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Brian McDermott - To Wander To Wolves or Remain A Royal?

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I recieved a tweet yesterday lunchtime from a source saying that Brian had told the Wolves chairman he wanted their vacant manger's job. My intial reaction was one of disbelief, not because I didn't trust the source but more because my first thought was why on earth would he leave a club he knows so well, is doing so well with and has a bright future with - for a club in a relegation dogfight and with fans expectations so high?

However the more I thought about it and analysed the situation the more I came to the sobering conclusion that the move would make a lot of sense from Brian's perspective and that really could you blame him for taking the chance?

As of this moment Brian is the 13/8 favourite for the job and the Reading Post have reported that he's been in Wolves for talks over the job. None of this has been confirmed by either club and there's still a long way to go but I thought I'd muse over whether taking the job would make sense for the man and what impact it might have on Reading.

Sadly the prospect of losing our manager mid-season to another club isn't new to Reading fans. Around Christmas in 1994 Mark McGhee walked out on the club for Premier League strugglers Leciester and took his backroom team with him, leaving Second Division Champions Reading managerless in the thick of a Premiership promotion race. Nine years later and Alan Pardew left the club to join West Ham with Reading ABOVE the Hammers in the table at the time.  McGhee spent less than a year with Leicester, failing to keep them up before moving across the midlands to join Wolves, while Pardew lasted just three years at Upton Park before getting the sack.

In both cases the Reading fans' reactions were hostile, with McGhee particularly villified by the Elm Park faithfull and the sense of injustice lingering so long that the former match day announcer was forced to resign from his job at the Madejski Stadium for a pre-match rant when McGhee returned with Millwall five years later.  Pardew got just as much stick, though the resentment didn't seem to last as long, particularly with Reading's own ascent into the Premier League under Pardew's mentor Steve Coppell less than three years after he walked out on the club.

Both McGhee and Pardew came into the job with the club struggling in the third tier and by the end of their time, both had taken Reading into the promotion places of the division above. Brian McDermott came into the job under similar circumstances, inheriting a team that was being threatened with relegation back to League One and a squad very much in transition after the departures of Coppell and Brendan Rodgers. Like McGhee and Pardew, Reading provided a first step into management and more then the odd 'who?!'  reaction from fans and the media.

Brian had been with the club in various roles for 10 years but had always worked out of the limelight and behind the scenes, though had always been praised by the managers he had worked under. Still he was seen as a cheap option by some fans and his early league results as boss did little to inspire fan confidence, especially a 4-1 hammering by fellow strugglers Plymouth. But an amazing night at Anfield transformed fan opinion and after being appointed manager on a permanent basis he went from strength to strength, masterminding a resurgence that took us clear of relegation to even flirting with the play-offs. There was also a run to the FA Cup Quarter-Final to see fan interest in the competition gather momentum after years of neglect under previous regimes.

As much as his results, Brian won praise for transforming underperforming players into world beaters. Matt Mills, Shane Long and Jimmy Kebe had all been in and out of the team and underpeforming under Rodgers but suddenly they formed the foundations of a team that would challenge in the top half of the Championship throughout his time in charge.

Brian overcame the loss of Ryan Bertrand & Gylfi Sigurdsson to build a new team that relied on Mikele Leigertwood's solidity, Ian Harte's set pieces and Shane Long's goals to move from midtable to the play-offs by season's end. Another cup run saw us make the quarter-finals but the season would be defined by a 4-2 defeat at Wembley by Swansea that spelt the end of the promotion dream as well as the Reading careers of skipper Matt Mills and top scorer Shane Long.

McDermott again had to rebuild a team and somehow cobbled together a team who ground their way into the play-off race but one which lacked a killer instinct until the Zingarevich led takeover freed up funds to invest in the January transfer window.

It's that takeover (or pending takeover to be totally correct) that offers us a first reason why Brian might want to walk away from Reading. Brian was hired by the John Madejski regime and while messages during this takeover have been about support for Brian and continuing the 'Reading way' it's still true that McDermott isn't 'Anton's man'.  We've seen in the past how managers have been dismissed during regime changes, even when doing quite well. Claudio Ranieri didn't last long at Chelsea after Abramovich bought the club, nor did Mark Hughes at Manchester City. If Reading fail to get promotion this season the new owners might decide they want a clean start or a 'bigger name' and in such a case Brian is left without a job and only a small payout on his one year rolling contract. 

That contract is another reason Brian might decide to go. The deal was signed in March of 2011, when the club was very much in 'cloth cutting' mode. As such the financial terms may not have been that favourable and it's fair to assume that a Premier League club will be able to offer significantly more for his services. As much as we romanticise it, we have to bear in mind that this is a professional sport where your time can be short and could you blame a man from wanting the financial security that a big contract with a Premier League club provides?  There's also the point that despite the financial spend during January's transfer window, the new regime didn't sanction a new deal for Brian, something that couldn't have been that well received by the former Arsenal striker. Maybe he didn't want to discuss it mid-season but it would have been nice for the new owners to publicly show their support by at least offering him a contract or pledging a new deal.

It's been mentioned a lot on HobNob and other social media that Wolves are a club on the way down and that McDermott would be silly to leave a club on the up. While it's certainly true Reading seem to be moving forward lets not get carried away and assume that we will be promoted. The Championship is notoriously hard to get promotion from, and our previous record in the play-offs shows that a top 6 finish is no ticket to the promised land. Yes we've still got a chance of automatic promotion but our run in is tricky and it's out of our hands at the present time.

Wolves meanwhile may have been struggling but they're still in with a great chance of playing Premier League football again next year. They've got a squad full of talent that have pulled off big results against far bigger sides in the past few years, so you can't say the team is weak and lacks potential. The club itself is also growing, with an ambitious expansion of Mollineux well underway as well as top class training facilities and a history of success.

It's far easier to keep a club like Wolves up than it will be to secure promotion at Reading and that's reflected by the fact that our odds of promotion are 11/4 while Wolves odds to stay up are far shorter at 6/5. Look at how often the likes of Cardiff have flirted with promotion yet never made it over the line, just being contenders each year is no ticket to promotion, no matter how good a manager you are. There's also the fact that this league will only get tougher as more teams with 4 years of parachute payments mix with other wealthy teams like Leicester.

But Reading offer a level of comfort and understanding that he's unlikely to get elsewhere. As mentioned, he's been with the club for a decade, he lives in the area and he's got a fantastic relationship with the fans. Reading fans would be far more understanding if we failed to go up than a Wolves fanbase and board who are expecting survival, or at least immediate promotion back to the top division if they do go down.

If he were to leave Reading right now he'd tarnish a legacy that was already starting to see him mentioned in the same breath as Coppell. If he leaves now it would be hard to see him remain in such high regard if he walked out so late into a key season, and with just 1 completed season on his CV.

There's also a point to be made that he hasn't been fully tested as a manager, something that might gives the Wolves hierarchy pause for thought. Having been the driving force behind the recruitment and the development of the bulk of Reading's squad before he took the manager's job, he immediately had an advantage over external candidates. He knew the best way to get the most out of players like Long and Kebe and did so in a short period of time, could he do the same with players like Milijas or Kightly?

It also remains to be seen how good he is at evaluating and managing bigger money talent. As chief scout he would have played a part in some big money moves in the past for Reading for players like Kalifa Cisse, Emerse Fae and Greg Halford, all of whom flopped as Premier League players. How much he had to do with each signing isn't clear but his links with those players won't be the most encouraging sign for a club either currently in the top divison, or one with ambitions to be there.

Would McDermott leaving be a disaster for Reading? The initial reaction has been yes but if he does go, Brian would have left the next manager with a lot going for him. There is now money to invest in a squad that is already amongst the strongest in this league and has a young core that's only likely to get better. Our Academy is one of the best in the country and we've got the reputation to attract plenty of other managers. In the short term you've got people like Nigel Gibbs and Eamon Dolan at the club who could pick up the baton and carry on, while one Steve Coppell is also out of work and available.

So should he stay or should he go?

I'm of the opinion that he should stay, as long as the new regime come out and back him with a new deal. Brian's earned the chance to try and take this club to the next level and it's clear he has both the players and the fanbase on his side. He hasn't put a foot wrong so far under very tight financial constrictions and his initial forays with a bit of cash for Jason Roberts and Matthew Connolly have been promising.  On the other hand a move to Wolves offers the guarantee of Premier League football, financial security and a fresh challenge.

Personally I feel he's got unfinished business at the club and should seize the chance to become a legend at Reading by leading us back to the Premier League. Providing he's cared for financially and given public backing by AZ, he's got the perfect environment to build the club to a level that was so briefly teased during Coppell's years at the club. All of the advantages that a move to Wolves currently provides could so easily be achieved at this football club and he could well end up our greatest ever manager, a tag he'd always struggle to earn at Wolves given their successes in the 60's and 70's.

I really hope that the board and Brian can come to an arrangement that lets him realise his and the clubs ambitions at the Madejski Stadium because to move now would be an opportunity lost for both parties.