Wait for Royals manager ends with sideways move for Adkins

Posted by Jon Keen

So, the wait is over. After 14 days of limbo, Reading have announced the appointment of Nigel Adkins as manager, to replace the sacked Brian McDermott. This is after Gus Poyet flirted with Royals last week, while at the same time Reading talked to their newest recruit. Yet following those discussions, the possibility of Adkins coming to Madejski Stadium was reported to be very low, with expectations that the Birkenhead-born coach would return to a club in the north of England. What changed Adkins's mind - and whether this was influenced by an increase in the financial terms offered (salary or budget for players, or maybe both) we may never know.

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Alternatively, the fly in the ointment may have been Adkins's legal dispute with his previous club, Southampton. Attempts to amicably settle a compensation pay-off with Saints had failed, and so, with advice from the League Managers' Association, Adkins commenced legal action against the club for alleged breach of contract. Until this claim was in progress - which coincidentally commenced the week that McDermott was sacked by Reading - Adkins might have harmed his case by accepting employment elsewhere.

But this whole appointment is provoking many a wry smile amongst observers, who see it as sideways move for the Royals. McDermott and Adkins both gained promotion to the Premier League last season, with McDermott's Reading promoted as champions a point ahead of second placed Southampton, and both were sacked early in the following year.

And whilst statistics show that Adkins has a fractionally better win percentage than McDermott, this really does look like a bit of crab-like move - Reading have swapped one manager who was effective in the Championship but didn't adapt well to the Premier League with another about whom exactly the same could be said.

So whilst Adkins will probably be effective at Reading, it's impossible to tell if he will be a better bet, or more effective in the short-term, than McDermott would have been. Personally, I think that the timing of McDermott's sacking, coupled with Poyet's rejection, meant that Reading realised that they'd painted themselves into a corner and thus couldn't be too choosy.

At this stage of the season, the talent pool of available managers - or at least available managers that they'd actually want to hire - is pretty shallow. Reading acted to get the best available manager who could quickly do a job for them. The alternative, of no appointment and a long-running saga dragging on through multiple names, would have been the worst possible scenario and would have done more damage than a quick appointment - even if that quick appointment might not have been first choice.

Whether Adkins can perform a near-miracle and keep Reading in the Premier League remains to be seen. As the Royals are seven points from safety with just eight matches left it's a very, very, big ask. Reading are primarily in the position they are now because not enough of the players are of Premier League standard and not directly because of the manager. With no opportunity for Adkins to bring in new playing staff between now and the end of the season his hands are tied in what he'll be able to achieve in the fight against relegation.

And that links up with what very much looks like a major factor behind McDermott's sacking. At Tuesday's press conference, Royals owner Anton Zingarevich made it clear how disappointed he was with McDermott's lack of spending in the January transfer window. Funds were apparently available but McDermott chose not to use them, instead buying just a few cheap players. This may possibly be down to a clash of cultures, since loyalty to existing players and buying cheaply has traditionally been a part of the "Reading Way" of conducting transfer business.

But this lack of big spending, together with the poor results this under-strength team has suffered since January, seems to have prompted the axe falling. To me, it suggests that the appointment of Adkins is one made with a view to longer-term results because until the transfer window next opens all the transfer budget in the world won't be of any help to him.

It's quite possible that even the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho would fail to get this current Reading squad out of the hole they find themselves in with just eight games left and so there is little hope for Adkins, especially if we consider the rumoured reason for his sacking at Southampton.

Rumblings persist from Saint Mary's that he was axed after a number of Saints players complained to their chairman Nicola Cortese that Adkins had "lost the players" and wasn't "tactically sophisticated" enough to succeed in the Premier League. If this is true, Reading may well end up finding that all they've succeeded in doing with these managerial changes is to come around full circle.

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