Reading Olympians

Herbert Smith Reading have a proud record in the Olympics. The first official football competition, in London in 1908, was won by Great Britain, who beat Denmark 2-0 in the final. Reading's great amateur captain, Herbert Smith, played in all three matches for Great Britain. He also played for Oxford City, an amateur team, at the same time and he was listed as a City player for the purposes of the competition.

In 1912 in Stockholm, Great Britain again beat Denmark to win the gold medal, this time by 4-2. Ted Hanney, who had played in the 7-0 first round drubbing of Hungary, missed the later stages due to injury.

After the First World War, the Olympics resumed in 1920, in Antwerp. Surprisingly, a Great Britain side, including Charles "Ginger" Harbridge, went out 3-1 to Norway in the first round.

Great Britain did not compete in the next couple of tournaments, however they returned in 1936, in Berlin. In the first round they beat China 2-0, before losing 5-4 to Poland in the second round. Maurice Edelston played in the game against China, although this was a couple of years before he signed for Reading. He remained an amateur until 1947, earning 10 amateur caps and playing in five wartime internationals for the full England side.

The first Olympics after the Second World War were again held in London, in 1948. Bill Amor played in the bronze medal match, against Denmark. He scored, but Great Britain lost 5-3. Two Reading wartime guest players also appeared: John "Bob" Hardisty played in all four of Great Britain's games, scoring three goals, while Tommy Hopper just played in the 4-3 win over Holland, scoring once. The team was managed by another former Reading guest player, Matt Busby, and used Elm Park as their training base.

Hardisty also played in the next two tournaments, in 1952, in Helsinki, and in 1956, in Melbourne. In Helsinki, Great Britain went out 5-3 after extra time to Luxembourg in the first round. In Melbourne, Great Britain thrashed Thailand 9-0 in the first round, but with Hardisty missing lost 6-1 to Bulgaria in the second round.

Micky Mellows played in the qualifying tournament for the 1972 Olympics, in Munich. He was the last amateur player to play for Reading. Omar Daley also appeared for Jamaica in the 2004 qualifying tournament.

Adam Federici (Australia) and André Bikey (Cameroon) both appeared in the 2008 finals in Beijing.

Finally, mention must be made of Daley Thompson, twice Decathlon gold medallist, and one of Britain's greatest ever Olympians. He played in two friendlies for Reading in 1994 while training with the club.

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