In celebration of Reading Football Club's 150th anniversary, The Reading Chronicle spoke with 15 figures from the Reading community, past and present, to find out above all one thing: What makes Reading FC special?

Jem Karacan



Appearances: 175

The first thing I think of when I think of my time at Reading is the family feeling. Genuinely from the moment I signed for the club I felt like I was part of a big family. Coming through the ranks…it just felt so comfortable. Everyone was so close, all the way through the club. Everyone got along so well and the transition through the stages to the first team, that’s what made Reading so special: everyone who was involved with the club getting on so well and really having that family feel.

Unfortunately these days it’s not as common at football clubs and 100% in my experience at other clubs nothing has come close to the environment that was put in place for us as young lads coming through at Reading. It was just seamless. Eamonn Dolan who was our academy coach at the time, he told us from day one what it takes to make it at Reading and everyone was pushing in the right direction. Everyone wanted you to make it and gave you the best opportunity and every possible chance to do so. It was incredible.

Reading Chronicle: Jem Karacan battles for the ball with Liverpool's Steven Gerrard. Image by: PAJem Karacan battles for the ball with Liverpool's Steven Gerrard. Image by: PA

Stand-out memory:

It’s hard to choose one but it’s probably the night we won promotion to the Premier League. Unfortunately, I was in hospital, I’d just had an operation on my ankle that evening and effectively broke out of hospital to go and see the lads.

So I think just the memory of me and my family being at hospital, then my mum waking me up and saying ‘everything’s fine, but you’re promoted, you’re a Premier League player.’ It’s quite emotional to think about, even now. That moment was something I’ll never forget.

I’d taken a few painkillers just before falling asleep but my mum woke me up saying ‘you’re promoted.’ So I said ‘Get me out of here!’ My brother found a wheelchair in the hallway and operation: get me to the stadium…was on.

I was like throwing up in the car, I think some morphine was coming back up. It was hilarious really. My sister had given me a bag with a hole in it so it all went on the floor. It was crazy. I think the hospital tried to say like ‘What are you doing?’ But we were like ‘nah, we’re going, see you later!’ That was it!

Reading Chronicle: Jem Karacan (on crutches) and his teammates celebrate their 2012 triumph. Image by: PAJem Karacan (on crutches) and his teammates celebrate their 2012 triumph. Image by: PA

Then getting to the stadium, people stopping the car and saying ‘Jem, Jem, we did it!’ but then at the same time saying ‘I hope you’re okay.’ I got wheelchaired into the stadium, saw all the boys - which was my family effectively at the time. That’s something I’ll never forget. Obviously, I was gutted to not be on the pitch and celebrate with them there, but at the same time, it was a whole different kind of experience. It was very…unique.

I saw a clip of it the other day when I turned up to the stadium and all the boys came to meet me. It’s hard to explain to people because they’re like ‘surely not!’ But that really happened! And again it was the family thing. Seeing everyone you grew up with and loved, especially doing it with five or six lads from the youth team as well, it’s almost unheard of.

Everything about it…I just felt so loved at Reading. And even when I go back, you instantly fall back into it, that feeling of going and seeing an old friend. 

Click here to read all of our 15 for 150 interviews