FA4: A paid-up member of the Royal family

More from Neil Redpath as he continues his attempt to see a game in every single round of the FA Cup. His tenth was his hardest yet...

Gone are the days of turning up at a match five minutes before kick-off and buying your ticket at the turnstiles – or even legging it over a nearby fence.

Also it seems that the days are gone when a phone call to the ticket office with a fake accent was enough to get you in the home end for a cup game.

Looking at Fourth Round fixtures, I decided that Reading vs Burnley looked an exciting tie, what with Reading having won at Anfield against all the odds (well, unless you're an intelligent Liverpool fan).

But as the Cup enters its latter stages, tickets aren’t easy to come by – and Reading is no exception.

Not even offering 20 of your hard-earned pounds can get you in if your face doesn't fit.

This is how the conversation went:

Me: I'd like two tickets for Reading vs Burnley, please.

Reading Ticket Office: Can I have your Customer Number, please?

Me: I don’t have one.

RTO: Oh. Well, you can’t have a ticket.

Me: What???

RTO: Sorry, tickets are only going to members.

Me: Errr, can I be a member then?

RTO: If you're willing to pay...

And so a few days later two shiny tickets came through the post with a membership card, Reading FC fixture list, merchandise catalogue and a blue and white cuddly bear.

And I'm a bloody Liverpool fan.

It's a lunchtime kick-off, so we reach the M25 by 11am and race around to Berkshire.

Passing rip-off parking spaces as we get nearer the ground, we head towards the city centre to find more affordable parking.

But the stadium's in the middle of nowhere, unreachable from the town centre, so we swing the car around and grudgingly pay £8 to park in a field.

You pay your money, 'cos you get no choice

Making our way into the 24,161-capacity ground, it really was like being at church.

You'd have thought the public would have been enticed by the chance to see their local heroes take on another Premier League team at the Madjeski, but obviously not.

In the end, only 12,910 turn up. Maybe it's the membership fee. Maybe it's the parking fee.

Judging by his shirt, that No.13's a big lad

We take our seats in the East Stand and the match kicks off.

Other than Andy Griffin making his home debut, it looks a lot like the team that triumphed in the last round over some other northerners.

A very tight first half has Sigurdsson looking lively, with a 20-yard strike just going wide of Burnley’s post.

But not much separates two teams producing very little goalmouth action.

By half-time Reading are looking slightly the better of the two sides.

We head behind the stand for our usual half-time beverage and head straight back out again for the second half.

Photographer's balance possibly affected by beverage

Reading come out fired up and started how they finished the first half.

Burnley attempt to force their way back into the game, with strikes from Alexander and Gudjonsson going wide, but these turn out to be their only chances all game.

With two minutes of normal time to play, debutant Griffin puts Sigurdsson through on goal – and he puts Reading in the hat for the Fifth Round draw.

We head back to the car... for a 45-minute wait before we can get back on the road, due to some clever parking blocking us in.

No refunds are available. Not even to members.


The Fifth Round draw brings eight matches to choose from, but tickets are getting ever harder to come by.

After phoning up several clubs – Chelsea, Derby, Bolton – it seems to have come to the stage where tickets are only available to members who have attended other Cup matches this season.

Well, thank God I'm now a hardcore, paid-up Reading FC member.

I will be attending Reading vs West Brom, with my Royals scarf and my cuddly bear. Get in...

Previously, on The Long Road To Wembley:

FA3: There's only one f in freezing at F-f-f-fulhamFA3 preview: The Third man marches on LondonFA2: South beats North with easeFA2 preview: A North(ampton)m vs South(ampton) clashFA1: Fire and ice at the AbbeyFA1 preview: Enter the big boysFA4Q: Barked shins, dark toilets & no piesFA4Q preview: Ploughing throughFA3Q: A local affair at LowestoftFA3Q preview: All hail the 4x4ersFA2Q: Coke, poodle rock & half a fenceFA2Q preview: Let's spend a night togetherFA1Q: Lawro, ducks & a care homeFA1Q preview: The preliminaries are overFAP: Dogs, daughters & dodgy telliesFAP preview: Preliminary problemsFAEP: Dereham dreams alive and kickingFAEP preview: The long road starts here 

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