Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I was one of a hardy band of supporters who protested (yes, an actual protest) against the then manager at the time, Ian Branfoot. Okay, I tell a wee bit of a porky, I sort of just went along to watch what unfolded, but still, it came at a time when Reading couldn't buy a win. We had succumbed to consecutive losses to such luminaries as Southend United, Wigan Athletic, Gillingham, Preston North End, Fulham, and the straw that broke the camels back, Bristol City.
The good old days
This my friends, is 1988. We played at grounds such as Sealand Road, Twerton Park, Saltergate and Watling Street. Names that have drifted into the annals of time that may not even resonate with some reading this. This is pre-Madejski, pre-flirting with the Premier League and Europe, pre-Russian, pre-Thai, pre-everything good that we all see today and should be jolly well proud of.
Back then, managers did not really get sacked as often as today, they were generally given plenty of rope to hang themselves. In my circles, Branfoot was never really 'loved' by the Reading faithful, despite being the manager behind the "13 wins from the start of a season record", one we all still watch out for every season hence. When people look back to that side, they tend to recall the players of the day, Senior, Horrix, Bremner, Wood and others - rarely is Branfoot mentioned in such warm, glowing terms.
Whilst Reading fans were hardly expecting to be "Barcelona", "Route One" tactics, as championed by Wimbledon to FA Cup success worked well for Reading too. Despite winning the Simod Cup, despite that winning record and subsequent promotion in '86; it counted for little with the fans. He made Steve Coppell look chirpy but was never unapologetic for it. Positivity? Don't be daft!
Back then, despite having no money, a dilapidated stadium (but we loved it anyway), we didn't have deep injury problems, we didn't have an ownership situation to recover from (that had happened a few years prior.) We just had a pretty awful football team! We had sold Trevor Senior to Watford and Kevin Bremner to Brighton at the end of the 1986/1987 season and they were never adequately replaced. (Steve Moran and Colin Gordon, anyone?!)
Modern day grumbles
To fast forward to now and the natives are starting to grumble in the same way about Nigel. I see a lot of similarities between how the fans are reacting to Nigel now and Branfoot then. In 1988, Ian had the mitigating factors of player sales and the old cliche of losing the dressing room. In 2014, if you squint your eyes some of the mitigating factors could be labelled as the same for Nigel.
It would seem that if your face fits, like Coppell, McDermott and even Pardew to an extent, your survival chances would be improved if fans can comfortably buy in to the manager's personality. All three of the aforementioned would call a spade a spade, even if it was in their own inimitable fashion. All managed to inject something different and instill a part of their spirit into the team .
The fans simply saw what the manager stood for and wanted from his team. For Adkins, I don't think he's managed to win over the hearts and minds of today's fan. Whilst Ian's media persona and Nigel's are pretty much poles apart, he could end up, like Branfoot, where your personality almost counts for as much as a results do. Legacies form and fall in different ways, after all.