Today is a sad day. 😦
After my beloved “Royals” (Reading Football Club) last chance of promotion finally disappeared in the play-offs last night, Steve Coppell announced that he would be leaving the club.
I would venture to suggest that this comes as no surprise to anyone.
Reading F.C. owe Steve a tremendous debt of gratitude for everything he achieved with the club during the five and a half years of his managership. He is a gentleman in the true sense of the word, a man of tremendous integrity and someone who is almost universally respected throughout English football.
Thank you Steve for taking us to heights which many of us thought would never be achieved. May you be happy and contented in whatever you decide to do in the future.
Right, now the niceties are done with it’s time to get down to some serious talking…
Unfortunately Steve had been showing signs of strain over the past few months.
When the transfer window was open he said that Shane Long is unique within the squad and that he tells him just to go out on the pitch and “be himself”, saying that he wouldn’t want to try to train his abilities out of him… the next moment he is saying that he has re-signed Dave Kitson on loan because “all our strikers are too similar in the way they play” ! Huh ?!
Dave Kitson’s biggest contribution since his return has been to present the ball to the opposing side as often as he possibly can by continually fouling the opposing players and giving away needless, stupid free kicks. If you and an opponent are both going for a loose ball and you go in fairly then you increase the chances of your own team winning posession either from where the ball then goes or by getting a free kick yourself. Of course being a yard short of pace now makes a difference too, and Kitson is definitely slower than when he left.
Anyway, from then on it just seemed that, unfortunately, Steve was getting tired of the daily grind. He had stayed on last year mainly, it would seem, because the supporters and the Chairman had been so united in their wishes for him to stay whereas, in his heart, he probably knew that he should have called it a day.
The final sign that all was not well in the Coppell camp came after Burnley’s first goal last night. Now 2-0 down on aggregate there is nothing to lose so you might as well go all-out attack…. fine. So why take off a playmaker like Marek Matejovski and leave Brynyar Gunnarson on the pitch ?! Gunnarson is the second worse player to have donned the hooped shirt this century (the worst being John Oster). When you need “all hands to the pump attack” the last thing you want is someone running (I use the word loosely) around in meaningless circles in the middle of the park like Gunnarson does ! Ok, so he did get one goodish ball across from the edge of the box in the first half, but my late grandmother would make a more positively effective contribution to the cause over 90 minutes.
Let’s not get misunderstood here though. I don’t deny that everyone in the squad has given their all as far as effort is concerned, it’s just that in some cases the ability just isn’t there and it is covered up by other players in the side. When those covering players get injured then the weaker players are exposed.
Reading have struggled, and will continue to struggle, to find a singular replacement for Steve Sidwell. Matejovski and Cisse together are able to able to do the job, but that is one player too much.
There have been many positives this season in the way some players have developed, and I think that SC was probably right to give Simon Church his chance last night. Rosenior, Kebe, Karacan, and others have all done well and, perhaps surprisingly for me, I think the Duberry – Bikey partnership at the back has worked well.
But overall there do need to be changes. The side that set the Championship record points total did so by turning defence into attack in an instant and then attacking with pace, skill, numbers and accuracy. An overall tactical change has come over the side since the promotion to the Premiership, a much more “let’s not be too brave” approach, and that is what has hurt us. The flair has gone.
I cannot really see Doyler, Steve Hunt and Shane Long staying. There are others who will be got rid of, some who will seek pastures new. Some may even retire.
John Madejski is unlikely to make such an inspired appointment in replacing Steve. Not many people do strike gold twice. But whoever gets the job (please NOT Pardew) I hope they reflect as well on the club, the town, and the people of Reading as Steve Coppell has, and that they can mould a new side that will once again grace the Premiership.
Just my opinion.