Reading do not make a habit of sacking managers. Steve Coppell was at the helm for six years before he walked in May, and Alan Pardew was at the club for a sizeable period before he quit for West Ham in 2003. It has been a long time since Reading gave a manager the push.
Officially Brendan Rodgers’ sudden departure is being labelled mutual consent, but listening to John Madejski – who broke his silence 24 hours after the news broke – it is clear that this was the board’s decision and not the manager’s. To call the situation mutual consent seems to have more to do with Rodgers opting to depart in a professional manner without a furious parting shot. Madejski has indicated that the move to part with Rodgers was made on the basis that football is a results business and the results have simply not been good enough.
It is hard to know what to make of the decision. Several weeks ago when the team had just lost for the fourth straight game, there were murmurings of discontent from some sections of supporters and the Press suggested Rodgers was set for the chop. Since then, both performances and results have picked up, not to a level where the soppy clouds have lifted, but at least to the extent that the team seems to be making progress. As discussed here earlier in the week, the Royals have struggled to put away their chances but at least they have been showing the invention to create openings. A positive run of results does not seem too far away and it is a shame that Rodgers has not been given the time to find his feet.
Sitting 21st in the table around the half way point of the season is far from idyllic, but Reading should not fear relegation at this stage. Peterborough and Scunthorpe both seem to lack the ability and know-how to remain in the division. Plymouth do not have the quality to stay up without drastic changes under new manager Paul Mariner and their financial position is unclear going into January with a transfer embargo yet to be lifted. Crystal Palace are in danger of administration and are likely to sell their top players without worthwhile replacements coming in, and there are other clubs with worse squads in the league than Reading.
The club is bigger than any individual manager and the board has moved in the way they feel is best to take the club forward and there comes a point when someone with overall authority has to make a tough call. Madejski has said that the decision was that of the whole board and not a unilateral decision of his, so the shared consensus was clearly that something needed to be done. The chairman was cryptic when asked if anyone could have done better, replying that the manager brought in seven players and that people could speculate all day long, but the team are where Rodgers has left them. His signings have been a mixed bag, but he has to an extent been hamstrung by the enforced need to balance the books prior to his arrival. It has been a tall order having to weld together several incoming faces with inexperienced members of the youth team.
Judging by fans’ forums, the Reading public is split on whether Rodgers should have stayed or gone. The departing manager has a history at the club and many people were desperate for him to succeed because he is deemed one of them. Others seem to have taken a disliking to his Mourinho-like ego and have not sympathised with the frustrating results he has endured. Current chief scout and former reserve team boss Brian McDermott has taken temporary charge of the first team, assisted by coach Nigel Gibbs. Madejski has left it open as to whether there will be a new manager installed or if the caretaking team will be given a chance in the role. It is true that both know the club inside out, but if they are good enough for the job, one wonders why they were not given the chance in the summer when Coppell departed. What is clear is that Rodgers is gone just six months after his regime began and Reading fans will hope that the latest command will steer them free from a relegation dogfight.