Last month, Nick Hammond surprised Reading fans with his sudden departure from the club he had spent 20 years at in various roles. The former goalkeeper joined West Brom as the Baggies' Technical Director in a move that disappointed Royals fans, as in his role as Director of Football of football he orchestrated a number of impressive transfer deals.
Yesterday he penned an open letter to Reading supporters, which on the surface seems an honest, passionate message:
I would firstly like to say thank you to Reading Football Club for giving me the opportunity to serve a wonderful club for 20 years.
As a player, coach, academy director and director of football I saw so many great people work so hard together, work that culminated in a wonderful journey through the leagues to the Premier League.
Sir John Madejski was a huge influence on us all. I thank him for his support and advice that helped to shape a new ambition and taught us all so much.
He led us from being a lower division club to a club that built a wonderful new stadium and, at our best, became a united force that won or lost together with a grace that the football world admired.
With his great friends and colleagues, Nigel Howe and Ian Wood-Smith, we shared so many great days and equally tough and disappointing moments with one consistent force: togetherness. Nigel and Ian are Trojan workers for a club that means so much to them.
Also I would like to say a special thank you to Sue Hewett, Reading’s Club Secretary – undoubtedly one of the best in the football world. I always marvelled at her commitment and expertise and how her team worked so hard behind the scenes to make us stronger. Thanks Sue.
Every great club needs great supporters. As our fan base grew I always took great pride in their passion and dignity. When we were backed by fans whose conduct, even on the most disappointing of days, made us proud to be Royals - they were the difference between the impossible dream becoming a reality.
Those values will always be the catalyst that will bring the club back to the Premier League.
I have been lucky to work as director of football with so many great managers. I am so proud to work with them all. None of us will ever forget the extraordinary and remarkable work of Steve Coppell and Brian McDermott, which took us to the Premier League.
Steve is a great friend to us all and I was lucky to work so closely with a true Reading giant whose advice is always helpful to me.
Of course the club is lucky to have Brian as manager, whose work as chief scout and then manager was twice key in our promotions to the Premier League. I will always be grateful for his ability to find great undiscovered talent – no-one is better at finding players who he then makes into stars.
One massive part of my time at the club has been the growth of our Academy which, pound for pound, is up there for value with any club in the country.
Perhaps my best ever signing was Eamonn Dolan. On all of our best days, the Academy has always been at the heart of success. The work of Eamonn and so many other extraordinary committed people at youth level, is a key to the club’s future.
Eamonn is a special man. One of the days I remember with most pride was when he was our manager at Old Trafford. I know how impressed Sir Alex Ferguson was with him that day.
Players who grow up and love the club will always serve a club with a different vigour and affection than those whose agents sometimes convince them to move to a club for financial reasons, passing through rather than fighting for glory is one of the most disappointing aspects of modern football.
On our best days we remembered that. Those days will return. Our owners work very hard and will benefit from the lessons of this season and work to make us stronger. Reading have a proven manager who can bring in the right type of players and the right type of people to get Reading back to being consistent promotion contenders.
Whilst I am sad to be leaving, I am excited about my new opportunity and will always be grateful for the support I got from so many people in my 20 years at a truly unique, decent and great football club.
I will cherish the memories and will always look forward to the club’s future successes. I am truly thankful to every fan and colleague who gave me so much support.
In football, nothing lasts forever and I feel very excited about my new challenge at West Bromwich Albion Football Club. However nobody will be more pleased than me, as I watch the club rediscover that famed Royals togetherness that brought the club so much success.
Good luck and thank you so much.
In an era where goodbye messages from players are generic, a few lines long, written by an agent, written on 'notes', screenshotted, then posted on social media, this is a refreshing change from Hammond.
And as aforementioned, it is clear that this is an honest message from Hammond to fans of a club that obviously means an awful lot to him and has played a huge part in his life. He includes everything you'd expect him to include: Sir John Madejski, Nigel Howe, promotion to the Premier League, the fans and the academy (which he has played a big role in). Apart from one thing.
Now this might be us at TTE just reading too much into things, but is it not significant that he has not even mentioned the people who have effectively been his boss for nearly two years? Apart from one line "our owners work very hard".
There are suggestions/rumours that Hammond's role at Reading was made pretty much redundant following the arrival of the consortium, who brought in their own people to do transfer deals. Brian McDermott has admitted that Deniss Rakels was the Thais' signing in January, whilst you can speculate with a large degree of confidence that Orlando Sa, Alex Fernandez, Ola John and Paolo Hurtado were also choices of the owners and not Steve Clarke. Are these the mercenaries he discusses?
So with the Thais disregarding Hammond and Hammond disregarding the Thais, it wouldn't surprise me if Hammond was actually looking for an opportunity to leave Berkshire and jumped at the chance when the West Brom gig became available. He writes in his letter that "nothing lasts forever", and probably realised that 'the Reading way' no longer existed at the Madejski Stadium and there was little point him remaining.
It's hard to tell what really is going on behind the scenes, but the fact that Hammond did exclude the Thais from his letter does suggest he has been frustrated in these last few months and has been miffed by some of their decisions. You can read Wimb's assessment of the ownership here.
Are we reading too much into Hammond's letter? Or is there something in his omission? Let us know in the comments below.