Yesterday afternoon, Reading sacked their manager Brian McDermott with the club sitting second bottom of the Premier League 4 points from safety with only 9 games to go.
The big questions that will be asked are, has the right decision been made? Has this decision been made at the wrong time of the season? And who should be his replacement?
McDermott first joined the Royals in 2000 as their chief scout, but got his big breakthrough in December 2009 taking on the role of caretaker manager after the departure of now Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers but was given the job on a full-time basis a month later.
He led the team to a 9th place finish that year and managed to get them to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. The next season was to be more successful as Reading reached the quarter-finals of the cup again and finished 5th in the league guaranteeing a play-off spot. The knocked out Cardiff City in the semi-finals but were beaten 4-2 in the final at Wembley by Swansea City. That disappointment spurred McDermott and his side on to do even better next season, and they did just that by finishing top of The Championship and securing a place in the Premier League for this season.
The toughest challenge of his managerial career without a doubt has been trying to keep his side up this season and unfortunately given that recent results have gone against them, he won’t get to see the job through till the end as owner Anton Zingarevich has decided that the time is now right for a change. I must admit I thought even if it was going to go down right till the last day of the season, I believed McDermott would have remained in charge for the remaining games and that a decision would have been made about his future when the clubs fate had already been decided.
This decision certainly shows the changes that can happen in a club in such a short space of time. McDermott won the Manager of the Month award for January and looked to have started Reading off on the road to revival with the new found habit of taking points from matches in the last 10 minutes of the game. But having lost their last 4 Premier League matches, they still find themselves in deep trouble. The higher power at the Madjeski Stadium obviously felt that with less than 10 games to go, McDermott had run his course but somebody else can still come in and turn the grim situation around for them.
I must say for what he achieved for them and given that they are only 4 points away from 17th placed Aston Villa, Brian McDermott deserved to keep the managers’ job at least until the end of the season. If Reading had gone down, you could maybe then understand the decision to let him go and allow somebody else the chance to take them back up, but given that we’re now almost in the middle of March the timing of this decision isn’t in their favour. The recent home losses against Villa and Wigan Athletic would appear to have sealed his fate. Until a new manager is appointed, newly appointed caretaker manager Eamonn Dolan has his work cut out for him as he and the Reading team face a trip to league leaders Manchester United on Saturday. After that they face another tough test travelling to the Emirates to face Arsenal, but as that game doesn’t fall till the end of the month due to the upcoming International break, Reading will have hopefully found a new manager by then to prepare the team for the battle ahead.
In recent seasons, whenever a manager has been removed from a relegation-threatened club after January, it has almost always ended in relegation. The only exception so far has been when Roy Hodgson replaced Roberto Di Matteo at West Bromwich Albion in February 2011 and managed to keep them in the Premier League that season. The most recent example of a failure was last season when Wolverhampton Wanderers sacked Mick McCarthy in February last year and replaced him with his assistant manager Terry Connor until the end of the season. Wolves failed to win another game that season when Connor came in and their relegation was confirmed in mid-April. So there is proof that survival can be achieved during a second half of the season change in management, but through no shortage of hard work and determination. If the new manager can’t get his players to fight and give 100% in these last remaining games, their team is destined for the drop.
Having looked at Readings last 9 games, I could see them getting at least 8 points from them. But given how tight it is at the bottom just now, it might not be enough to keep them up. When they do hire a new manager, it is going to have to be someone that has experienced this type of situation before and knows how to deal with it. For me, two names instantly jump to my mind that fall into that category, Alan Curbishley and Nigel Adkins. Curbishley comfortably kept Charlton Athletic in the Premier League for many seasons, but will probably be best remembered for when he kept West Ham United up on the final day of the season in 2007. The only problem people might have with Curbishley’s appointment is that he’s been out of work for so long and they may prefer someone more fresh. That is where Adkins might fit the bill. He has only been out of work since January and while he might not have anywhere near same kind of Premier League experience that Curbishley has, he does know how to keep an underdog in a tough league having kept Scunthorpe United in the Championship in 2010 before moving to Southampton the season after.
Whoever Reading decide to give the job to, they should look to make a quick appointment so that the new manager can spend enough time with his new team getting to know them and instructing them on how they can achieve survival. I look forward to seeing who takes on the new role and anticipate even more now the upcoming ending to another exciting Premier League season.