Doing a Mancini
The final specks of dust have now come to rest on the best single performance of the season from a Championship club and Reading face the harsh next step of a trip to the City Ground today; with a Nottingham Forest side lying in wait whose psychological confidence will be at the extreme global opposite of Liverpool’s, even if they cannot call upon the services a freckly blonde man of Madrid and a Phil Collins fan prone to spending time in the pubs and clubs of Southport.
Little did I know as I lingered outside Highbury after an Arsenal v Leeds clash in early eighties that the feather cutted substitute who signed my autograph book would crop up as Royals manager almost thirty years later, bearing a slight resemblance to Heston Blumenthal. Brian McDermott seems almost created for the cliche, “he conducts himself well”. Clearly, the moral path would be to offer him the manager’s job right now – a result like Wednesday’s is perhaps worth a thousand promotions to fans of small clubs like Reading whose progress in the pyramid structure will inevitably always be halted by financial barriers. It’ll be an annals occupier for sure, an indelibly chalked postscript to Reading’s decade mirabilis.
The hard headed business decision, by contract, might be to wait a little longer. McDermott comes sans fanfare but that’s no reason to doubt him. Aside from one, truly calamitous off day at Home Park on December 28, performances under the ex-Berkshire schoolboys star have been good. The Liverpool matches apart, Royals had the better of 1-1 draws against top half Bristol City and Swansea and the tactical nous has generally been there: in the week, Kalifa Cisse’s tendency to spoon the ball to the opposition at every opportunity was quickly identified and Brian Howard brought in to provide poise.
There has been a suspicion that the Reading board have been “doing a Mancini”. With the Liverpool match followed by fiendishly sticky away trips to Forest and Sheffield United and now another EPL opponent in Burnley, the fixture roster has an ominous air about it. February home games against Barnsley and recent nemesis Plymouth might provide the double helping that a vain incoming manager might relish in comparison, although such a sentiment would be naive given the improvement in commitment of both of those clubs. So, although that Steve Coppell led clamour for McDermott to be appointed was only right and proper, it’s hard to see the Bourne End resident being confirmed in the job unless a league victory is achieved soon.