Adam le Fondre has been grabbing the headlines, but as a whole Reading are on the up. Vincent Ralph takes a look.
Football managers make the headlines for all sorts of reasons. But only the lucky few earn plaudits for success.
The majority find their way to the back page with an indiscretion or an embarrassment, or on the day they say their goodbyes.
And then there are those who just get on with the job, slowly building something but never shouting about it, never being championed in the world outside their club.
Brian McDermott is one of those managers.
I remember watching his Reading team a few years ago. It was when they claimed the title “giant-killers” for their own.
Not for one game, or even one season, but for two consecutive years as the then-Championship team defeated Premier League sides Liverpool, Everton, Burnley and West Bromwich Albion.
And they did it playing football.
Those FA Cup runs showed the rest of us what Royals fans were growing accustomed to. And only a 4-2 playoff final defeat against Swansea prevented McDermott’s giant-killers from becoming giants themselves.
But in football, you sense that while destiny can be postponed it cannot be denied. And now the manager who was given time to instil an ethic and a style is showing what happens when owners have patience.
Reading did not win a Premier League game this season until the eleventh attempt. And yet, 14 points from their last seven matches suggests a team very much on the up.
But it is not the points that deserve note, it is the performances.
They say it is the mark of a great team to fight to the end. But it is also the mark of a great manager when his players refuse to give in.
In overcoming 2-0 deficits to defeat West Brom and draw with Chelsea, Reading became the team many neutral will no doubt keep an eye on now.
Perhaps they already were, with that 7-5 League Cup game against Arsenal and 4-3 loss at Old Trafford. But now they are turning plucky defeats into impressive wins.
Perhaps this story should be about Adam Le Fondre, the man who has scored five of Reading’s recent late goals. But the striker is part of a bigger picture.
And while no one is yet talking of McDermott as a candidate for the so-called “bigger” positions, they will be.
I for one hope he stays where he is. Like David Moyes at Everton and Tony Pulis at Stoke, he has the time and the ability to build a legacy.
So maybe the best managers are the ones who don’t make any headlines at all; the ones who are quietly working miracles until we start noticing, week in and week out, what the supporters have known all along.
image: © markhillary