With this week bringing about Reading’s first signings of the January transfer window and Jose Gomes’ first deals as manager, just how crucial are a new appointment’s first recruits?
Lewis Baker and Ovie Ejaria became Royals this week, albeit on loan, and their success may go a long way towards defining Gomes’ reign and success. But what have past bosses first recruits say about them and their success at Reading?
Steve Coppell - Ivar Ingimarsson (23rd October 2003)
Signed for just £175,000 from Wolves just a few weeks after Coppell put pen to paper on a contract as Reading’s new manager. The first of a few Icelanders who would enter through the Madejski Stadium doors over the next few years, Ingimarsson perfectly sums up Coppell’s time in charge. He was understated, hardworking and a team player, and whilst not the most talented defender in the league on arrival, he became the backbone of that famous Reading team.
He was the first of many so called ‘bargains’ Coppell would sign in his time in charge that would end up paying off massively. This was the first signing of a transfer policy which really defined that era in Reading’s history. The crowd that turns up against Forest this Saturday would bite their arms off for a player of Ingimarsson’s tenacity, passion and loyalty in the Reading starting line up.
Brendan Rogers – Ryan Bertrand (31st July 2009)
Some managers just love signing players they’ve already worked with. Sometimes it works superbly, sometimes it makes the manager look a bit naïve and cautious. Rogers repeated this trick at his next two clubs in Swansea and Liverpool, and his decision to sign Ryan Bertrand on loan from Chelsea ended up being one of Reading’s better loan signings in history. However, this transfer policy of signing players he knew and had coached before was largely hit and miss, with more emphasis on miss.
His next and first permanent signing, the Giant Pole of Gregorz Rasiak from Southampton, who had played on loan for Rogers’ Watford team, isn’t seen as his best bit of business. Jobi McAnuff followed a day after Rasiak, also from Rogers’ previous Watford team, as did Shaun Cummings, who he had worked with at Chelsea. Add in the failure to bring in Tommy Smith and it became clear that Rogers’ transfer policy was all about bringing in players he knew. Though this ultimately failed - of all the seven signings he made, only Matt Mills and McAnuff worked long-term. Bertrand was obviously massively popular and a great player but was destined for greater things. Overall, the impact of Rogers’ transfers was about as temporary and underwhelming as his tenure. Darren O’Dea anyone?
Brian McDermott – Gunnar Thorvaldsson (3rd January 2010)
One transfer which does not sum up the great management success of Brian McDermott is Gunnar Thorvaldsson, who signed for Reading on loan with cautious expectation, probably because all our other Icelandic imports had worked so well. It could have gone better for poor Gunnar had he buried a penalty away to Forest on his debut. Unfortunately it was saved and after that he played just three more times in all competitions.
McDermott’s next two signings, also on loan in that January 2010 transfer window, proved much more popular and effective. Andy Griffin and Zurab Khizanishvili may have been old and treated with some scepticism, but they provided the calming influence and experience that side was craving. It showed the eye of McDermott to realise that the team just needed some more mature heads in the heart of the side. Considering Thorvaldsson barely featured, it was these two veteran defenders on loan from Premier League clubs that really helped define the start of his era. They had an immediate impact and it showed that only a few tweaks, rather than a massive overhaul, were needed for Reading to go from relegation favourites to playoff outsiders in just a few months. Lessons to be learned for Gomes and the current team perhaps?
Stay tuned for Part Two, as Tom looks back at the first signing in the tenures of Nigel Adkins, Steve Clarke, Jaap Stam and Paul Clement.