2007 and the Premier League might feel a long time ago to Reading fans, but there's no denying that during their brief stint in the top flight, they were a match for anyone. Read about what it was like to watch James Harper wrap up a win against Liverpool first-hand.
Reading FC briefly had a team as good as any other in the country. It was the shortest of golden ages. For me, this goal was the peak of that golden age. Sadly, it was also probably the end the golden age. After this goal, we won 5 of our next 21 games and ended up relegated from the Premiership by a goal difference of 3. We may never reach these heights again and due to living abroad I haven’t seen a goal at the Madejski Stadium since.
The top 4 were firmly in place. No one was beating the top 4. Nothing got the crowd going like playing a top 4 side. Liverpool were unbeaten in the league all season. But we were winning. A dodgy penalty to us. Gerrard equaliser. Then Kevin Doyle ‘hairing’ the ball in after a perfect free kick from Nicky Shorey. We were winning but no one could believe it. Reading don’t beat the Top 4. Reading aren’t supposed to even be in the Premiership. Gerrard rattles the crossbar from 25 yards. Normal service is about to resume.
Then it happened. Doyle plays the ball just past the half way line on the left to Bobby Convey. I love Bobby Convey. Under the pressure of two Liverpool players he dinks the ball forward into space. It really, really is the most perfect little ball you could imagine. As I said, I love Bobby Convey.
Watching the goal back still gets me going. It honestly makes me cry. Years of failure and tedium forgotten in a moment. That was it as well. The golden age was over.
But, what’s this? James Harper, sideways passer and finger pointer extraordinaire is running onto the ball. A full 45 yards from goal. He has John Arne Riise on his back. He gets a little bit in front of Riise with a great touch. He is one on one. I’m on my feet. We are all on our feet. Thousands of people willing him on. Pushing that ball towards the net. Is he gonna hit it? What’s he gonna do?
He is yards from Reina. What’s he gonna do.? He glides past Reina. He is actually going to score. He is actually going to score. He slots it in with his left. 3-1. 3-1. 3-1. We are beating Liverpool 3-1. Liverpool. When beating them meant something. No one can believe it. The fans, the players, Harper looks in shock.
Watching the goal back still gets me going. It honestly makes me cry. Years of failure and tedium forgotten in a moment. That was it as well. The golden age was over. Doyle stopped scoring. Convey’s knee never fully recovered. Hunt, Shorey and Harper all left. I haven’t seen a goal at the Madejski since. But, in many ways, it doesn’t really matter, as it happened. It actually happened and I’ll never forget it.
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