Reading legend Dave Kitson believes Alan Pardew’s return was a ‘seminal moment’ in Steve Coppell’s management career, helping to pave the way for the success to follow.

On this day, 20 years ago, almost 23,500 supporters packed into the Madejski Stadium to witness ‘Parjudas’’ first match back in Berkshire as West Ham United boss.

Idolised by many in his four-year spell, leading the club into the second tier and a play-off semi-final having taken over with fears of relegation to the fourth division.

However, come October 2003 the Crystal Palace favourite had decided to take up the offer of managing a ‘big club’ and depart for West Ham. It was not straightforward, however, with Sir John Madejski making sure the football world knew the frustration being felt in this pocket of the world.

“I remember having a real sense that this was important to the people of Reading,” Kitson commented to the Reading Chronicle. “I wasn’t there under Pardew, but I knew what he’d done for the club, and I was also acutely aware of the comments he had made when he left that upset the people at Reading.

“It was just in me, I intuitively understood, that if you’re going to put your name on the map- this is the game to do it. I like games where there is a little bit of added flavour- a chance to be a hero. Somebody was going to be a hero, and I wanted it to be me.”

A hero he certainly was, scoring in each half and wiping out veteran full-back Tomas Repka in the process.

“Kevin Dillon and Steve Coppell always used to say to me that if the other team has the kick-off, if I can close down the next forward ball then it would set the tempo for the whole team. I liked that because I liked being a leader on the pitch.

“I remember they took the kick-off and played it back to Tomas Repka at right-back. If you’re going to leave something on someone and set the tempo, Tomas Repka is the guy to do it on because he was a tough guy with something like 20 red cards in his career. It was going back to him, and I knew he would take a touch and play it down the line so I saw the opportunity, but I couldn’t get both him and the ball. I managed to block the ball down the line, and it flew out of play. It was right in front of where Y26 was, and a massive cheer went up.”

A story written into folklore, the future Premier League scorer believes Pardew had done Reading’s team-talk for them in the lead-up to the game, making derogatory comments which rubbed everyone connected to the Royals up the wrong way- however, maybe not all is as it seemed?

“The one thing that the changing room had that it didn’t normally was that someone had printed out all of these Alan Pardew quotes about leaving to go to a ‘big team’ and they had all been stuck on the wall. I remember reading them and some I hadn’t come across. I was reading them and thinking ‘Surely he couldn’t have said that.’ I asked Dill and he said, ‘Yeah he said that.’

“Looking back now, I am of the opinion that someone made up some of those quotes and stuck them on the wall. It really worked for me- it really wound me up. I had never met Pardew before or played against any of his teams but suddenly the most important thing in my life was beating that guy.”

Reading Chronicle:

Coppell, having won 13 of his first 28 matches, needed a big victory over a new-found rival to kickstart his reign in Reading.

There was no better fixture to win to win around any lingering doubters.

“I do think there are seminal games in a manager's career- people always refer to the Mark Robins goal that kept Sir Alex Ferguson in a job. They don’t happen all the time for every manager but because it was West Ham- who were seen as a Premier League club playing in the Championship- once we showed we could beat teams like that, there’s nowhere to hide. If you could beat West Ham, you could beat anybody, and that’s how I approached it.

“You needed to demonstrate that it was possible and show what it is required to beat teams like that- the work rate and the effort- and that is what that game demonstrated. We could go toe-to-toe with anybody.”

Toe-to-toe they certainly went, beating the Hammers the following season and building on the ninth-place finish to end the 2004/05 campaign in seventh.

The rest, well that’s history.