When successful businessman Tony Trendle was introduced to John Madejski (pre-knighthood) by MP Richard Benyon in the mid-1990s, little did the South Londoner know that nearly 30 years later the pair would remain close friends and a passion was ignited for Reading Football Club.

92-year-old Mr Trendle of Purely-on-Thames has strong links to the Royals stretching back to the days of the Biscuitmen.  

In the 1920s, his uncle, Alf Messer, was one of the stars at Elm Park as they won promotion to the second tier and appeared in the 1927 FA Cup semi-final.

With almost 300 club appearances to his name, having missed just three matches in six years, he is one of the greatest players to have never won a cap for England.

Messer moved on to Tottenham and Bournemouth in the early 1930s, beating Reading 7-0 on his Spurs debut, but returned to the town where he made his name following retirement and ran a pub [The Truro on Castle Street.]

It was here that nephew Tony would talk for hours about football until Messer’s early passing at just 47.

Fast-forward back to 1996 and this is officially where Mr Trendle’s association to Reading Football Club began.

Sitting down with the Reading Chronicle, Tony said: “When I was introduced to John Madejski, I said my uncle played for Reading and his first question was ‘Why don’t you support us?’ I thought it was strange, why don’t I support them?

"I’m not playing any longer [having retired from football at the ripe age of 60.] My daughter expected me to get an invite as a guest and sure enough, I got an invitation and attended three games. At the third game, he said to me ‘Would you like to be a patron?’ My first question was ‘How much is it going to cost?’”

Reading Chronicle:

The price proved immaterial to Trendle and thus began a 28-year relationship which is still going strong.

“It was wonderful at Elm Park because everything was compact. I paid for my patronage, naturally, but it gave me a seat.

"We weren’t there for very long because in 1998 we moved and then I had my regular seat in the Director’s Box, which I still have today.

"I got on very well with John Madejski and we’ve always been good friends. I said to him ‘I want to do something for the club’ and he said, ‘There’s nothing going, and we couldn’t afford to pay you.’ I couldn’t think of it as a paid job, I would like to volunteer to do something. He said to me ‘Whatever you can do to be useful, go ahead and do it.’ I got on very well with Frank Orton, the President of the club, and we travelled together to lots of games.”

Hardly missing a game, home or away, for the next couple of decades, Trendle and his fellow Patrons spread the good word of Reading Football Club up and down the country, brushing shoulders with the stars and even travelling with the Royals favourites during a golden era of success for the club.

“There was a reason for me to go up to Sheffield United with Terry Bullivant and they booked me into the team hotel,” Mr Tremble can remember from his early period in his role. “I remember the following morning going down for breakfast and Terry said to me ‘Do you fancy going for a walk this morning?’

"He is a South Londoner, like my wife and I are, and I got on with him very well. He said to me that he was having a tough time and if we lost today then he would resign. We did lose and sure enough, he resigned. He was a very good chap.

“In came Tommy Burns and I started going on the coach, and they liked that idea. I could get to the club, and I had a very nice dinner waiting and a seat in their director’s box. I got on very well with Tommy Burns. After Tommy Burns, Alan Pardew came in. I really think he’s the best manager Reading ever had. Statistically, he won more than anyone else. He became a good friend of ours, a good fellow.

“We went up to Manchester United to play an FA Cup game under Steve Coppell. I got on very well with Steve and was very lucky to be the diplomatic director going to the away clubs and meeting their people. They adored him at Manchester United. The game finished 1-1 and all the fans were very disappointed that they had allowed Reading to earn a replay.

“After the game, I said goodbye to the directors and Sir Bobby Charlton asked where I was going. I had to go back on the plane and had to report to the dressing room so they knew I was there because we were on a schedule. He came down too to go to the Manchester United dressing room to give them an earful.”

Reading Chronicle:

It wasn’t just matchdays where Trendle would work on building a rapport between the players, staff and community.

“If a player picked up a bad injury, like a broken leg, I would invite them out to lunch. It started with Chris Casper from Manchester United. It worked so well because he passes it down the line to the players and they know that there is someone who cares about them even when they’re injured. People like Nicky Shorey, Ady Williams and Ivar Ingimarsson, I’d take out to lunch and it worked very well.”

The longest-serving patron, and the oldest, Trendle is still at every home match often spotted alongside Madejski and his guests. Due to deteriorating eyesight, the away matches proved more of a struggle, despite the assistance of the STAR coaches for a couple of seasons.

Still going strong, Trendle remains an avid supporter and has been pleased to see the turnaround in results to keep the club in League One under Ruben Selles.

“The only trouble is I don’t know the players now and they’re all youngsters,” he concluded. “The person who I get along with really well is Mark Bowen. I think he’s been our saviour. It didn’t work out at the beginning of the season as they were all good footballers but immature with no cohesion. Gradually, it has gotten better and better."