If Anton Zingarevich’s masterplan is to sack Brian McDermott and replace him with Paolo di Canio, then the next six months are going to be a lot of fun. McDermott was modest, decent and likeable. Di Canio speaks about himself in the third person, could start a fight in a nunnery and thinks Benito Mussolini was a ‘very principled individual.’ This is like bringing a dragon in through the gates to protect the castle. Sure, it might scare a few people off, but what the hell are you going to do when it gets hungry?
What exactly did Zingarevich expect from McDermott? He spent just £5m on signings in the summer and another £2m in January. Reading are going down? Of course they’re going down! The fact that they are still in with a chance of survival is a testament to the manager’s abilities. The Reading players respect him, they’re a stable, determined unit in spite of their obvious limitations at this level. If anything, McDermott hastened his own demise just by getting them promoted. If he’d missed out in the play-offs again last season and was pushing for them again now, he’d still be in employment.
It was nice of the club not just to shatter the man’s dreams and rob him of his job, but also to urinate all over his legacy with a snide press statement that devastated with feint praise.
“Brian gained promotion to the Premier League last year for only the second time in the club's history thanks to a remarkable run at the end of last season,” said the club.
Translation: “Brian fluked his way to the Premier League last year for only the second time in the club’s history thanks to a freakish run at the end of the last season which spoiled our new owner’s attempt to hire someone of whom he’d actually heard.” Classy.
Yes, he’d just lost four games on the bounce and, yes, he looked like a face drawn on the end of a thumb. But if the former was a crime, why not sack him in December when he lost seven, and if the latter is a crime, then how is David Platt still in a job?
If Reading had gone down this season, they would have slipped beneath the waves without thrashing around in a panic, because they are well set for a swift return.
They haven’t over-invested, they aren’t overburdened by wages and there is no need for an overhaul of personnel. Four years of parachute payments would have provided the softest of landings.
If Di Canio is installed then you can expect a chaotic revolution and a swift turnaround of players. There is a chance that the dramatic change of pace will shock the squad into a short run of form, but it’s more likely to terrify them into a catatonic state.
This isn’t a long-term strategy, it’s a desperate hail mary pass. Even if Zingarevich hires Roberto di Matteo, and you’d suspect that the current Champions League winning manager might have better things to do with his time than paddle around in the backwaters of Berkshire, it would make little difference. There just isn’t the time or the quality to pull Reading out of this dive.
Don’t feel too sorry for McDermott though. Ironically, Reading will only realise this summer that they’ve just sacked the perfect manager for the rebuilding programme. What they really need, you see, is someone who knows the division inside-out, who has an eye for a player, who can build and bond a squad and who is respected by everyone. With a wig, a false moustache and the assumed name of Benito McDermotti, he’s got every chance of getting his old job back.
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Read more from the marvellous Iain Macintosh