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First Time Managers At Reading FC

If appointed, Jaap Stam would not be the first time Reading have appointed a first time manager. In fact the club have had far more than you may have expected.

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Billy Butler (1935-39)

Appointed manager on 1 August 1935, Butler has spent most of his playing career at Bolton Wanderers before finishing at Elm Park under his former team-mate Joe Smith. When Smith left for Blackpool, Butler retired and took over the reins.

Reading never finished lower than sixth in Division Three South in Butler's four years at the club. He resigned in February 1939 before later that year taking over at Guildford City.

Hit or miss? Hit

Ted Drake (1947-52)

Okay, technically Reading was not Drake's first managerial role, but it was his first at professional level. A year at Hendon still would have made the then Biscuitmen a step up. Drake arrived at the club with an illustrious career having twice won the league, as well as the FA Cup, with Arsenal.

Drake spent five years at Elm Park. In that time we twice finished runners-up in Division Three South, cruelly missing out on promotion as only the champions went up at the time. His success at Reading caught the eye of Chelsea, where he would become a club legend by leading them to their first ever league championship.

Hit or miss? Hit

Harry Johnston (1955-63)

Another player to arrive with a decent top level playing career. Johnston had spent 21 years, minus the war years, as a defender for Blackpool. He won the FA Cup in 1953 and is still remembered as a legend at Bloomfield Road.

His seven seasons at Reading were rather inconsistent and never saw the club leave the third tier. His highest finish was fifth and lowest 18th.

Hit or miss? In modern day football you would say miss, but football back then was far more relaxed and patient. Probably both.

Roy Bentley (1963-68)

Bentley is another player to arrive with a glittering playing career. Capped 12 times by England, he had played under Drake when Chelsea won the title in 1955.

After the inconsistent years under Johnston, Bentley managed to establish Reading in the top half of Divison Three. One season aside, they never finished lower than eighth.

Hit or miss? Hit

Charlie Hurley (1972-77)

Considered such a legend at Sunderland, he was voted their player of the 20th century. He arrived at Reading just a year after finishing his career at Bolton.

He took over the club at its lowest point in its history and in his first season actually led us to our lowest ever finish, 16th in Division Four. After that there was gradual progress until we won promotion in 1976 with Robin Friday leading the line.

Hurley later reflected that Friday "lost his way when we got promotion. He really must have celebrated all through the summer."

After hitting 21 goals the season before he would manage just three in 16 appearances before being sold to Cardiff City in December 1976. Hurley would quit just two months later, in a season that would eventually see Reading relegated straight back to the fourth tier.

Hit or miss? Hit before it went all wrong

Ian Branfoot (1984-89)

Branfoot had a very modest career by the standards of most of the names in this article, but had coaching ambitions from a very young age. He was fully qualified by the age of 21 and became player-coach at Lincoln by the time he was 30.

Branfoot joined Reading as assistant manager in 1983, before being handed the top job at Elm Park in January 1984 in controversial circumstances when he replaced Maurice Evans. He led the team to promotion from Division 4 to Division 3 that season.

Two seasons later he became just the second manager in the club's history to take us into the second tier. In the process we set the record, which still stands, of 13 straight wins from the season's start. The following season Branfoot's Reading achieved the club's then highest ever league finish.

Sadly the following season we would be relegated, but the 1987/88 season is still remembered fondly as the Simod Cup was won, which remains our only ever win at Wembley. Reading would only just survive a second consecutive relegation by two points in 1988/89, and Branfoot was sacked in October 1989 after it became clear he would not be able to recreate his early magic.

Despite the disappointing end to his time at the club, it is a mystery to me as a fan who started watching Reading in 1994, why we don't hear more about Branfoot's achievements.

Hit or miss? Hit

Mark McGhee (1991-94)

A striker who had enjoyed a good career in England, Germany and Scotland, McGhee was appointed on the recommendation on Alex Ferguson. He carried on playing in his first two years at Elm Park before retiring in 1993. It was interesting to hear that Stuart Lovell thought that was one of the reasons why the Royals would go on to win the third tier title the following year.

Our eighth season in the second tier would see us reach unthinkable heights. The football seen that season was some of the best ever witnessed in the club's history.

For me McGhee is the second most important manager in the club's history. It was him that transformed Reading from a club happy in the third tier to one respected in the second tier, and considered contenders for promotion to the top flight. His time at the club was sullied by the manner of his departure to Leicester City, but that shouldn't take away from his achievements.

Hit or miss? Hit

Jimmy Quinn / Mick Gooding (1994-97)

Thrown in the deep end by McGhee's departure, Jim and Mick were initially caretakers alongside Jeff Hopkins and Adrian Williams. The managerial committee were in charge for five games before the senior members were appointed full time.

The 1994/95 season remains the most heartbreaking in the club's history. Reading are the only club to ever finish second and not win automatic promotion to the top flight. We would then go on to memorably destroy Tranmere Rovers in the play-off semi finals, before losing to Bolton in the final.

Whilst it was McGhee who built that team, Quinn and Gooding deserve credit for continuing the team's success. I think the Reading of 1995 would still be the smallest club ever to play in the Premier League.

It was always going to be hard for Reading to match that success and the following two seasons would see the Royals battle relegation. It was therefore not a total surprise when John Madejski decided not to renew Quinn and Gooding's contracts. History would show that was a decision he would regret.

Hit or miss? Hit

Alan Pardew (1999-2003)

Appointing Pardew was probably the best decision Madejski made in his time as Chairman. It might be hard to comprehend now, but Reading were heading for relegation to the fourth tier when Pardew took over. By the time he left the club it was almost expected that we should be strong contenders for promotion to the Premier League.

Pardew transformed the club and lay the foundations for Steve Coppell to eventually take Reading to the top flight for the first time. Without Pardew, Reading could have remained a yo-yo club between the Championship and League One. He might be the most influential manager the club has ever had.

Hit or miss? Hit

Brian McDermott (2009-13)

Has there been another Reading manager who has divided opinion as much as McDermott? The fans were already divided over the decision to sack his predecessor, Brendan Rodgers, but few could disagree that McDermott was anything but a success in his first three seasons in charge.

What always amazed me during his first spell was how as his teams and football got worse, his results got better. Even his Premier League team got far more points than it should have.

Ultimately he was found out. He always felt like a Mick McCarthy and Neil Warnock style manager. Great man manager in the Championship, but football that at times could be less than entertaining to endure. His success in his first spell deserves more respect than it gets, but should now be remembered fondly in the past.

Hit or miss? Hit