David Showell

In their 139 years, Reading FC have hardly set the world alight. A true local club, owned by a visionary, supported by a relatively small but loyal following and staffed by an honest and hard-working group of players, apart from a couple of seasons in the Premier League they’ve kept below the radar like an overweight albatross.

Their two years of dining at the top table came during the stewardship of Steve Coppell, a fine manager who’s about to strut his stuff with Bristol City. Before that, the club’s trophy cabinet, which was probably just a shelf, consisted of one or two lower league titles, the Full Members Cup and the 1941 London War Cup, awarded for football, not fighting.

In December 2009, the club appointed one Brian James McDermott as manager. Having previously parked his posterior in the hot seats at Slough Town and Woking, it was his biggest appointment so far. Fans are hopeful that some form of glory years are only just around the corner.

McDermott was a more than useful striker, beginning his career with Arsenal in the late 70s, for whom he found the net a dozen times. Later spells at Oxford, Cardiff, Exeter and Yeovil brought further goals, but an overall assessment of his playing career would probably have said ‘could do better’.

Although his appointment as Reading manager brought him back into the public eye, with, it must be said a lot less hair than he once had, he had been at the club for some years, albeit in a less noticeable role.

He joined the club back in 2000 as chief scout, and proved to be a good judge of players. As anyone who’s worked in the job will know, it can be a stressful way to earn a living, covering more miles in a week than The Stig does in a year. On the plus side, you get to know where to find a decent mug of Bovril.

Club chairman John Madejski must have liked what he saw in McDermott, because he eventually named him as manager of the under-19s side, and later the reserve team. Brendan Rodgers, appointed as first team manager after Coppell left the club, didn’t last long, and McDermott was duly invited into the boardroom for a little chat.

A mid-table finish is seen by most as a pretty good start, and has featured a mix of performances. Amid the occasional real dross, there has been the odd Real Madrid. The highlight for the club, which brought the name of Brian McDermott firmly into the public eye, was their extraordinary FA Cup run.

When the third round draw paired them with Liverpool, the board could perhaps have been forgiven for just seeing pound signs in front of their eyes, especially when the Royals managed a draw which took them to a replay at Anfield.

But this season the Merseysiders have not exactly fired on all cylinders, and an extra-time winner from Shane Long gave Reading perhaps their finest ever result. Fellow Premier League side Burnley were sent packing in the Fourth Round with a 1-0 win, and a superb 3-2 win at West Brom had Adrian Chiles reaching for the paracetamol.

The odyssey came to an end in the quarter-finals with a 4-2 defeat by party poopers Aston Villa, but the club had done more than enough to give their fans hope for the 2010/11 season. 12 months from now, we’ll know whether Brian McDermott is a David Moyes… or a David Brent.



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