Championship: Brian McDermott and the Relentless Rise of Reading FC
A few years ago Reading FC enjoyed one of the best first seasons by a promoted side ever in the Premier league when, in the 2006-07 season, they finished in a very creditable and some would say distinguished for a just promoted side, eighth place in the league.
After the heady days of success and dreams that were enjoyed by all involved with the club that season, the next proved exceedingly difficult and despite the best efforts of the team and manager they were unfortunately sent down on goal difference having three more goals negative than Fulham.
The next season was one of rebuilding and maintaining a positive focus, as the club successfully negotiated themselves through the hangover period that can dog clubs that go down. They started back into the season with vigour and enthusiasm that took them all the way to the play offs.
Unfortunately they met a Burnley side that was a match for them and over a well contested two legged tie they were beaten 3-0.
After the disappointment of this outcome, Reading were to lose the services of former England and Manchester United winger, Steve Coppell, as manager. Coppell had presided over the most successful period in the clubs history. When he took them to eighth place in the Premier, it was the highest place the club had ever been in its 138 year history and its first time in the top flight.
Coppell will always be remembered with affection by those associated with Reading for what he gave to the club. He decided to go of his own volition and blamed it on not fulfilling his ambition of erasing the relegation that had occurred when they went down from the Premier league.
This proved to be a darker day than it initially appeared, as in the new season the club could not find the synchronicity and form needed under new manager Brendan Rogers.
They lumbered through the season until December with only five wins, six draws and ten losses. They found themselves dancing the dreaded relegation jig, a dance that often ends in tragedy for its participants.
Rogers ended up leaving the job he turned his back on Watford for and into the breach stepped former Arsenal player Brian McDermott, who had had an association with the club dating back to him taking over scouting duties in September 2000. By the time he took up the caretaker role he had also coached the under 19 side and the reserves.
On December 19th, McDermott presided over his first match, an away draw with Bristol City. A few weeks later there was a sign that things had perhaps taken a turn toward the positive for the royals when they managed an excellent result in keeping Liverpool to a draw and forcing a replay in the FA cup.
In the period following his takeover of the top job at the club, McDermotts side have managed twelve wins, five draws and only five losses, including an entertaining FA cup quarter final run, with the scalp of Liverpool at Anfield on the way to being knocked out by Aston Villa.
McDermott seems to have re-energised the side and his experience in football and also time under the guidance of Steve Coppell would certainly have prepared him for his chance at the top job.
Reading have been a side transformed in the new year. New energy, desire, and organisation has led to a drastic switch in form, like a light going on in a black hole. The team have pulled themselves out of relegation and are now in eleventh place, eight points off the last play off position, with two games in hand on eight of the teams above them.
The club will hope the turn around is the beginning of another crack at the Premier league and regardless of how the season finishes they will be grateful to the new boss for the way he has righted the ship and got it again sailing to the new world.
For there is plenty of gold to be had in the Premier league, along with the associated prestige and quality it gives any team.
It will be interesting to watch Reading in the next couple of months and see how far this rise will take them. We could even see them back in the top flight! After earlier this year there were those who thought they were going the way of a lot of those that stumble on the golden shores of the Premier league, further down the divisions and into possibly years of obscurity.
The next few weeks will be where we see if the transformation from relegation dancers to promotion par-tiers can fully take place.
Until then, it is easy to marvel at this stunning turnaround and see why this game can constantly surprise you.
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