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Match of our time - Jerry Williams: Reading 1 Arsenal 3
10 January 1987
Reading FC in the FA Cup: Winger Jerry Williams remembers 1987 the last time the Royals met Arsenal in the cup.
Reading FC Former Players Association spoke to Jerry Williams, the star man for Royals against Arsenal 28 years ago One member of the crowd at Wembley on Saturday will be one of the stars of the Reading FC's last FA Cup tie against the Arsenal.
Jerry Williams played a blinder on the right side of midfield for Reading at Elm park against Arsenal on a freezing Saturday in January 1987. He made such an impact on Gunners’ England defender Kenny Sansom that the Arsenal man mentioned it in his autobiography.
Despite losing third round tie 3-1, the match was the highlight of an otherwise uneventful Second Division season for Reading who ended 13th. As well as Sansom, George Graham’s side that day included Viv Anderson, David O’Leary, Tony Adams, David Rocastle, Niall Quinn, Charlie Nicholas and Graham Rix.
Williams said: “It was a high profile game, playing Arsenal and playing against an England full back. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.”
The match came in a season which was not unlike the current one - struggling in the league while the cup was the highlight. On the day, Charlie Nicholas put Arsenal ahead after 20 minutes, only for Trevor Senior to equalise two minutes later from a Williams cross.
After 36 minutes a Hayes penalty put Arsenal ahead again and Nicholas made it 3-1 after 52 minutes when the Reading defence froze following a cross by Hayes. But Wiliams said the disappointment of defeat meant the game, although high profile – was not his most memorable. “There are other games that stick out in my mind when we’ve won,” he said. “But even today older Reading fans come up to me and say ‘I remember you gave Kenny Sansom the runaround’ which is nice.”
Williams went on: “There are similarities with this game - Arsenal were a class outfit then too. Reading fans might think they’ve got no chance and you can’t see them beating Arsenal. But even with a manager like Arsene Wenger they will know they are expected to win and that brings a pressure in its own way.
“Whatever he says they will know they should beat Reading but as you know, in football there’s no given. Reading have nothing to lose and everything to play for. You never never know. Over the years there have been shocks.
“You can’t see it happening but that’s football.”
Williams played many different positions in over 300 games for Reading . After leaving the club he had spells at Gillingham and Aldershot before retiring and retraining as a financial advisor, nowadays specialising in mortgages and insurance. Didcot-based Williams, now 55, will be guest of friends at Scottish & Newcastle brewery in corporate hospitality on Saturday.
Despite what he called Arsenal’s ‘beautiful’ football he said the Gunners have a weakness Reading could exploit. “There is a chink at the back and it will be interesting to see how Reading approach the game.” He believes Reading are currently underperforming in the league and hopes boss Steve Clarke will get the chance to sort out his squad at the end of the season.
He added: “I always say managers take too much credit when things go well and take too much stick when things go badly. Ultimately the players have to take responsibility.”
Were you there? What are your memories of that game?
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