Last season Brian McDermott revelled in the glory of promotion to the Premier League. A run of 15 wins in 19 matches had driven his Reading side to the Championship title, sneaking one point ahead of Southampton.
It was “meant to be”, according to the former scout who joined the club in 2000 under Alan Pardew. Now, under a year later, his hard work at The Madejski Stadium is over. Shifted on to make way for a ‘saviour’, in what was a surprise in the football betting markets. However, the league table says that the removal of McDermott is warranted.
With four successive defeats leaving Reading four points adrift of safety and in 19th position, the reason to sack is apparent. The decision may have also been accelerated by Queens Park Rangers’ revival which has drawn them level on points with the Royals.
And, with nine games left the need to energise a relegation threatened club is plain for all to see. In a season which has so far highlighted the limitations of this Reading squad, McDermott fought gamely – as one would expect – to ward off the threat of an immediate return to the Championship.
Apart from a good spell in January when the team secured four wins in a row, including two in the league, that aim has rarely looked like being reached. Unfortunately for the 51-year-old the harsh realities of the Premier League have bitten.
The weekend’s 2-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa was a crucial blow. But, it could have been very different. Had Reading settled after going one up through Nathan Baker’s own goal instead of conceding the lead a minute later, the hopes for survival would looked more realistic.
Indeed, a win against relegation rivals would have been cause for a double celebration. Rewind to the end of February and the morale crushing 3-0 loss against Wigan was perhaps even more painful to take.
In effect, it is these two results rather than the season as a whole which have greatly contributed to McDermott’s removal. Losing two of the biggest games of the season to clubs also fighting the dropzone battle has been deemed unacceptable.
Which brings us to the decision by majority owner Anton Zingarevich to make the change. The Russian businessman, 30, owns 51%, and according to a club statement, believes the current situation is conducive to a new manager.
As stated above, part of this could be due to QPR’s return to form and the impact of Harry Redknapp since taking over from Mark Hughes. But, Redknapp had the transfer window and a handsome kitty to play with.
While he signed Loic Remy and Christopher Samba for huge fees and large wages, McDermott moved for Hope Akpan, Stephen Kelly and Nick Blackman. They may well go on to prove astute signings, but the difference is there to see.
Part of the issue has been balancing spending and outgoings. Current player Jason Roberts has said that last season’s Championship budget was outside the top ten, which has been backed up by former captain Aidy Williams.
Cautiousness in finances should be applauded, but the January dealings appeared to send a sign which read ‘Planning for Championship football’. That could be the circumstance Zingarevich finds himself in come May.
The wisdom of Wolves to sack Mick McCarthy last year was proven to be wrong. They are now struggling to avoid a second successive relegation.
While they failed to appoint the right successor, Zingarevich must not. A wrong turning here and relegation is a certainty. For McDermott, he can walk away with memories and a win percentage of 45 per cent.
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