Why are there a load of random Chelsea players hidden on old Reading Festival line-up posters?

Frank Lampard, David Luiz and the Read 1999 poster
(Image credit: Getty Images (Reading poster: readingfestival.com))

It can be quite the trip scrolling through old Reading line-up posters. Where else would you be able to envisage Sleater-Kinney sharing a stage with Toploader (1998), or Coldplay playing before Toploader (1999) or, well, just Toploader. Then there’s quirks like seeing Queens Of The Stone Age playing before The Wanndies (2000), or Biffy Clyro first on the bill.

That’s not the half of it though. If you dig through some of the posters over at Reading’s official website, there’s a very strange recurring theme from the late 90s and over the next decade. It’s that most years, a Chelsea player crops up on the bill. 

Here's one of the earliest festival appearances from a Blues player, as former Juventus and Lazio striker Pierluigi Casiraghi pops up on the Reading 1999 bill between Peeps Into Fairyland and Quasi. Bet you didn’t get that in Serie A, did you Pierluigi?

Pierluigi Casiraghi

(Image credit: readingfestival.com)

Next up is Chelsea’s goalscoring machine Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, listed as JF Hasselbaink, skipping training to appear at Reading 2001 where he undoubtedly very excited to appear on the same stage as Gay Dad and Cooper Temple Clause:

Hasselbaink at Reading

(Image credit: readingfestival.com)

It’s a goalkeeper’s turn in 2002 as Italian stopper Carlo Cudicini gets a go:

Cudicini at Reading

(Image credit: readingfestival.com)

There follows a bit of a break for Chelsea players clogging up the line-up on Reading’s lower stages. Fair enough as they got annoyingly good at that point and started winning everything. But come 2006, they returned with a bang as star midfielder but rubbish manager Frank Lampard made his Reading debut:

Lampard at Reading

(Image credit: readingfestival.com)

A bit more of an exotic choice the next year, as Portuguese full-back Paulo Ferreira is summoned to Berkshire. Don't forget your wellies Paolo!

Paulo Ferreira at Reading

(Image credit: readingfestival.com)

Any decent manager worth his cliches will tell you that football is a squad game, though, and it was time to give some of the lads who weren’t making the first XI on a regular basis a boost. Like this appearance in 2009 from Brazilian right-back Juliano Belletti:

Belletti at Reading

(Image credit: readingfestival.com)

Belletti was getting on a bit though – it was time to start getting some youngsters involved in this whole weird endeavour. Enter young French winger Gael Kakuta, sandwiched between US indie-rockers Funeral Party and experimentalist choir Gaggle. Good luck Gael!

Kakuta at Reading

(Image credit: readingfestival.com)

It is with an appearance from kamikaze Brazilian defender David Luiz in 2011 that the run of Chelsea players cameoing on Reading posters draws to a close. If his playing style was anything to go by, someone needed to keep an eye on David, he was very likely to accidentally two-foot a water tap and inadvertently knock over a row of Portaloos:

Luiz at Reading

(Image credit: readingfestival.com)

It's here that the thread goes cold, with no official explanation as to why the hell Chelsea players kept appearing on Reading posters, with one mooted theory offering the simple explanation that the poster designer was a Chelsea fan. It’s a shame they never really got past the smaller stages though. Didier Drogba really could’ve got that Main Stage crowd going.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.