Ask any Reading fan if they can believe what has happened to their team in the last seven months and overwhelmingly the answer will be “no chance”.
To put this into perspective, Reading traveled to Doncaster on September 17 on the back of 5 straight losses and needed to win to avoid going bottom of the championship, they got 3 points and started a run of 39 games that yielded 86 points and secured promotion by April 17 with 2 games to spare – an astonishing turnaround and one of the great runs in English professional football in recent years.
The architect of this stunning run is Brian McDermott their former head scout now in his second full season as manager of the Royals having taken them all the way to a Wembley play off final in his first full season. Only those on the inside will really know the secret of his success but following Reading all year I suspect their success is centred around three key areas: hard work, a strong team ethic and Brian’s ability to improve players. The latter is founded on his belief that working on a players strengths is a subtle but effective alternative to persisting with trying to improve a players weaker abilities, as he said in a radio interview this week “if you only thought about what a player can’t do you’d never sign anyone”.
It’s this kind of pragmatism that has allowed McDermott to mould a capable group of players into a near unbeatable squad who clearly want to work hard for each other and believe in the old adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is McDermott’s greatest achievement, that despite a terrible start to the season the squad have stayed together, have maintained belief in themselves but most importantly they’ve never lost belief in their combined potential as a group and have been prepared to work hard to ensure that the team was able to attain levels of performance over the last 40 ganes that no one else in the Championship could live with. In the fast paced world of the Premier League this unity may well prove to be their trump card.
As the playing and coaching staff enjoy an open top bus tour of Reading before embarking on their summer break, the Premier League pundits will no doubt be readying themselves for a host of predictions that Reading are favourites for relegation, but throw in McDermott’s coaching and man management skills and I suspect that they, like us fans this season, might end up surprised.
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