Brendan Rodgers: a chapter to forget
Reading Football Club have enjoyed remarkably few really bad managers in recent years, but the departure of Brendan Rodgers from the club will sadly see him join the likes of Terry Bullivant and Tommy Burns in the consciousness of Royals fans. If allowed longer, Rodgers may have finally achieved the right chemistry, but the pressure to cling onto a Championship spot is now too strong. Unfortunately, the Ulsterman’s short tenure has provided more than enough evidence that a change was needed. Here are nine key factors that contributed to his demise:
His shabby departure from Watford. With a host of decent, unemployed managers out there, it was odd that Royals chose to poach a largely unproven and inexperienced manager from a club with a richer history and a similar sized fan base. Sure, Hornets’ financial future is gloomier (although Reading should not be complacent on that count) but my reading of the Watford blog BHaPPY at the time of Rodgers’ defection only served to fill me with embarrassment. The subsequent protracted chase for Tommy Smith only worsened matters.
Constant tinkering. In recent weeks Rodgers did finally attempt to keep a settled team, only to compound it by needlessly recalling Brynjar Gunnarsson for the Palace debacle after an excellent away win over Sheffield Wednesday. This was just one of many nonsensical changes that infuriated the fans.
Too much science. You can have all the coaching badges in the world but, as fellow blogger Frank Heaven pointed out in October, what looks good on the flipboard doesn’t always translate to the pitch. At times, Rodgers seemed too in thrall to theory rather than practice – he was constantly outfoxed by wilier bosses such as Dave Jones and Neil Warnock.
Square pegs in round holes. Jay Tabb’s selection at left back for the 1-1 draw with Scunthorpe may have been forced upon the manager by an injury to Ryan Bertrand, but Rodgers continually picked players out of position. A subtle, but still damaging example of this was his tendency to pick a right footed player, Alex Pearce on the left hand side of central defence. In addition, early season displays were blighted by a tendency to string four central midfielders across the pitch, with no width at all.
Shaun Cummings. It’s inconceivable that this guy has been on the books of Chelsea, and he was so completely outplayed by Jerome Thomas at the Hawthorns that he was banished to the reserves. His re-emergence against Scunny on Saturday did nothing to relaunch his reputation.
Apocalyptic results. Reading’s season has been peppered with catastrophic performances. The 4-1 mauling by QPR and the single handed destruction by Crystal Palace’s Victor Moses are overshadowed only by a second period capitulation at London Road in September – a head in hands experience if ever there was one.
Not replacing Marcus Hahnemann. A few years ago, Reading chose to replace the legendary Shaka Hislop with the woeful Simon Sheppard. Now, they have persisting with classic “line goalie” Adam Federici. Slightly below par performances are forgivable, but the Aussie’s tendency to blame everyone barring himself has riled the Mad Stad regulars.
Leaving James Harper and Marek Matějovský out in the cold. Most Berkshire folk will tell you that the former had seen his best days and his wages may have made him too expensive to keep, but having lost a whole plethora of stars from the great mid noughties side at one fell swoop, Harps’ bubbliness may have kept people going through thin times. Matějovský has now been pardoned, but his early season absences saw Reading bereft of the sublime skills he provides. One of the most talented players in this division, a new manager could build his side around the Czech.
Falling out with the Press Saturday’s heated exchange of words with Radio Berkshire’s Tim Dellor signalled the end. On this occasion, I happen to think that Rodgers was in the right – his side had utterly outplayed Scunthorpe and his players let him down with their inability to finish, but the intemperate nature of his outburst revealed a man at the end of his tether.
As for the positives? well…there aren’t many. Just as Tommy Burns brought Graeme Murty and Nicky Forster to the club, Rodgers’ legacy will receive a boost in his support for Gylfi Sigurdsson, a bit part player on loan at Shrewsbury and Crewe in the past but now a Championship midfielder of no little elegance. Similarly, Jobi McAnuff has looked a real thoroughbred on both wings, matching pace and trickiness with pinpoint crossing. These are meagre crumbs of comfort however. Reading will surely turn to an experienced man next. It has been a chapter to forget.