Reading will have been hoping to beat Newcastle on Saturday but unfortunately they have already been beaten by the weather. The Championship clash was called off on Thursday afternoon on the grounds of supporter safety, with Berkshire among the worst affected areas in the recent snow storms. With the postponement goes the chance to build on the excellent performance against Liverpool in the FA Cup.
The game with Magpies marked a significant watershed in the reign of Brian McDermott. After giving the big boys a real test last weekend, the Royals would have had the chance to show they could cut it against the top side in their own division. That chance has now gone for now, and McDermott will have to wait to prove that he has what it takes to get his charges playing at a high standard when it matters.
McDermott’s position is still unclear. Soundbites from senior figures at Madejski Stadium suggest he is in the job for the long term but there has been no official announcement of a permanent appointment. Whilst McDermott himself is likely to have been told in private the exact situation, he will not be helped by all the public focus on who might come in to replace him at any moment. Sir John Madejski wrote in his programme notes for the Liverpool game that McDermott has the complete trust of the board but for some reason that same board are not prepared to get off the fence and back him with an official appointment. When first interviewed after the departure of Brendan Rodgers, Madejski was coy on whether a new man would be brought in or not, and the speculation will continue until a formal announcement is made one way or another.
One man who will not be occupying the home dugout at the Mad Stad any time soon is Darren Ferguson. He was denied the chance to talk to Reading about replacing Steve Coppell in the summer by his then-employers Peterborough, but soon found himself unemployed after a poor start to the season by Posh. With Ferguson on the market, the Royals had the chance to move for him but it is Preston who have got their man instead. It would be easy to take the Reading board’s reluctance to approach Ferguson as a sign that they are not looking to replace McDermott. What is also possible is that the Royals are reluctant to appoint another inexperienced manager long term with Ferguson and Rodgers both lacking sustained track records. Ferguson has made a very impressive start to his managerial career, achieving back to back promotions with Peterborough, yet in the Championship he was unable to get his side’s season off and running and Reading have just removed a manager for the same reason.
The Liverpool game saw calls from Royals fans for Steve Coppell to be brought back as manager. These chants were inspired by the former boss’s presence at the ground as a TV pundit but it is also a topic that has surfaced more than once on internet forums. Coppell’s achievements at the club are beyond any doubt and he does have a history of returning to previous employers, having had four separate spells at Crystal Palace. If Coppell had stayed over the summer then it is hard to think of anyone that could do a better job. The fact remains he did leave and it would be a shame for him to risk tarnishing his reputation by potentially failing with a set of players that differs greatly from those he enjoyed great success with. The temptation to try and recreate past triumphs should be avoided. The team sit near the bottom of the table and the situation is not going to change over night. Appointing Coppell would bring with it unrealistic expectations of a quick return to greatness that won’t happen in such a short timeframe.
For now, McDermott is in charge and everyone involved with the club would be advised to get behind him. Whether he is the long term choice or not, the present is what is important right now and it is vital that the club pushes forward with a united front. Promoting a backroom member of staff might not get the pulses racing in the same way that a big name appointment would, but at least he knows the players and the infrastructure. Results and progress made will ultimately decide McDermott’s future but his job would be made much easier if the board were prepared to publically back him by announcing a timeframe for his tenure, whether to the end of the season or on a three-year contract like Rodgers had. If a new manager is to be brought in, it needs to be soon so that he has a chance to settle in and make a difference in the battle for survival.