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Saturday, 1st April 2017 Kick-off 15:00
Thursday, 30th Mar 2017 17:56 by Tim Whelan
Our game at Reading is on Saturday with a 5.30pm kick-off, and yet again we are being televised by Massimo’s very good friends at Sky Sports. The Madejski stadium is on the southern edge of Reading, near the M4.
Out of town stadia are supposed to benefit those who drive to matches, but it always seems to me that fans simply get stuck in more traffic due to a higher proportion of the crowd coming by car. It has been known for tailbacks of up to a mile to build up on the M4 on matchdays, queuing to leave the motorway at junction 11.
And that’s on a good day. On Saturday the M4 will be closed between junctions 12 and 13, so the recommended route is to avoid this section by taking the M1 and then the M25 round to the M4, to approach junction 11 from the east.
Don’t be tempted to park in any of the nearby industrial units (unless they offer you the chance to pay for parking) or any streets where a residents only scheme is in force, as there are some very active clamping firms around on matchdays. After the game the cars in official car parks close to the stadium are held back for around 20 minutes, to allow pedestrians to disperse.
According to Reading's official site, the best place for away fans to park is the 'Foster Wheeler' in Shinfield Park, which has 500 spaces. Parking is free, but it involves a short bus ride to and from the stadium, at a cost of £4 for adults and £2.50 for children. To get there you need to leave the M4 at J11, then take exit towards B3270 (signposted Earley) and follow yellow signs to "Match Reading FC Park & Ride".
The main railway station is just over three miles away from the Stadium, and you can get an F1 'Football Special' bus, which leaves just down from the Railway Station on Station Hill. The return fare is £5 for adults and £3 for children, but you’ll have to have the correct change. And make sure you behave on the bus on the way to the stadium, as the service has been known to be withdrawn when fans are a bit naughty, leaving them with a long walk back!
For some years there have been plans to build a rail new railway station on the line to Basingstoke at the point where it passes close to the stadium at the nearby business centre Green Park. At one stage this scheme was put on hold, but the latest is that it’s due for completion some time in 2018, but might not have any trains stopping there due to delays in electrifying the line! So this might come in handy if we are still playing Reading in the future, but don’t hold your breath.
As with most other out of town stadia, you will struggle to find many decent pubs or takeaways anywhere near. There are a couple of mobile bars just outside the East Stand, and you could try the expensive beer at Holiday Inn, which is about a 15 min walk from the stadium in Imperial way, and is signposted from the second roundabout off the M4. You can also park there for £7 and there is a good fish and chip shop on the other side of the road. Also recommended is the 'World turned upside down' on Basingstoke Road.
The best bet elsewhere in Reading is the Royal Albion pub on Oxford Road, otherwise you could grab a pint in the town centre and get the bus from the station. 'The Three Guineas on the station approach has been designated as an away fans pub, which is good news for real ale enthusiasts, as it’s listed in the CAMRA good beer guide. Alcohol is usually served inside the away end of the stadium.
It would be best to get your food in the town centre as well, and there are a couple of takeaways opposite the railway station. The only eating options near the stadium are several horrible American multinationals in the retail park, Yorkshire's very own overpriced Harry Ramsden's opposite the Holiday Inn, and a few burger vans.
Reading's new Stadium was opened in August 1998 at a cost of more than £50m, and millionaire Chairman John Madejski modestly named it in honour of himself. It has been voted the best ground outside the premiership on several occasions and offers a totally unrestricted view from every seat, with plenty of leg-room as well. It was built on the site of a former household waste dump and I'm told that the metallic posts topped with cylindrical discs surrounding the stadium are methane gas vents, built to prevent an underground build-up of gases! It even has a four-star hotel.
The capacity is 24,200 and at the time it opened the club proudly boasted it was the largest sporting arena in the south-east outside London, though it has since lost this distinction to the St.Mary's stadium in Southampton. The away fans are accommodated in the South Stand, where the normal allocation is 2,100, but they can offer 4,200 for bigger clubs. So it’s a bit strange that we’ve got 3,600 tickets for this game, which we’ve managed to completely sell out.
The stewards in the away end have been known to be a bit over-zealous, and on occasions they have even refused admission to any fans they think are too drunk. Tickets cost £20 for adults and £13, £10 or £5 for different types of concessions, and the Leeds end has now completely sold out.
The club also has planning permission to extend the ground, the east, north and south stands, and have already laid the foundations, though they can't extend the west stand due to the hotel behind it. This would increase the capacity to 38,000, but it’s not clear exactly when they intend to start this project. As with most of these plans by various clubs it will depend on them getting into the Premier League, but it could happen.
Some of this stuff came from www.footballgroundguide.com .
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