Frank Assessment: A year on from his sacking at Reading, under pressure Brian Mcdermott needs a win against his old club. Leon Wobschall reports.
Twelve months ago today, a club generally admired and respected from afar as being one of the more saner footballing establishments made the sort of headlines they usually strive so hard to avoid.
That club being Reading, Leeds United’s opponents this evening, who brutally dismissed one of their own in Brian McDermott back on March 11, 2013.
Observers in the game and not just Royals supporters were unequivocal in their belief that McDermott could most definitely consider himself hard done by.
Not that it will have cut any ice with ruthless Russian owner Anton Zingarevich, who axed McDermott for the ‘crime’ of four successive defeats, all this coming not too long after he was named as the Premier League’s manager-of-the-month for January.
It represented something of a wild departure as far as the Berkshire outfit were concerned, with just four permanent managers – McDermott, Brendan Rodgers, Steve Coppell and Alan Pardew – having led the club in the current Millennium prior to the 52-year-old’s dismissal.
Up to this time last year, United’s number was double that at eight, with managerial stability having not exactly been the watchword at Elland Road. Try volatility.
Since his appointment last April, a common theme of McDermott’s tenure has been the continual stress he has placed upon United breaking the cycle and planning for the long-term and building something organic, substantive and lasting.
That planning helped build a solid structure at Reading at all levels, which was why Zingarevich’s decision last March was such a seismic shock for many.
As far as surprises go, it’s fair to say that given the torrid, chaotic off-the-field events of the new year that nothing would probably surprise Leeds fans any more. It’s the total contrast to the peace and order of the vast majority of McDermott’s time at Reading, where he worked in a variety of roles and progressed from chief scout to first-team manager and what he has been so keen to transpose to West Yorkshire.
He said: “Reading are a good club with good support which is run well. It’s been a successful club over a long period of time and in general, it’s had stability and that’s been really helpful.
“They have a good manager (Nigel Adkins) who knows his way around this league.
“They have had Steve Coppell, Alan Pardew, Brendan Rodgers, myself and Nigel in the space of thirteen years – five managers.
“We have had managers changed constantly at Leeds. Has it worked? It really hasn’t worked.
“Keeping changing managers all the time seems to be how football is. But you could absolutely say it hasn’t worked.”
Specifically on his time in charge at United, McDermott added: “It’s been an incredible year when you think about it. We have had some really good times and some difficult times.
“This is what makes the job so rewarding; when you get it right. Have we got it right? Well, no, we haven’t.
“But that’s why you do this job. We did win a championship at my previous club and that’s why you are in this job and do it.
“It’s been a very, very interesting time to say the least. Obviously, we want everything to be sorted out as far as the ownership is concerned. Sooner rather than later, I think.
“It’s difficult to plan for the summer when you don’t know the ownership situation. Are we planning for the summer? No we are not. We have to get that clarity and situation sorted out. We have got to put a pre-season together and decide on players and stuff like that.
“The ownership situation needs to get sorted out. That’s very, very important.
“If you have the ownership sorted, the clarity is there at this football club and we need clarity.
“But you don’t want to be bringing that up as far as players and staff are concerned, because we are paid to get results. I don’t want to make any excuses.”
On the results front, United’s long-suffering supporters have been significantly short-changed since Christmas, with three bleak episodes having represented a black mark against the players’ names.
Mention the words Rochdale, Sheffield Wednesday and now Bolton Wanderers and you will receive a withering look from any Leeds fan worth their salt, with the results and performances in each firmly bracketed in the unacceptable category.
For the third time already this calendar year, United’s players are in the footballing equivalent of the dock with angry fans, with McDermott holding yet another frank post-mortem in the wake of the most painful and abject of ninety minutes – and now seeking the reaction.
He said: “I won’t be pointing fingers at any (specific) players.
“We’ve had a conversation in private in the dressing room and on the training ground.
“We have good conversations.
“But I am not going to talk about the past now, because it’s pointless.
“We have to stop talking and do our talking on the pitch.
“The players are ready and I have told them to go out and play with freedom and take that responsibility on their shoulders of wearing this Leeds United badge because it’s a big badge to carry.
“Playing for Leeds United, I think you must have that mental strength and moral fibre to get on the ball and if you give it away, just go after it. Our fans will accept that if you give absolutely everything for the shirt.
“I don’t like what happened on Saturday and some of the performances we have put on.
“We want to turn it around as quick as we possibly can.”