Admitted to Football League: 1920
Second Division 2
Reading have waited longer than most for their moment in the sun. In 2006 they ended a 135-year wait to play in the English top flight and, although they only lasted two seasons, they returned again under Brian McDermott in 2012.
The club was founded on Christmas Day 1871 after a meeting organised by Joseph Edward Sydenham, who would become the club's first Honorary Secretary. They were founder members of the Southern League in 1894 and moved to Elm Park two years later; it was their home until they switched to the Madejski Stadium in 1998.
Reading were not elected to the Football League in 1920, but seven years earlier went on a famously successful tour of Italy. They beat AC Milan 5-0, the champions Pro Vercelli 6-0 and the national team 2-0. The respected newspaper Corriere della Sera said that "without doubt, Reading FC are the finest foreign team seen in Italy".
The club was in Division Three or Division Three South from 1920 to 1971, bar five years in Division Two between 1926 and 1931. After three short spells in Division Four in the 1970s and 1980s – during which, in 1978-79, the goalkeeper Steve Death set a new English record of 1103 minutes without conceding - they finally escaped Division Three through a different door, being promoted to the second tier in 1986. They had started that promotion campaign with 13 consecutive wins, which is still a Football League record.
They only lasted two seasons, although relegation in 1988 was tempered slightly by a crushing 4-1 victory over top-flight Luton in the final of the Simod Cup. Reading had beaten four other Division One sides, including Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest, on the way to the final.
The club went up to the second tier again in 1994 – and were so nearly promoted to the Premier League at the first attempt. Reading finished second in the table but were not promoted automatically because of the need to reduce the Premier League from 22 teams to 20. Instead they went into the play-offs and reached the final against Bolton. They were leading 2-0 when Stuart Lovell had a penalty saved; the match ended in a heartbreaking 4-3 defeat.
They finally reached the promised land in 2006 under the management of Steve Coppell. Reading were promoted in spectacular style, winning the title with a haul of 99 goals and a record 106 points. In their first Premier League game they came from 2-0 down to beat Middlesbrough, the start of a memorable season in which they took the league by storm and finished eighth. Second-season syndrome bit hard, however, and Reading were relegated on the final day of the 2007-08 campaign.
After a short spell under Brendan Rodgers, Reading gave the manager's job to McDermott. He oversaw a famous FA Cup victory at Anfield in 2009-10 and then secured a joyously unexpected promotion to the Premier League in 2011-12, again as champions. Having waited so long last time, only to be relegated in their second season in the top flight, you suspect Reading will savour their return to the Premier League more than most.