READING return to FA Cup action this weekend – just months after tearing up the club’s history books in the competition.
The heroic Royals were denied a first-ever shot at the famous old trophy when an extra-time goal from Alexis Sanchez saw the side beaten 2-1 by eventual winners Arsenal during a dramatic semi-final played under the Wembley arch last April.
It was also the first time the club had reached the last four of the competition in some 88 years – and few could have begrudged Steve Clarke’s men had they gone on and knocked out the reigning champions.
A Reading side scrapping for points in the Championship at the time threw everything they had at their Premier League opponents and so nearly reaped the rewards.
Royals begin their quest for glory this time around against the same opposition they faced in the same stage of the cup last year – Huddersfield Town – where a solitary strike from the now-departed Nick Blackman began the famous ‘march to the arch’ 12 months ago.
The Royals are much changed, both on and off the field, from the side which edged that scrappy encounter back on January 3, 2015.
But in Stephen Quinn, they now possess a player boasting many unforgettable memories from the competition, and the summer arrival is keen to make more with his new club.
For the 29-year-old was part of the Hull City side which pushed Arsenal hard in the 2014 final, opening up a 2-0 lead – only to suffer the heartbreak of a 3-2 loss after extra time.
Quinn played 75 minutes of that game – playing a part in setting up James Chester for the opening goal – while another Royal, captain Paul McShane, who misses the trip to west Yorkshire through injury, came on as a second-half substitute.
Despite the disappointment of losing a final, the memento of such an occasion is one the Republic of Ireland international “will take to the grave”.
The midfielder also refuses to buy into the idea the FA Cup is losing its magic.
The competition has become tarnished in recent times due to some of the so-called bigger teams fielding weakened sides because of other priorities.
But Quinn believes others should taking advantage of such a situation, as sides such as Wigan Athletic, Hull City and Reading have shown over the years.
“I’m sure that anyone that has gone on a run or whatever in the FA Cup will tell you the same, because it really is magical,” he said.
“Even lower league teams or non-league teams beating league teams and going on a bit of a run, that is as far as they might ever go and that is the pinnacle of their career, so it is magical to them.
“For us (Hull City) to go on a run and play against Arsenal in the final and be so close and more or less have one hand on the cup was magical for me. I will take it to the grave with me.
“It’s people’s dreams: it can make dreams, it can break dreams as well, but it is a great cup.”
He added: “The fans up and down the country love this competition, so why not give it a good try because you never know what might happen.
“You look at Wigan a few years ago as well – more and more lower league teams are giving it a good push and giving Premier League teams a run for their money, so why not?”
Quinn also agreed with the comments from his boss, Brian McDermott, who labelled the FA Cup “the best cup competition in the world”.
“My first memory was of my brother watching Everton winning it in 1995, it is memories like that and that was my childhood,” he added.
“I’m sure my little nephews look up to me and see me playing in the FA Cup and are just in awe.
“Like the manager said, it is one of the greatest cup competitions in the world.”
Magical moments aside Quinn, back in the team following a lengthy lay off due to a knee injury, is only too aware of the task facing Reading on Saturday afternoon, saying: “It is going to be difficult.”
But he also appreciates the benefits a good cup run can have psychologically on the team too, especially at a time when Royals are in need of wins to close the gap on the play-off spots.
“It will probably be more like a Championship game,” Quinn went on to say.
“Huddersfield are a good team in the Championship and I’m sure they will want to progress and have a good run in the cup like any team, but it is about getting that winning mentality as well.
“We need to build on the game from last week and need to kind of get a run and a bit of momentum going – and obviously look ahead for the game on Tuesday as well against Derby.
“It is going to be a tough and interesting week.”