It is often forgotten or largely unknown that the Reading squad that won the Championship title under Brian McDermott in 2012 started that season with a stagger and a whimper.
McDermott remembers hosting Doncaster Rovers midway through the second month of the term and realising that defeat would drop Reading to the bottom of the table. His team had lost four successive league games before then and were another poor result away from propping up the entire division.
A 2-0 win over Doncaster restored calm at the Madejski Stadium and Reading did not look back. They were beaten only three more times before Christmas and barely lost a game during the second half of the season. It is an experience which will remind McDermott not to panic if Leeds United take time to get going in the weeks to come.
The new campaign is upon McDermott, his first full term as United’s manager, and he admitted that the priority on the opening day was to “get a result, first and foremost.”
“The performance is important as well,” he said United, “and we want to play good football. But on the first day everyone wants to get the right result. We’re no different.”
McDermott is happy with the condition of his players and satisfied with their fitness levels, if slightly underwhelmed by the number of the signings Leeds have made.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Brighton, he predicted that the Championship would be as tight as it was last season and refused to say whether his squad as it stands is good enough to win promotion.
“I don’t think any manager in the country could answer that question,” he said.
“Not any Championship manager. They won’t know. Some will say yes but no manager can answer for sure. I certainly can’t.
“When we took Reading out of the division we drew the first game, we won the second game and then we lost five on the trot (including a League Cup tie).
“We then had to play Doncaster and if we’d have lost that game then we would have gone bottom. That was the year we won the league.
“If you’d said after six games ‘Reading can win the league’, people would have looked at you as if you were mad. But we did.
“It’s hard to say if there’s a frontrunner in the league. Let’s see where we’re at after 10 games.
“You’ve obviously got the sides coming down from the Premier League. They’ll have money and they’ll be thought of in the betting as frontrunners. But Bolton, Middlesbrough, Leicester, Forest. Take your pick. There are so many ex-Premier League clubs in this division. And Palace came from nowhere last season.”
Asked if he would settle for a play-off position before a ball had been kicked, McDermott said: “I don’t think like that. I honestly don’t. It’s like wishing your life away.
“Let’s see what we can achieve and let’s see what we can do. We have to actually do it and everything else is just talk. It’s pointless talking about what we can do and what we can’t.
“It was so tight last season, so incredibly tight. We were seven points off the play-offs and if we’d won the last five games then we’d have been one point off. We could have won the last five.
“You should never give up on yourselves. You can lose a couple of games and get that feeling of ‘oh, we can’t do it’ but you never give up because anything can happen.”