Anton Zingarevich has left it too late anyway but the impulsive decision to fire a likeable and overachieving manager will do little for their Premier League future or reputation
By Jay Jaffa
Sacking managers is in. Don't tell a football benefactor any different. The game is not about the glory, it is about pulling the wool over loyal supporters' eyes, shooting yourself in the foot and taking a couple of staggered steps backwards.
That is exactly what Anton Zingarevich achieved on Monday afternoon in relieving Brian McDermott of his duties in mid-March - the very same McDermott that was voted Premier League Manager of the Month for January.
But, 33 days on, with Reading 19th and four points adrift of safety, the club bid farewell to the 51-year-old because they “felt that a change was necessary.”
Those with sharp memories or eyes on social media platforms would have immediately cited the similarities between this situation and the furore that engulfed St Mary's following Nicola Cortese's liberal use of his trigger finger.
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Both clubs were unexpectedly promoted last season with British managers that had been at the helm for a considerable period of time. McDermott was an internal promotion in December 2009 when Brendan Rodgers was sacked, while Adkins impressed at Scunthorpe before moving south nine months later.
Both took to growing the club organically, adding wise heads to capable squads given impetus by young talent, and trusting their motivational skills. It worked and established the pair as two of the brightest managers in the United Kingdom – all the more important to emphasise then, that Southampton have one win since Cortese's 'eureka moment'.
They are now both out of work, less to do with their ability, but almost solely down to the narcissistic visions of their owners. Yes, Southampton and Reading have struggled this season, but who didn't expect that at the start of the season?
Are these owners that out of touch that they believe their team should be safe already? Individually there is talent, but just as Adkins was doing before he was fired, McDermott was also blending his squad together.
The reality is, especially in Reading's case, that the squad is just not good enough. There aren't enough goalscorers, it lacks experience, there is no depth and injuries have robbed them of their first two goalkeepers. It is a minor miracle that Reading haven't done a Derby circa 2007-08.
There was something quite endearing about McDermott. Presented more like an extra from 'The Office', the BBC sitcom based in McDermott's hometown Slough, than a football manager, he always looked at odds with the glitz and glamour of the Premier League.
He had no obvious ego, kept his grumbles pent up and got on with the job. He seemed well liked by the squad, clearly loved the football club and spoke of “loving every minute” of the relegation battle in a radio interview with 5live prior to the 2-1 loss to Aston Villa.
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They won 15 of their last 19 games to snatch the second automatic promotion place and rise to the top-flight for only the second time in their history - an incredible feat.
Naturally with such growth, the club becomes a magnet for sponsorship and it is not a stretch to suggest this may have clouded the owners' vision as the money poured in. Suddenly, survival is EVERYTHING.
Yet, Zingarevich looks to have realised this too late. The transfer window has passed, there are nine games remaining and the club are nosediving fast.
That last point is probably what tipped Zingarevich into the Cortese zone - four losses from four is worrying - but McDermott salvaged a run of seven consecutive losses back in January - could he not do it again? Lest we forget the unbelievable run of wins that sealed promotion last year.
Regardless, you feel for the fans, fear for the club and expect nothing from McDermott's replacement.
Interestingly West Ham are now the only promoted club with their manager from last season still in place, and guess what? They're sitting 12th look on course for safety. It might change your fortunes, but more often than not, sacking your manager at this stage of the season only makes matters worse.