Sacking is out of character for Royals
12 March ~ After a run of five defeats and the excruciatingly limp performances against Wigan and Aston Villa, which pushed Reading to the bottom of the table, manager Brian McDermott was being widely criticised on social media. Two days later, the sentiment on the same sites is one of sympathy for a demonstrably decent man who, it has been suggested, was too successful for his own good. The team he brought up from the Championship in dazzling fashion wasn't good enough for the top tier, while the those brought in have been of bargain-bin quality.
Owner Anton Zingarevich is now being blamed for not making enough cash available. As McDermott said after the Villa defeat: "Benteke cost more than our entire team out there today."
Those fans who welcomed the sacking cite serious failings in team spirit and selection in recent weeks as justification enough. Common scapegoats have been captain Jobi McAnuff and midfielder Mikele Leigertwood (or "Legsofwood", as some would have it); McDermott's perceived soft-hearted loyalty to them, keeping them on the field on Saturday at the expense of Noel Hunt and Hope Akpan, was widely slated.
But loyalty is a word that you might imagine McDermott having embroidered in a frame on his office wall. This time last year, Wolves were sniffing around him after Mick McCarthy had been sacked. Reading had seen other managers lured away before – Mark McGhee to Leicester, Alan Pardew to West Ham – but McDermott pledged his allegiance to the Royals.
And he's been rewarded with a kick in the teeth. It's hard to see the logic in the dismissal. If the owner felt that McDermott wasn't up to mixing it with the big boys, then he should have gone earlier in the season. Firing him – and assistant coach Nigel Gibbs – with just nine games left seems desperate and lacking in foresight. In the event that Reading do go down, then McDermott would surely be the man-in-the-know to get them back up.
So who will be grappling with an unknown set of out of form players for the last nine games? Paolo di Canio was a spectator at the Villa game and is the favourite to take over. "Favourite" with the bookies, that is, because if ever there were a persona non grata at the Madejski, then he is it. Someone has already set up a Facebook page entitled "No to fascists at RFC – No to Di Canio". If he does get the job, we can expect a Roberto di Matteo/Rafa Benítez type resistance on the terraces.
It's been a deeply disappointing and at times humiliating season for Reading fans but this sacking really is tough to take. As a plaintive poster on the official Reading Facebook page put it: "I'll support my home team forever but this just isn't how we go about things." Phil Town