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OPINION: Why I Got Off The Adkins Bandwagon

I initially wrote these thoughts in the immediate aftermath of the 6-1 thrashing at Birmingham but wanted to wait until the dust had settled to put them out there. However with Nigel Adkins now gone, it seems fair to put them out, so here's why Nigel lost my confidence.

Ian Walton/Getty Images

First of all let's get one thing right, I don't enjoy seeing anyone lose their job. That goes for someone working minimum wage, to the highest paid celebrity in the world. While some will suffer financially more than others, the vast majority of people will have pride in what they do and to see that taken away from them isn't a nice feeling no matter how well paid you might be.

I've also got nothing against Nigel Adkins as a person. While his media persona hasn't always been my cup of tea, from everything I've heard and seen he's a decent hard working bloke that gives up a great deal of his time to support good causes and represent the football club. It's clear he loves the game and has poured his heart and soul into that job.

However it's that last sentence that convinced me that his time at Reading should come to an end.

Nigel looked and sounded like a man that had given it his very, very best and has still come up short. He tried youth, he tried experience, he went  4-4-2, 4-5-1, 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1 and just about every team and strategy combination you could think of, and yet despite that, we only seemed to be going backwards

In his defence there's no question that he was the victim of some awful luck.

Brought to the club by an Anton Zingarevich who was playing with monopoly money, Nigel was undoubtedly sold a much different scenario than the one he soon found himself in.

The recent news of record debts for the former owners of the club show just how little in terms of investment that Anton Zingarevich and TSI brought to the football club. Even worse they've loading the squad with expensive and bloated contracts that prevent investment even now due to FFP. The club's previously disciplined wage structure was blown apart by a set of men who gambled spectacularly on sustaining and then regaining Premier League football and who blew it twice.

Window after window Nigel came out in the press and was optimistic about adding players and yet deadline day after deadline day we were only left disappointed. While some accuse Adkins of spinning the situation to his advantage, I see it as a man who was made to look a fool by broken promise after broken promise.

Say what you want about Mr Adkins but I refuse to believe anyone would leave themselves so exposed to public ridicule unless they actually believed investment was coming. He's a proud man that's carried on despite having promises broken and he never came out and used it as an excuse.

As we know now, investment was never to come. Vastly experienced Championship players were allowed to leave the club, while those who had shown hints of promise were sold off to plug the mounting debt. While most were let go for the right reasons, had we known what was to come I'm sure Adkins wouldn't have been so quick to allow others to just walk away.

Those that did arrive as replacements were short term gambles, or expensive long-shots. Wayne Bridge was only ever a short term solution, Royston Drenthe had already shown a dangerous trend of under-achieving, while Danny Williams was promising yet oft-injured. Soon, Nigel couldn't even afford to keep free transfers or those on loan with Chris Baird and Billy Sharp both disappearing almost as soon as they'd arrived.

When Nigel was finally allowed to loosen the purse strings he actually did pretty well. Simon Cox and Glenn Murray have both looked dangerous, while Oliver Norwood is twice a fans' player of the month. Jamie Mackie was fast winning fans over and even the maligned and probably non-Adkins signing Anton Ferdinand looked promising on debut.

Yet throughout Adkins' tenure, there was one situation that boggled the mind, the sheer number of injuries.

At one stage earlier this season Adkins told the press he would be without a dozen players for the trip to Middlesbrough, an absolutely staggering amount for a club with some of the best facilities in the country.

Either Reading have been the most unlucky side in the Championship or there was something going wrong behind the scenes. BBC Radio Berkshire's Tim Dellor pressed Nigel on the injury issues in his post-match interview at St Andrew's and the Reading manager quickly went on the defensive, saying they were reviewing practices and few happened on the training ground. Yet as the man responsible for running footballing matters at the club you can't help but feel the buck had to stop with him.

Sadly even when players were back from injury, they rarely fired on all cylinders.

I lost count of the amount of times I thought 'that player is better than that'. How did Alex Pearce go from a Player of the Season winner to being overlooked for a 19-year-old with a handful of Championship appearances? How did Hal Robson-Kanu go from being a shining light in a dour Premier League campaign to failing to put the ball in the net past Blackpool and Rotherham?

I struggle to think of anyone that made genuine and sustained progress under Nigel's management.

Even those that previously looked good have stuttered in recent months. Jordan Obita was a Player of the Season winner for his efforts at full-back last season but during this season he's been played all across the midfield and when he has been at full-back has struggled to cope.

The promise of Academy graduates filling the team has been watered down. Players like Aaron Kuhl have been dumped by the wayside, others like Dom Samuel never given a chance to shine at all.

It was this tactical tinkering that slowly drove me mad and I can't think of a logical explanation for it.

Winning teams and formations were changed; players were played in multiple different positions, some totally out of position and to what end?

It's no wonder the players had such low confidence when some were in and out of the team like yo-yos and others seemed undroppable despite the most woeful of performances. I don't know what someone like Simon Cox must have been thinking when he was dropped for a big away game yet Chris Gunter remained in the side, playing out of position after a string of pathetic performances. That's not to pick on Gunter, it could also go for any number of players this season. Nick Blackman finally looked to be making a breakthrough and then got dumped for the aforementioned under-performing Robson-Kanu.

Tim Dellor said it best after the game on Saturday, the players just didn't look like they were having fun and when you're not having fun it's hard to be at your best.

The players too often looked like they were rigidly sticking to a plan, afraid to express themselves for fear of doing something wrong. Too often it was an aimless cross into a crowded box, or a sideways pass instead of driving forward with the ball. Michael Hector gives me a heart attack with some of his touches but at least he showed a desire to try things and make them happen.

Glenn Murray looked utterly fed up and frustrated and who can blame him when he's had about one through ball to run on to all season.

All of this would be fine if you could see a team slowly developing and getting used to a way of playing but there was just minimal progression since game one at Arsenal. Hell, that Reading team only lost 4-1 to a Champions League team, and now we're losing 6-1 at Birmingham?!

I'd often argue for patience on the podcast or even on the pages of this website but even with some of his best players fit recently there was still next to no progress.

While Saturday's mauling is the straw that broke the camel's back, I almost feel as if Nick Hammond was the one who's brought the Adkins era to an end in my book. With Hammond's admission that funds in January would be limited suddenly there was little prospect of Nigel bringing in anyone game changing to this side. That suddenly meant that either he had to get more out of this side or we had to wait until the summer to see the START of any progress.

Patience is a virtue and as football fans we're perhaps too quick to jump the gun and demand change but this wasn't knee-jerk, this is facing up to the grim reality.

Some have argued that there's nobody better out there, that Nigel was doing his best with what he had. That ladies and gentlemen is exactly the reason I found myself thinking it was best he moved on because if this is the BEST he can get out of this group, he's wasn't the right fit for this football club.

I don't expect a big name manager to waltz into this club but then we've never needed one before to be successful. Some of our best managers have come from lower league clubs, inexperienced former players, or even a chief scout. The important question would be can they get a group full of potential but chronic under-achievement firing again and I have to believe that there is someone out there who could do just that.

Yet the biggest reason for wanting a change was probably the most simple and probably selfish...

I just wasn't enjoying watching Reading Football Club.

I've seen awful Reading sides before, stood on the terraces at Elm Park watching us slump at home to Grimsby, or in a 1/4 full Mad Stad losing at home to Chesterfield. The club are still a million miles ahead of where we were then but then again those sides didn't have the quality at Nigel's disposal.

Even through the misery of those dark days you still felt an odd sense of pride and enjoyment from watching a team scrap against the odds. We didn't have quality but we had scrappers like Parkinson, some honest older pros, and a few random mavericks like Lambert, Rougier or Cureton. The football wasn't always pretty, in fact sometimes it was down right ugly but you felt a connection to the players out there, a sense of spirit and community.

Recently, I just didn't feel it.

The players looked disconnected from the fans, who struggled to have any reason to make any sort of noise in the ground. How many players have a song about them these days? How many players do you want to actually turn up and watch? This isn't just a problem at Reading but the fact is it's a problem at Reading and that's who we care about.

The odd bad game was to be expected but aside from a couple of brilliant wins last January and a couple of halves of sublime skill against Watford or Fulham, how often were we left feeling entertained?

Expectations were possibly too high but I just had no sense that under Adkins we were on a positive journey together, only a slow painful march down.

Could Nigel Adkins have turned our fortunes around?


Would I have been happy about that?


DId I think that was likely?

After Saturday , for the first time under his leadership my answer was no.

As mentioned the majority of this was written pre-sacking but it still sums up how I feel. I wish Nigel Adkins nothing but the best and thank him for everything he tried to do.