Graeme Murty managing Reading FC sounds good, maybe too good. Whilst the idea is the stuff of fairytale, how many of these “return of the prodigal son” stories come off? In truth, not many, so for me this rumour feels like nostalgia wrapping an idea lacking substance.
Realistically, what’s Murts achieved to earn (yes earn) leading the dugout? Whilst the likes of Alan Pardew etc were given their first dabbles in management at RG2, it was their coaching achievements within RFC beforehand that earned them their shot. So why should Murts get the gig just because he was our captain?
It feels remiss at this point not to mention Phil Parkinson. Whenever RFC are between managers, Parky’s name crops up. Yet him managing the club in the near future isn’t likely for the simple reason he doesn’t have the CV. This despite managing various clubs since 2003. The highlight: taking Bradford City on an incredible run to 2013’s League Cup final.
If Reading were to replace Paul Ince with someone nameless whose major league achievement had been promotion to the Championship nearly 20 years ago, interwoven with the odd cup run, would you be impressed? Especially if their most recent job had been to get Wrexham out of non-league at some expense - which, as we speak, still isn’t a certainty. Unless we’re in League One, it doesn’t scream ambition, does it?
However, Parky’s name will still be uttered the next time either he or RFC need to fill a vacancy. That’s the way of it, but it should stand as a measure of where we are in my opinion. We’ll forever be linked, but we’re not on the same level right now to consider a reunion, harsh as that sounds.
Now fans are getting misty-eyed about the possible arrival of someone who’s only managed over two short caretaker stints in Murty. Rangers are undoubtedly a huge club, but the Scottish Premier League is lightyears behind its English equivalent, and I’d argue easily behind the Championship as well. League success at Ibrox should be a cakewalk and if they didn’t feel Murts to be the man long term, that says enough for me.
Don’t forget the man who brought Murty to Reading either. Tommy Burns was an established name at Celtic who even Alex Ferguson rated. But he was quickly found to be out of his depth as Reading dropped into the third tier. That was when the gulf between EFL and SPL was much smaller.
Murty may well be part of a good setup at Sunderland’s academy, but it’s not translatable that he’ll be a success as Reading manager. Far from it. There are fewer games, less exposure and ultimately less pressure, and a look at the youth league table suggests they’re not pulling up any trees either. So why the excitement?
Apart from the obvious fondness us fans covet him with, can anyone really point out why Murty should be the next Reading manager over, say, Slaven Bilic or Garry Monk? Albeit chosen at random, both have Championship experience at least.
Potential success (or failure) as manager isn’t set in stone, but innate belief in success just because someone led the “106 team” as a player is delusional. To suggest the squad will suddenly up their game because the gaffer’s a club hero is fictional guff. They’re supposed to be professional anyway.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see Murty back at the club, but only if he’s been appointed after rigorous scrutiny. However, making him manager serves limited purposes. Sure, it says “getting our club back” and generates a lot of nostalgia-based invigoration to RFC’s image, but that’s where lines begin to blur between objectivity and blind faith. It’s the blindness that concerns me.
Attaching a heightened sense of loyalty towards someone based purely on nostalgia may breed huge naivety around the club and realising it too late could be fatal. That’s why I think Murty becoming Reading manager should remain only an idea for now at least. Look at Manchester United’s demise under Ole Gunnar Solskjær - months wasted hoping things would come good.
Similarly, Murty will instantly be afforded more time from the fanbase than his predecessors if/when results slide. Can you imagine the toxicity if someone dared speak out for change against our club hero? We’ve argued enough in recent years, we don’t need more.
Let’s also not forget where we are as a club. Dai Yongge is now essentially hiding behind Mark Bowen, and I still feel we have a right to hear directly from him. As EFL sanctions hopefully lift in the coming months, there’s a chance that - despite appearances so far - the club could go back to its old ways and sign players mostly through favoured agents etc. Do we really want Murty being used as a more “sellable face” to these kinds of antics? Definitely not.
Any club manager should have autonomy in how they wish to run things and I fear that, without it, the boardroom could use Murty as a false façade. We saw something like this during Brian McDermott’s second stint whereby “the club” (our then Thai owners) signed Deniss Rakels. Awkward for all concerned when it came to light.
It perhaps spoke of a bigger issue which McDermott has since touched on, whereby it was all smoke and mirrors. RFC had someone relatable back in charge, but behind the scenes it “wasn’t the same club” Brian had led two years before. It also wasn’t helpful that whilst transfers were clearly not all his decision, he didn’t or couldn’t get the team around him he wanted to replicate his previous tenure. After nine wins in 30, we know how it ended.
In 2016 we got lucky the Jaap Stam Dutch revolution that followed. More so because Brian Tevreden had a vision which nearly paid off. What do you think could follow Graeme Murty if he’s not a success?
I’d say that, given it’s only what Dai Yongge and co know, we’d return to hiring more Jose Gomes-type managers. The “fan project” with Murty will have had its chance and failed, more reason why those in power can do as they wish and use Reading FC as the “show stable” they have.
I’d want it to work with Graeme Murty, but I’m not yet sure I trust the club to help him or any inexperienced manager to make it work. Have Reading FC really learned from the last few years or is it just an idea too good to be true?