Reading: It’s a strange time for a sacking as the Royals cut McDermott

On February the 6th, Brian McDermott was handed the Premier League’s Manager of the Month award for pulling Reading clear of the relegation zone with wins over West Ham, Newcastle, West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland whilst also battling to a draw against Chelsea. A run of just one defeat in seven saw McDermott take the plaudits while the club reaped credit for refusing to buckle on their manager despite only winning one if the 19 games prior to the meeting with West Ham at the end of December.

Four matches later and that patience has snapped. McDermott becomes the fifth Premier League sacking of the season after defeats against Stoke, Wigan and Everton, as well as a morale-sapping reversal to Aston Villa on Saturday which saw the white-flag being prepared to be hoisted above the Madejski Stadium as the Royals’ Premier League status teeters on the edge. Owner Anton Zingarevich has launched one final desperate reach for survival by opening the void in a hope he can find a replacement who can spark an immediate march to survival.

That of course, is rather naive of an owner who has acted with just nine games remaining despite watching McDermott constantly scrape along the lower reaches of the table this season with a defence that had shipped 56 goals, the highest tally in the league. It would be extremely credulous of the Russian owner to believe a new man can slot in with such haste in order to transform the club within the space of nine games. He had the excuse, disposing with sentiment and pressing with pragmatism, to sack McDermott beforehand, yet has chosen to do so when his problem is now all but irreversible.

Perhaps he has chosen to freshen things up in the hope of drumming up interest in order to shift more tickets ahead of next year, but in McDermott, he had a man who was already supported by the fans and had experience of leading Reading out of the league they are likely to find themselves in next season. The Irishman was respected, dignified, had a reputation for attractive football and also had an extensive knowledge of the club having been employed in Berkshire for four years. The owner has now dispensed with that in favour of a near-impossible search for a miracle-worker.

It was with frugal restriction that McDermott was forced to approach Premier League life. At the other promoted clubs, Nigel Adkins was breaking Southampton’s transfer record to sign Gaston Ramirez, West Ham’s Sam Allardyce spent £9 million alone on Matt Jarvis while McDermott was permitted to spend a total of £5 million on Adrian Mariappa and Chris Gunter.

More players arrived in January but it was still on a severe budget, Hope Akpan and Nick Blackman were plucked from League One, Stephen Kelly came discarded from Fulham and Portuguese centre-back Daniel Carrico was bought on the cheap from debt-hit Sporting Lisbon.

The rest were all free transfers as McDermott was effectively left to assemble a squad who were realistically not prepared to compete at a higher level than the second tier. Now they are heading back there, the 51 year old former-scout has become the 40th manager in the Football League this season to pay for his job.

One of that obscene tally was Adkins, who joined McDermott in gaining promotion up from the Championship last season, sacked in favour of a foreign boss who appeared to the owner to be a more attractive proposition. The replacement Mauricio Pochettino has won just one of his past ten matches as he continues to reinforce the old adage that the “grass is not always greener on the other side”. Pochettino however, arrived in England with his job remit of avoiding relegation still attainable, Zingarevich’s new employee faces his with time emphatically running out.

McDermott, still learning the management trade having only coached Woking and Slough Town of the non-leagues, was primed to further his experience with another year in the second tier, the division he stormed to the Championship of by producing some swashbuckling football. However, he will now, rather harshly, not get that chance.

Unexpected sackings in the modern game are nothing new, yet unexpected sackings when it’s too late to employ somebody who can do anything about it still have a quality of uniqueness, even under the guise of foreign ownership which seems to smash the maxim “football never loses its ability to surprise” to smithereens every week.

Football’s contagion of irrational thought has now hit Reading, unfortunately, they were doing so well.


Written by Adam Gray

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Manuel Pellegrini: Seasoned tactician deserves a second shot at the big time

What makes a manager great? Is it his ability to win trophies? His man management?  His tactical genius? Or is it the ability to get the best out of his players no matter what the hindrances are?

For Chilean Manuel Pellegrini, that is what this season has been about, despite his chairman sanctioning sales of his finest players. Málaga have, this season, endured the losses of playmaker Santi Cazorla, Venezuelan goalscorer José Salomón Rondón and most recently left back Natxo Monreal to Arsenal. Hardly what Pellegrini was hoping for when Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani offered him the job in 2011.

Nor is it ideal for a team hoping for against-the-odds Champions League success. However, being the professional that he is, Pellegrini has shown the guile and leadership qualities to motivate his players despite the circumstances. Los Boquerones sit fourth in the table, a remarkable feat.

Pellegrini was also able to guide his side to a Copa Del Rey quarter final, and he currently awaits what is arguably one of the biggest games of his managerial career; a Champions League showdown with FC Porto. A game which will determine whether he can go one round better in europe’s elite competition than he did at Real Madrid, and reach the quarter finals. Kind of bizarre when you take into account the stark contrasts, in both finances and playing quality.

Whatever happens against the Portuguese team, Pellegrini’s Champions League campaign will result in a moral victory, simply because his side finished top of a group containing AC Milan. A loud, passionate atmosphere is required at La Roselda if Malaga are to overturn the 1-0 deficit inflicted in Porto.

The reactions of Pellegrini’s players to the situation at the club are understandable but by no means ideal. Centre back Martin Demichelis recently spoke out of his frustration, saying he expects this season’s hero Isco to be the next out of the exit door and that “it is a bad sign for the future of the club”. On the contrary, Pellegrini has shown unprecedented loyalty to his employers by declaring himself very happy at the club.

That loyalty is likely to be tested come the summer. Last season’s record 4th placed finish combined with performances in all competitions this season proves that Pellegrini is one of the best bosses around. It should also regain him the worldwide recognition that earned him his chance at Real Madrid.

His season at Real was a strange one. The Chilean was a party to the mass spending spree that saw Kaka, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso and of course Cristiano Ronaldo arrive at the Bernabéu, with an overall spend of £226 million in one window. On top of this, the new breed of Galácticos broke their La Liga points record with a staggering 96 points.

But this outstanding effort was in vain, as rivals Barcelona managed an incredible 99 points, pipping Pellegrini’s men to the title. And so ended a fruitless and ultimately unsuccessful campaign for Real and their manager, with exits from the Copa Del Rey in the last 32 and Champions League as early as the last 16. There can be no excuses for this failure, especially after president Sergio Perez was so generous with the funds he provided to Pellegrini.

Whether that awful season should deter a future move to another giant of European football remains to be seen. But, his professionalism combined with his astute ability to work with the little transfer funds he has received this term - Javier Saviola and Roque Santa Cruz were both major coups - ought to earn him either another large investment from Al Thani or recognition from Roman Abramovich.

He might not be the Chelsea fans’ first choice to succeed the infamous Rafa Benitez, but the Chilean’s track record speaks for itself. He’s no new kid on the block, aged 59, but this is the man who brought a Champions League semi-final and a second place league finish to Villarreal. Yes, the same Villarreal who currently sit fifth in Liga Adelante.

These achievements endeared him to the hearts of supporters, and although the pressure would be much greater at Stamford Bridge, Pellegrini has the charisma to succeed anywhere if given a chance. With Guardiola taken, Mourinho unsure and Zola unproven, Pellegrini would be an ideal choice for the Blues as they hope to challenge for honours next season.

Of course Chelsea probably won’t be the only side seeking a new manager come the summer, but they’re the only side that definitely will, and Pellegrini would fit the bill perfectly.


Written by Richard Burn

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Arsenal: Who can replace Wenger?

Is there anyone fit enough to replace this legend?
Is there anyone fit enough to replace this legend?

Wenger…..Is there anyone fit enough to replace this legend?

A topic which has split Arsenal fans, is the controversial managerial situation. Some say that Wenger is still the right man for us and, should he be given more resources, will make us a true force again. Others disagree and think he isn’t the manager he was. Mainly because of his refusal to change the teams style, tactical inconsistencies, and his often questionable transfer acquisitions.

Now, I think very few people really know what is going on behind the scenes at Arsenal. The 2nd highest majority shareholder is refused a place in the board while our majority owner comes to a couple of games a season.

Whether the boardroom situation is having an effect on our results on the pitch, is a good question and it could well be. But surely some of our downfall must also be placed on the manager who buys the players, chooses the lineup and decides the tactics.

Arsene Wenger’s current contract is up at the end of next season but he could even walk out before that if fan pressure gets too much. If Wenger doesn’t leave willingly, he will stay at the club because I don’t believe the board are ambitious and gutsy enough to sack Arsene.

If he does leave the club, though, (which he eventually will) a worthy replacement must be found. This replacement should have won trophies at a high level, have the experience of managing (and being a success at) a top club as well as proof that he is able to handle the pressure that comes with managing a club like Arsenal.


Here are my 3 preferences as to who should be the next Arsenal manager:


1) Carlo Ancelotti - PSG

There are a number of reasons why Ancelotti is the perfect candidate to replace Arsene Wenger. Firstly, he has won an abundance of trophies including two Champions Leagues during his time at AC Milan.

He has also had success in the Premier League already, when he won the Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season in charge as well as the Community Shield. As well as this, he has proven that he can handle the pressure of being at a huge club.


2) Manuel Pellegrini - Malaga

The Chilean has already performed miracles at his current club, Malaga. When the club were forced to sell key players in the summer, most thought Malaga would fall apart. Instead, Pellegrini made clever additions before the season begun and Malaga are sitting 4th in La Liga at the moment.

But due to financial problems, Malaga could be banned from the UEFA competitions next season and it is hard to see a top coach like Pellegrini staying at a club with so many constrictions. Pellegrini would be a great fit at Arsenal, not only because of the fantastic job he has done so far at Malaga, but also because of his previous jobs.

Most notably building the superb Villareal team which was the last team in La Liga to split up the ‘Big Two’. He also did a good job at Real Madrid and, in my opinion, was unfairly sacked after he had achieved Real’s record points total in La Liga (until the 2011-12 season), only to be outdone by the superhuman Barcelona side.


3) Roberto Mancini - Manchester City

Many Arsenal fans will not like this but I think he is definitely a worthy candidate for the job at the Emirates. He has won countless trophies at numerous clubs, is still young so would suit the club long-term and provide stability, has experience of managing in the Premier League and he would also finally get us defending properly!

Some would disagree and say he has wasted money at City and his tactics in Europe are poor, but I would say that he wasn’t properly backed in the summer to improve on the title-winning squad.


Whether Arsene leaves in the summer or not, I believe he won’t be at the club much longer. If it was my choice, I’d pick Carlo Ancelotti (manager swap?).


Which of the three would you like as Arsenal’s next manager, or someone different entirely?


Written by Charlie Smith

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