clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

OPINION: Why Blaming The Manager Won't Solve Reading FC's Problems

Fed up with Reading's results? You've every right to be... but if you're blaming Brian McDermott for this mess, you might want to think again.

Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

After every defeat it's natural to be emotive. We've all been there, wanting to throw our keyboards, radios, or matchday programmes as far as we can after another frustrating, painful Reading loss. Last minute defeats only serve to sting that bit more, so if you were one of those fans looking to lash out on social media or to BBC Radio Berkshire last night, then fair play to you.

I'm not going to sit here and be overly hypocritical towards those fans that decide to vent those frustrations towards the manager because I've occasionally been there and done it as well. Those who've followed us on Twitter over the years could probably dig out the odd frustrated tweet directed at Mr's McDermott, Adkins and Clarke, but the difference is I'd like to think that when the heat of the moment has passed, myself and others here at The Tilehurst End have always done our best to see the bigger picture and analyse things rationally.

So is Brian McDermott really the man to blame for Reading's problems?

In my opinion, almost certainly not.

When a team is 'under performing' then you're right to ask questions of the man in charge, but given Reading's rapid decline in the past four years, isn't there a bigger factor at play here? After all, it's not just McDermott that's failed to get much out of this group. We've had the man behind Southampton's master plan fail in Nigel Adkins, and one of the most highly respected coaches in the UK in Steve Clarke, also fail to produce consistent results.

Throw in the fact there's been no miraculous bounce under a couple of caretaker managers, or since Brian's return in December, and I struggle to see how at this point, many can simply blame the manager.

If you're still laying the blame for our struggles solely at the feet of Brian McDermott, then you're giving everyone else a free pass...

Quite simply, if you're still laying the blame for our struggles solely at the feet of Brian McDermott, then you're giving everyone else a free pass and allowing the downward cycle to continue unchecked.

The manager can only control so much and when this particular manager has had one January window with limited resources to work with and inherited a group that's had one sustained run of promotion contending form in close to two-seasons, I personally fail to understand what people realistically expect.

'BUT WE WERE SECOND IN OCTOBER' I hear some of you cry. Well yes, but it's a lot easier to be second at the start of October than the start of April. Blackpool were second on October 1st in 2013 and ended up 20th. Nottingham Forest were second on October 5th 2014 and ended up 15th, now Reading are set to join them as autumn darlings turned spring also-rans.

Any team can have a good run of six wins in seven games, Rotherham have just won six in eight so are we saying they should be play-off contending? We were clearly in a false position that's easy to get into when the league hasn't fully taken shape.

If you dig a little deeper into the run that took us up to second, it's not as if this was a Reading team a class above the rest. Yes the wins over Ipswich, Burnley and Middlesbrough were impressive, and yes some of us got carried away and bet on us to win the title, but really we were riding a Nick Blackman inspired streak that lasted all of five to six matches. The cracks were there even before the run ended. It took a late red card to help us squeeze past an awful Charlton side to go second just after the international break, before the wheels utterly fell off at Fulham just two games later.

The decision to dispense with Steve Clarke continues to divide sections of the fanbase, just as Brian's re-appointment left many with reservations of their own, yet both of those decisions shouldn't factor into how we're judging the team right now. Just because we've had a rotating cast of men in the dugout isn't justification to continue that trend, whether you're pro or anti-McDermott.

As Jon Keen, author of Sum of the Parts explained on our Tilehurst End Podcast just two days ago, it takes time to turn a team around. Steve Coppell needed two-and-a-half years to get his team to promotion, as did Mark McGhee and Alan Pardew before him and McDermott again after him. Reading finished 19th, 7th & 19th in the three seasons before and were 13th when Brian took charge again, so little points to a team that should be in the top six.

January saw the club's top goalscorer at the club replaced with a man who's been a bit part at Bournemouth, and a totally unknown quantity from the Polish leagues, so it's not as if we injected enough proven quality to merit an instant revival.

As I've said before, we've had four managers who've all struggled to deliver results if you include both of Brian's spells, so isn't it about time to point the finger towards the players? Especially when some of them worked under two, three or all four of them.

Steve Coppell needed two-and-a-half years to get his team to promotion, as did Mark McGhee and Alan Pardew before him.

Individually we've had some very talented individuals at the football club over the past four seasons but it's time to ask whether they were the right types of players and whether the right team was being built. We all know that Anton Zingarevich himself dictated a lot of the transfer policy between 2012 and 2013, before the money ran out and all we had were poor investments under bloated contracts.

That left Adkins with almost no room to build a team and Clarke faced with a new ownership unwilling to gamble while high earners were still on the club's books. What Clarke then got was a big turnover in 2015 but again, was delivered players, largely on loan and many of whom were far from good enough or had strong desires to buy into any Reading project.

Danny Williams, Hal Robson-Kanu, Nick Blackman, Garath McCleary, Chris Gunter, Danny Guthrie, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Simon Cox, Oliver Norwood, Jordan Obita, Alex Pearce, Michael Hector... All players that have played large chunks of the past two-four seasons and all of whom have failed to produce on a consistent basis.

If a string of different managers have all failed to get them to gel, perhaps it says something about the makeup and qualities of those players. Throw in loanees, plus cheap or unproven signings, and is it any wonder why we're struggling? Some of those players deserve another chance, but for others maybe it's time to say that despite having good qualities, you're not right for this football club.

So has Brian McDermott been perfect? Of course not. Some of his selections have been puzzling and his tactical decisions have also been suspect at times, but when they come against a backdrop of four years of decline and a squad that just hasn't proved it's good enough to stay in contention, I think they're all minor problems that can be put to one side.

Brian's not made the sort of season changing errors that have stopped us making the top six. There's been no blatantly obvious system, selection or means to magically transform this squad, the only thing that's going to do that is time and careful sensible investment.

If you want to blame Brian that's fine but as I said, if you're pinning this run of failure on the manager, you'll just allow the cycle to continue with the poor sucker that has to replace him.