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Match of our time - Bradford City 4 Reading 3

Les Chappell
November 10th 1973, Football League Division 4

Les ChappellA former Reading striker hopes the current team can better one of his achievements at Bradford City on Saturday.

Les Chappell, the club’s goalscoring star of the early 1970s, bagged a hat-trick at Valley Parade on November 10, 1973, in a Division Four match. But despite his goals Reading lost the promotion battle 4-3. And with Saturday’s quarter final tie approaching Chappell, now 68 and living in Torquay, contacted the Reading FC Former Players’ Association to ask if anyone has done that since.

He said: "I just wondered if anybody else had got a hat-trick at Bradford City." Nottingham-born Les, said he can remember very little of the match itself but recalls his parents being present.

He said: "My mum and dad lived in Rotherham and came to watch." Despite the result, Les remembers he was pleased with his own day’s work. He added: "I was delighted. My dad said I played them on my own."

Reading had just suffered their first defeat in 20 matches at home to Gillingham the previous weekend, a match Les Chappell missed. He was back for the Valley Parade game and had put Reading 2-0 up by the 56th minute. However, City clawed back to draw level 20 minutes later. Yet within two minutes a Chappell header made it 3-2 to Reading only for City to equalise again two minutes after that. The Bantams won with a last minute goal from Baker.

Les Chappell 

It turned out to be a remarkable season for the Reading striker. He hit four hat-tricks in his 28-goal haul that term and the one at Bradford City was the first time the team had scored three away goals in four seasons. By Easter he was top scorer in the entire Football League but an ankle injury cost him the chance to add to his total with six games to go. He was also robbed of two goals when he put Reading 2-0 up at home to Torquay in a game that was abandoned. He made up for it by scoring all four in a 4-0 victory in the rescheduled fixture.

In a hugely successful five years at Reading, he scored 90 goals in 223 starts, the ninth highest scorer in the club’s history. A local butcher near his Tilehurst home promised him a prime steak every time he scored a hat-trick.
"That might have helped," said Chappell. He added: "With Jack Mansell, attack was the best form of defence. That’s why we scored lots of goals. Unfortunately we conceded a few too. Otherwise we might have got promotion."

Les ChappellIn 1970 he scored a hat-trick in nine minutes in a 6-2 over Barnsley at Elm Park and during one match, one of the coaching staff pointed out to manager Jack Mansell: "Chappell has only touched the ball twice and he’s scored two goals."
"That’s what I bought him for," he replied.
Chappell said: "That’s what I used to do. I loved scoring goals."

Les Chappell started his career in 1965 at Rotherham, then joined Blackburn Rovers but was hampered by injury before he signed for Reading on a free transfer in 1969, rejoining manager Jack Mansell, who had been his boss from his days at Rotherham. He was sold to Doncaster in 1974 for £8,500. He was later on the coaching staff at Swansea - including a brief spell as manager - when the club went from the Fourth to the First Division in rapid succession. He coached at Torquay until retiring from football and starting a cleaning business which he is still involved in.

He said he will be rooting for the Royals on Saturday and plans to make it to Wembley for the semi final if Reading get there. “I’m always rooting for them,” he said.

04 March 2015

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