The Rivermoor Stadium and Reading City FC logo

The Rivermoor Stadium, Reading

Reading City FC vs. Brackley Town Saints FC
The Hellenic Football League Premier Division

There's a darkness on the edge of town. On the outskirts of West Reading, there lies a ground. Far from The Oracle, Scours Lane it is down. The home of a team that is called Reading Town...errr City (goddammit).

Exterior of The Rivermoor Stadium in Reading
In a dark, dark town there was a dark, dark street and in the dark, dark street there was a dark, dark ground...

Wasn't that beautiful? Anyway, Bruce Springsteen once spoke of "wanting things that can only be found, in the darkness on the edge of town." Since The Boss has never played at the Reading Festival, one could assume he's never stepped foot in this fair town before, and we can therefore ascertain that the song isn't describing the dimly lit palace known as Scours Lane The Rivermoor Stadium.

Was he talking about scouring (heh, get it?) the fixtures, looking for a midweek game well down the leagues in order to get his latest fix of groundhopping? Probably not. All of these suggestions would be a ludicrous thing for him to sing about on the title track of one of his many multi-platinum albums.

The main stand at The Rivermoor Stadium, Reading
Some folks are born into a good life. Let's hope this man hasn't lost his money or lost his wife.

In fact, he was telling the story of a hard luck loser, of whom in his world "no one asks any questions, or looks too long in your face." That hard luck loser could easily describe the non league football club that shares a town, living in the shadows of a far more successful team.

In this story, the role of the hard luck loser will be played by Reading City Football Club. A small club in the Hellenic League Premier Division, who nobody seems to ask any questions of (despite that obvious and glaring issue with the name) and, judging by the amount of people at this game, nobody wants to look too long in their face either.

Reading City vs. Brackley Town Saints about to kick off at The Rivermoor Stadium
It's all about to kick off.

This is the second year since Highmoor-IBIS decided they'd had enough of sounding like a musty old, mid-budget hotel, and took on the moniker of their home town instead, in what I assume was a smart decision to highlight to the many people not going to their games that Reading does indeed have another team you also don't have to get behind.

Ignoring the side at the Madejski Stadium, which many people often do (you'd be forgiven for thinking the Championship only had 23 teams given the way it's covered in the media), Reading has had no other football clubs in the pyramid by name since Reading Town quietly fell by the wayside in 2016.

Behind the goal at The Rivermoor Stadium
Wayward shots down the other end will almost certainly end up in a black hole of darkness.

That same Reading Town were the original tenants of this stadium formerly known as Scours Lane, and made life very difficult for Highmoor-IBIS when it came to choosing a new name for the club. Instead of opting for literally anything else in the world (personally I wish we'd go more like minor league baseball with non league team names. C'mon Reading Fickle Biscuits!), I had to admire them for future proofing their name once the Queen, or more likely, King William V (definitely not you, Charles) eventually grants Reading city status. I mean come on, the old bat passed us over for Chelmsford last time out?! Let's just build a cathedral and be done with it, okay?

I was at the inaugural Reading City game last season and was impressed at the attendance being somewhere around the 300s. The club did a good job of generating intrigue and interest around the club in its early days, especially given the fact that Highmoor-IBIS were generally pretty awful in the times I'd seen them previously and no more than a handful of people bothered to show.

Floodlight reflection in a puddle at The Rivermoor Stadium
If a banana duct taped to a wall can be considered art, then so can this.

A 4-0 win was the way to announce yourself to the league and it seemed like the moment had finally arrived where Reading might finally be able to house another successful team (if a stream of lower mid-table finishes whilst boring the pants off everyone and driving away some of your fanbase can be considered successful).

There has never been a better time for someone to come in and provide a low cost alternative in this town. With attendances down at the Madejski Stadium almost permanently, people want to watch something that doesn't make paint drying seem as exciting as an extreme sport (I'd know, because I was one of those people who left for a few years).

A Reading City free kick at The Rivermoor Stadium
Like ghosts in the night.

And seeing how people seem to complain about how much they're against modern football with such regularity that makes you think they just hate watch it like people watching Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, non league football should be in a prime position to benefit.

Unfortunately it's not always as easy as that. After a disastrous second half of last season, it has seemed to have proven difficult to maintain the interest levels in a town where Reading are already pretty much only everyone's second favourite team to whoever is good in the Premier League at the time.

Sheltered stand at The Rivermoor Stadium
The sinister bike shed looking structure that's really too far away from the pitch to offer both shelter and a good view of the game.

Even a campaign started offering free entry to disgruntled Reading season ticket holders following the appointment of Mark Bowen, an appointment that filled fans with so much rage that it was immediately forgotten about when they won his opening game in charge, hasn't seemed to move the needle. But I'm hoping my latest visit was just an anomaly and just down to it being a cold, wet night, as it was sad to see the crowd being as sparse as the days before the rebirth.

And wet it most certainly was. There's nothing better than parking up outside somewhere and immediately taking a plunge into a giant pool of water greeting you on the other side of your car door. I still cannot be entirely sure that I didn't just park in the river. Inside wasn't much better with the constant rainfall of the previous days reducing the surrounding areas of the pitch to a moat. It's a disappointment that they couldn't get the players to enter the pitch via drawbridge.

Red and black seats at The Rivermoor Stadium, Reading
The red and black remnants of the old and accurately named Reading Town FC still remain.

In spite of this, both teams put on an entertaining spectacle on a Monday night. The highlight being some choice words of wisdom from the Brackley Town Saints goalkeeper: "Get up you fucking twat. Don't be so deep." How poetic. Was he shouting at one of the puddles?

Speaking of which, what is pretty great about this club is the fact that they like to play a lot of their home games on Monday nights, when most of us are sat in front of the TV watching Jamie Carragher describing the weekend's Premier League action with the tone of somebody who has just stood on the upturned edge of a plug, before two mediocre teams face off in a game I almost certainly never want to watch.

Inside The Rivermoor Stadium, Reading
Heavy weather meant the stadium was able to utilise a moat system designed to trap balls that went out of play.

If anyone had any sense they'd take a trip down here the next time Reading are playing away, or they want something to do on a weeknight. It may be old and look rundown. It may even be just a tad too dark. But there's character here and the club seems determined to go places their predecessors couldn't. They may survive in the shadows away from the big boys, but this isn't City v United. This isn't a battle for supremacy of one city town, merely a nice complement to what's already on the menu.

And you never know, maybe one day Bruce too will sing of that night he went down to The River(moor).

Useless information about The Rivermoor Stadium

Address: Scours Lane, Reading, Berkshire, RG30 6AY
Capacity: 2,000
Pitch Type: Grass
Ticket Price: £6 (free with Reading FC season ticket)
Programme: Online only, 18 pages

Reading City FC 2019/20 programme cover