Portsmouth Halloween trip to haunted Reading extra ghoulish with stadium’s infamous royal ghost

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Pompey travel to Reading this weekend with the Berkshire club under a cloud of unease, and it’s perhaps not only protests against the club’s owner.

Pompey face a Halloween trip to League One strugglers Reading this weekend and the fixture could be an especially ghoulish one - and not just because of the terrifying situation the Royals find themselves in.

The Berkshire side are shackled in the relegation zone, already five points adrift of safety having failed to pick up a win in their last six league games. Ruben Selles' side have also had to contend with a four-point punishment this season as financial woes continue off the pitch.

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Reading are currently under a transfer embargo and were also hit with a six-point deduction last season for failing to pay players and an HMRC tax bill on time. Supporters of the former Premier League club are set to hold a march and protest against controversial owner Dai Yongge before the visit of Portsmouth on Saturday afternoon, set to cast an atmosphere of unease over the Select Car Leasing Stadium that is perhaps a little seasonal with just a few days to Halloween.

Pompey boss John Mousinho has told his squad to 'block out all the noise' and, after a scintillating unbeaten start to the League One season so far, supporters will be confident that the squad will be able to rise above any disruptions tomorrow. Those could come in acts of protest from home fans, such as throwing tennis balls onto the pitch, or perhaps a much less likely early Halloween interference from the stadium's resident ghost of Henry I.

Given the time of year, The News indulges in the folktale surrounding the Select Car Leasing stadium and the phantoms said to wander its stands. The ground was first opened in 1998 as the Madjeski Stadium, where the Royals moved from Elm Park, but the tale of its ghost goes all the way back to the early 12th-century reign of Henry I. The former King of England is said to lurk between the ground and the former prison, known as Reading Gaol, in the town centre. Henry I was a key figure in the construction of Reading Abbey in 1121.

The bones of Henry I, who died at the age of 67 having supposedly eaten 'too many eel-like lampreys', were found in Reading and the story goes that he has been spotted wandering between the ground and the town.

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Henry I is said to haunt the home of Reading FC (Image: Getty Images)Henry I is said to haunt the home of Reading FC (Image: Getty Images)
Henry I is said to haunt the home of Reading FC (Image: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Some believers may fear that Henry I's ghost could be awoken this weekend as his supposed haunting territory is exactly the route that unsettled Reading supporters will march on as they walk from the town to the Select Car Leasing stadium before playing Portsmouth - with former Pompey star and Royals legend Dave Kitson taking part. The protest is being organised by the Sell Before We Dai group, who have called for a 'massive demonstration'.

Speaking about preparing for this weekend's Halloween fixture, although not about the lurking demon of Henry I, Pompey boss Mousinho told The News: “The hardest thing in football is to try to block out all the noise and sometimes you can look too much at external factors. We have no idea what it’s going to be like on Saturday, we have no idea if they are going to throw tennis balls onto the pitch or if there’s going to be a disruption. We can’t prepare for any of that.

“If these things happen fine, get on with it, it’s not a problem. If a referee gets injured and there’s 25 minutes of stoppage time, we get on with it. If we have back-to-back away games great, if we have injuries, illnesses, whatever, we have to get on with it. It’s just another example of football and how many, many different factors go on which you can’t control. You can’t possibly control what the Reading fans are going to do in protest, we’ll do everything as per usual for ourselves and be as best prepared as we can.

“The only thing we are concerned about is us and the away fans. It feels like we are all travelling there together, in it together, that’s the Pompey unit when we go to Reading. I know we’ll take huge amount of fans because we do anywhere and everywhere. We just have to focus on making sure we go there and try to win the game.”

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