals were scored by Senior, who finished the season with 31 in league and cup competitions.

Amazingly, he was the only Royals player to reach double figures as Dean Horrix finished with eight while Bremner got just seven.

Seal of approval

Senior and his Reading colleagues were given the seal of approval by wheelchair-bound Frank Richardson, one of the last survivors of the Reading side that won Division 3 South exactly 60 years earlier.

Branfoot's Reading vintage came 13th in their first season back in Division 2, but returned to Division 3 the following term.

The only thing to ease the pain of relegation in 1988 was lifting the Simod Cup at Wembley after beating Luton 4-1.

Michael Gilkes, Neil Smillie, Mick Tait and a Beavon penalty did the damage for Royals that afternoon.

But the team of 1985-86 was breaking up fast and Reading fans had to wait another six years before returning to the second tier.

Distant memory 

Although most of the players from that era are now a distant memory the name Beavon may still resonate with many supporters.

That's because the Reading player is the middle part of a professional footballing dynasty that spans three generations. His dad Cyril appeared for Wolves and Oxford United, while son Stuart jnr is currently plying his trade at Wycombe Wanderers.

Royals moved out of Elm Park in 1998 - their home for 102 years - and are now enjoying themselves at Madejski Stadium.

It was at their new abode that they set an equally impressive record of 106 points in a Championship season under Steve Coppell in 2005-6.

But, like in the 1980s, Reading couldn't sustain their form at a higher level and were back down again in two years.

Royals fans will now be hoping they won't have to wait so long for a return to the Premiership promised land.

Otherwise memories of 2006 and 1986 might be all they have to keep themselves warm as October sunshine makes way for the winter frosts.

By Clive Baskerville

Clive Baskerville worked as a sports writer on the Reading Evening Post for 20 years and reported on Reading FC from 1989-1999. His time as the Post's Royals reporter covered the installation of John Madejski as chairman in 1990 and the move to the stadium that bears his name in 1998. Clive watched his first Reading match in 1964 and still regularly visits the Madejski Stadium for home Saturday matches. He can be contacted at clivebaskerville@talktalk.net


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