WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Reading’s Simod Cup winners of 1987-88 are under the spotlight
MICHAEL GILKES became the first Reading player to score a goal in a Wembley final but it was a close-run thing that he got to play there.
Gilkes had spent most of the season at left-back, covering for the injured Steve Richardson, who returned to fitness just a week before the trip to Wembley.
It looked like Gilkes might miss out on the big day until Millwall, who were chasing promotion to Division One, came in on deadline day and signed Dean Horrix.
With Horrix heading for The Den, it saved Reading boss Ian Branfoot from having to make a difficult decision about who to play up front.
The choice was between Horrix, who had scored against Oxford, Nottingham Forest and Bradford in the earlier rounds, or Gilkes, who was very much at the start of his career.
He said: “Steve Richardson, who was our regular left-back, had been out for about four months. I had started to fulfil a bit of potential and got into the team as a centre-foward, but that changed
“After Steve got injured, I was in the league team as a leftback, but the week before Wembley we played Aston Villa at home and Steve was fit again. I was left out of the team.
“We had Billy Whitehurst and Steve Moran up front, but they were cup tied. Then, Dean Horrid was sold to Millwall the week before, which left a forward slot available. I ended up playing up front after 30 odd games at left-back. I don’t know what would have happened – that was something for the manager to decide.”
Reading had almost vanished from existence five years before when Robert Maxwell tried to buy them and merge them with Oxford United to form Thames Valley Royals.
Struggling at the bottom of the Second Division they weren’t fancied to beat Luton Town, who had already booked a place in the Littlewoods Cup Final against Arsenal.
Despite going behind to a Mick Harford strike after 13 minutes, Gilkes equalised eight minutes later and was then fouled after 25 minutes for Stuart Beavon to score from the spot.
Two further goals in nine minutes after the break, from Mick Tait and Neil Smillie, rounded off a special victory.
“Luton weren’t an OK team,” Gilkes added. “They were a top team and I think we gave them the shove they needed to go back later in the month and beat Arsenal.
“They were the clear favourites against us. On the day, I know they went into a 1-0 lead, but we had a good strategy and it worked. It’s as clear as it gets.
“We had so many more fans than they did.
“Everybody was so happy to be there, but as soon as I equalised and then we went ahead it made everybody believe we could win it.
“It wasn’t just the players so much, but also the fans. As soon as the third and fourth goals went in, it was game over.”
1. Jerry Williams: The winger lives in West Hagbourne, near Didcot, and works in the financial services sector, specialising in mortgages and insurance. 2. Francis Joseph: A striker
and elder brother of another pro, Roger, who’s now living and working the Middlesex area. 3. Gary Westwood: A goalkeeper now based at Wargrave, Reading, where he runs his own business, Freestyle Sign & Print Co. 4. Colin Bailie: A full-back who moved to Cumbria, where he joined the police and is a member of the Penrith Rural policing team. 5. Steve Francis: A goalkeeper now based in Dorridge, Solihull, who has worked for the Royal Mail for many years. 6. Mark White: A left-back still based in the Reading area and working as a chartered physiotherapist for the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust. 7. Dean Horrix: A winger who was tragically killed in a crash near Reading in March 1990, when the car his wife was driving careered off the road and crashed into a tree. He was aged 28. 8. Stewart Henderson: The former Reading full-back spent 20 years at Southampton in various roles until the summer of 2010 and is now a freelance coach and scout. 9. Paul Franklin: A central defender who went on to coach at Wycombe, Leicester and Norwich, then went to work for office supplies firm Staples Advantage as a national account manager. 10. Martin Hicks: A central defender and the Royals’ record appearance holder now working as a postman in Stratford-upon-Avon. 11. Paul Canoville: A winger who became a teaching assistant at a school in Westminster, worked on Chelsea’s education programme and is now a freelance motivational speaker. 12. Colin Gordon: A striker who is now a director of Key Sports Management and also recently bought a majority stake in Non-League Kidderminster Harriers. 13. Gary Peters: A defender who went into management with Preston, where he gave David Beckham his debut, then on to Exeter and Shrewsbury. Now a football consultant for Midas Sports. 14. John Haselden: A central defender who went into coaching and then became a physio. Now retired in the Nottinghamshire area and is sadly suffering from Alzheimer’s. 15. Michael Gilkes: A winger still based in Reading, where he has been a mortgage consultant. Now works as a personal trainer and coaches in Reading’s Academy. 16. Stuart Beavon: A midfielder who’s now a painter and decorator, based in Reading. His father, Cyril, played for Oxford and his son Stuart now plays for Burton Albion. 17. Lindon Jones: A Wales U21 defender who has been Community Trust Manager at Swansea City for the last 13 years. 18. Ian Branfoot: Went on to manage Southampton and Fulham, was Sunderland’s Academy director, a scout for Leeds and coached at Winchester College. Now retired and living in Andover. 19. Neil Smillie: A midfielder who has twice managed Wycombe Wanderers and also Gillingham. His father, Ron, played for Barnsley and Lincoln. He’s now Nike’s head of Talent ID. 20. Les Taylor: A midfielder who returned to Oxford United in 1992 and is still working for the club as their academy manager. 21. Steve Richardson: A left-back who has worked for Basingstoke Town in a number of capacities and is now a painter and decorator.
ROYAL PARTY: Michael Gilkes, Mick Tait, Stuart Beavon and Neil Smillie at Wembley