Video of the Day: Bolton Wanderers vs Reading, May 1995
Fairy tales come in all different colours of the rainbow, but sometimes they don’t necessarily have happy endings. Indeed, sometimes two different fairy tales collide and one of them has to miss out. In Division One – the second tier – of the Football League during the second half of the 1994/95 season, there was really only one story in town. In December 1994, the Reading manager Mark McGhee, then perhaps the most highly rated outside the Premier League, suddenly upped and left Reading, the club that had given him his break in management, for the brights of the Premier League and Leicester City. Mick Gooding and Jimmy Quinn were appointed as joint player-managers to replace him.
This was an exceptionally difficult season to get out of Division One. Due to the Premier League contracting back to twenty clubs, there was only one automatic promotion place available and it was Reading who grabbed that second place position, setting themselves up with a shot of getting into the top tier of English football for the first time in the club’s history. After beating Tranmere Rovers over two legs in the semi-final, they were due an appointment at Wembley to play Bolton Wanderers. Bolton had a story to tell of their own. As recently as eight years earlier the club had been in the Fourth Division, but two promotions had taken them back to Division One two years earlier, and they’d beaten Wolverhampton Wanderers over in their semi-final.
It was unfortunate for Reading that they couldn’t hold onto the lead that would have taken the club up, and it was eleven years before this corner of Berkshire did get to experience for the first time. As for Mark McGhee… well, he couldn’t keep Leicester in the Premier League, and in December 1995 – less than twelve months after leaving Elm Park for Filbert Street – he was on his way again, this time to the moneyed Woleverhampton Wanderers. After three years at Molineux, though, he was sacked, having never taken that club into the top flight either. Indeed, Mark McGhee hasn’t been back to the Premier League since leaving Leicester, twenty-one years ago. Commentary for this play-off final from 1995 comes from Brian Moore.
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