Can you triumph in transition? The starts of Reading managers

Gareth Copley

In the wake of another disappointing Reading performances there's been no shortage of finger pointing. Some blame TSI, some blame the players and some are even calling for Nigel Adkins to get the sack. While there's no denying it's been an underwhelming season so far, I thought I'd look to see how the results from Adkins first 27 games in charge have compared with other recent appointments.

READING MANAGERS 1991-2013: FIRST 27 LEAGUE GAMES
WON DREW LOST POINTS
QUINN/GOODING 15 5 7 50
BRIAN McDERMOTT 12 7 8 43
STEVE COPPELL 12 6 9 42
NIGEL ADKINS 9 9 9 36
MARK McGHEE 9 8 10 35
TERRY BULLIVANT 8 9 10 33
ALAN PARDEW 7 11 9 32
TOMMY BURNS 9 5 13 32

BRENDAN RODGERS*

5 6 9 21

*(in charge for 21 league games)

*****

So does that table tell us much? Well on the face of it Nigel has made the fourth best start of any Reading manager in the past 20 years but he's also a bit off the pace of Steve Coppell and Brian McDermott.

As with any historical look back, especially one stats driven, it's impossible to go into all of the background factors that contributed to a set of results but still, lets try to delve into some context behind those figures.

Firstly it's no great surprise to see that two of the best three starts were made by managers picking up a side who were already successful. Jimmy Quinn & Mick Gooding had a team flying after 18 months of success under Mark McGhee, while Steve Coppell inherited a side comfortably in the top half of the Championship under Alan Pardew.

For those who wonder how long it can take to produce an attractive style of football, well Mark McGhee was a man who many have credited with producing some of the most attractive football in Reading's recent history but that took a good two seasons to come to fruition. I'm sure those stood on the South Bank as Reading lost 1-0 to Hartlepool or 5-2 at Peterborough during McGhee's first months in charge would have been every bit as frustrated as those Reading fans who watched the Bournemouth game or saw the modern day failings at London Road or Hillsborough.

The ones who struggled were inevitably those who came in with the weakest starting positions. Tommy Burns and Alan Pardew both took over sides in relegation difficulties, while Adkins himself had eight games with a team in freefall in the toughest division in Europe. One of those men would build a steady run towards the end of that 27 games while the other failed to last another 27.

The surprising thing for me was how well both Bullivant and Burns did in their opening spells compared to their overall failures. After horrendous starts, both seemed to be turning things around but neither could sustain an upturn in form and things just totally fell apart.

The one man who seems to have broken the pattern is Brian McDermott and when you look at the contexts of where he picked up the club and where they ended the season, it really does make his tenure seem even more impressive. Sure you could argue that he took over talented group that was simply under performing but he got the very best out of future stars Gylfi Sigurdsson, Shane Long and Jimmy Kebe while turning a £2 million flop in Matt Mills into someone that Leicester would pay £5 million pounds for within 18 months.

So what of our current boss?

Well while fourth place on that list isn't too bad, If you took away his eight games in the Premier League, it leaves a record of 19 games, 8 wins, 7 draws and 4 defeats.

To put that one into perspective, winning four of his next eight would see him equal McDermott's start and better that of Steve Coppell.  Even with those Premier League games taken into consideration, he's suffered the same number of defeats as Coppell who was playing solely Championship football. Considering McDermott and Coppell are arguably our two most successful managers of all time that would be a very promising start and perhaps a sign that maybe he's on the right track.

When you look at all of those opening spells one thing that sticks out, they've all got their horror shows. Whether it's Steve Coppell's three consecutive 3-0 thumpings, McDermott's dismal display at Plymouth, Pardew's humiliation at Millwall, or Adkins seeing his side demolished at Sheffield Wednesday.

None of those managers have been immune to teething problems, not one. The key question now is whether Adkins can survive the 'sophomore slump' that led to the demise of Burns and Bullivant, to enjoy the successes shared by McDermott, Coppell, McGhee and Pardew.

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