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Jimmy Wheeler 1933-2020

Jimmy Wheeler was one of the best players to ever wear a Reading shirt.  Born within shooting distance of Elm park, he played for Reading Boys and Huntley and Palmers Youth before signing amateur forms for Reading FC in May 1952.  he turned professional three months later, and made his first team debut on 18 April 1953, when he scored in a 5-3 home win against Shrewsbury Town.

He made occasional appearances for the next season but became a regular in the forward line in 1955-56, and stayed there for the next ten years.  he wore shirts numbered 7 to 11 when teams fielded a five-man attack, though his favourite berth was outside-right.  For eight consecutive seasons, from 1956-56 to 1963-64, he reached double figures, his best return coming in 1960-61, when he netted 35 goals, a record for a Reading winger.

He never gave anything less than 100 per cent for every minute of every game he played for his hometown club, and his loyalty, enthusiasm and bravery inspired those around him, as well as making him a great favourite with supporters.

A broken leg ended his career as a speedy front player, but he recovered from that injury to regain his place as a wily full-back.  He also captained the reserve team to the Football Combination Division Two Championship in 1965-66, and in the same season was chosen by the fans as the club's Player of the Season, an unusual distinction for a reserve team member.

He was selected for the Third Dvision (South) against the Third Division (North) in 1955-56, and also appeared in two Southern Professional Floodlit Cup Finals for Reading, his only league club.  He made a total 453 first team appearances and scored 168 goals.  He later managed Bradford City to promotion from Division Four.

Jimmy Wheeler passed away on 17 February 2020, aged 86.  No football club ever had a more loyal or committed player than Jimmy.  He will be remembered with great affection by those of us who were lucky enough to know him.

David Downs.

01 March 2020

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