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Moments Of The 2010s: When Mathieu Manset Revived Brian McDermott’s Reading Career

A 3-2 win at Bristol City marked the man from Slough’s step-up from temporary to permanent hero.

Bristol City v Reading - npower Championship Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

There was a time when I thought Brian McDermott might not be the man to lead Reading FC to glory - and I know exactly when it was.

It was a mild Tuesday night in September, 2011. Reading were lodged in the lower depths of mid-table after five defeats from their opening eight matches and with a sixth seeming inevitable. Bristol City had cruised into a 2-0 lead at Ashton Gate, Brett Pitman doubling their advantage on the hour mark as I started to think aloud.

I wasn’t sure this McDermott fella was the right man anymore. He had experienced the new-manager bounce to lead us well clear of relegation and even taken us to Wembley. Now, shorn of his best player, we were looking over our shoulder again.

Then everything changed.

Jobi McAnuff and Adam Le Fondre bagged a quick brace to level the scores with 15 minutes left to go. The first was received with a fairly surprised celebration from the subdued away fans.

The second sent me and my friend rushing over to the barrier to berate the smug Bristolians. The away end back then famously provided seats with no backs and was bafflingly designed to become more shallow the further back you went. It also featured a pretty chunky gap and metal barrier, meaning any pretences to hooliganism were safely mollycoddled - as has become the way in this decade.

Anyway, the blue-and-white figures at the other end of the pitch were suddenly looking rather good again and my fears for McDermott were delightfully misplaced.

Mathieu Manset, a signing so well-loved but nonetheless so sporadically useful he was basically ahead of his time at this football club, popped up in injury time to produce a flick that nestled in the far corner of the net. From any other point of view this was probably a goal as soon as he touched it. From ours, it trickled agonisingly across the goalline and could only be confirmed as the winner with City’s fans halfway back to the car park.

I remember not actually running to the away fans in that celebration, instead yelling manically at Alex Pearce, who was nearer our end and chose to go mad with the fans rather than his teammates.

Reading only lost one in their next seven and the rest, as they say, is history. That said, five-and-a-bit years later, I was present at Ashton Gate as Liam Kelly and Yann Kermorgant led Jaap Stam’s Royals into doing it all over again. By sheer coincidence, that team that also displayed fortitude, fight and skill also went quite far.