There are currently four ex-City players in the Reading squad, so it feels as opportune a moment as any to remind ourselves of a random quintet of other players who featured for both the Tigers and the Royals…
1: Stephen Hunt
Probably Reading’s most notorious player of the modern era simply for one challenge on a goalkeeper that defined his, and the goalkeeper’s, subsequent careers. Hunt’s knee went in on a diving Petr Čech during a match between Reading and Chelsea in 2006, leaving the keeper with a depressed skull fracture. It led to long recriminations from Chelsea fans (and a raging Jose Mourinho) and Čech has played every game since with a protective helmet. Hunt always denied any malicious intent but his infamy was sealed at that point.
He joined City in the summer of 2009 after Reading’s relegation and started brilliantly, scoring the first goal of the whole Premier League season at, of all places, Chelsea. For long periods, the chippy, skilful Irishman was City’s best player in a difficult, hurtful season and even when he was ruled out for the last couple of months with injury, the general incompetence elsewhere in the side meant he was still voted player of the year by fans.
His parting shot was crossing his crutches above his head to the East Stand during the lap of “honour” after the final game of the season, and again he moved to maintain a Premier League place after City’s demotion, joining Wolves. The recipient of 39 caps for the Republic of Ireland, he also played for Ipswich and Coventry before retiring last year.
2: Mick Tait
He’s on a historic list and will never leave it, but it’s fair to say attacking midfielder Mick Tait didn’t live up to expectations after he joined in a club record £150,000 deal from Carlisle in September 1979.
The manager who signed him, Ken Houghton, got the sack three months later and replacement Mike Smith wasn’t interested, happily getting two thirds of the money back in the summer of 1980 when Tait joined Portsmouth.
Tait was, however, a dogged individual and played senior football for 22 years, starting with Oxford as a 16 year old and ending with Hartlepool at 42. In between, he played for eight other clubs, and after seven years and two divisional titles at Pompey, joined Reading in 1987.
He was in the side that won the 1988 Simod Cup, quite famously for such a low profile competition, when having already dumped other top tier teams out in earlier rounds, they beat Luton Town 4-1 at Wembley. Tait, playing up front, scored one of the goals.
When Tait stopped playing for Hartlepool to become their manager in 1998, he had played 760 league games, the 13th most selected performer in English football history. The fewest he played for one club was 33 – at City.
3: Steve Swales
One of the footballing sons of Whitby, which feels like it could be quite an exclusive group, Swales began his career down the coast at Scarborough before heading south to Reading, where he played semi-regularly through injuries during a decline for the Royals.
A change of manager meant he was freed after three years, and he returned to Yorkshire for the remainder of his career, starting with a move to City under Warren Joyce, slotting in at left back and making sure in the process that Gregor Rioch would not need to darken black and amber doors again.
Joyce’s rebuilt defence included heroes of the future like Jon Whitney and Justin Whittle, so Swales was left out of the glory of the Great Escape a bit, but he proved to be a hardworking and consistent player.
Injuries took their toll afterwards and eventually he left in 2001. He went to Halifax Town but suffered relegation from the league the following year, and remained in non-league thereafter with a spell at hometown club Whitby Town, followed by stints nearby at Pickering and Bridlington. He now works on oil rigs.
4: Dennis Butler
Long-serving full back of the great 60s side who joined City from Chelsea in 1963 and spent six years supporting and protecting unrelated namesake Ian down the left flank as the Tigers ran riot up front, peaking with the exceptional Third Division title win of 1966.
It was said about Butler that he was so athletic and well balanced, he could run just as quickly backwards as he could forwards, a handy trait to have given that this attack-at-all-costs City era often meant the defence was left a bit wide open when possession was coughed up.
He made his debut on the opening day of 1962/63, missing only four games that season, and went largely unchallenged for the number 3 shirt until a spell out with a rare injury in 1968 allowed Don Beardsley an impressive run in the side. Butler’s last game for City was a 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough in November 1969, before he joined Reading. He stayed there for nearly five years, making nearly 200 senior appearances.
5: Liam Rosenior
Outstanding, conscientious right back who could well win any vote for the most successful freebie City has ever acquired. After making his name with Bristol City and Fulham, Rosenior joined Reading in 2007 and played Premier League football at the Madejski Stadium, before falling out of favour after relegation in 2008. He joined City in October 2010 as a free agent.
Instantly, it was obvious he was a fine footballer, comfortable at right back as City regrouped and learned to like themselves again under Nigel Pearson. Rosenior continued to excel under Nick Barmby and Steve Bruce, especially when the latter signed Ahmed Elmohamady and the two formed a superb partnership down the right flank. Sadly, the change to a 3-5-2 meant that Rosenior either played out of position or not at all, but even then he continued to perform as an uncomplaining squad member, and his stint at left wing back (including in the FA Cup final) was impressive.
In a move that upset a lot of fans, Bruce controversially released him in the summer of 2015 after 144 league games and he joined Brighton, who are now in the Premier League, although fitness issues and competition for places has meant Rosenior has found it difficult to play regularly. Such is his standing in the game, he is now a columnist for the Guardian, and everyone, including his nan, knows he should still be playing for City.