Brian McDermott is convinced he is a man "whose time has come", and is fated to be the next Reading manager. If only his players could reproduce in the league, the form and results they are delivering against elite clubs in the FA Cup, the caretaker would already have the post.
Burnley followed Liverpool not just in being knocked out by the Championship club, but in being outplayed by them. So why are Reading four points from safety in the Championship? McDermott admits it is "all about results", and insists they will come "if we keep doing what we're doing". He added: "The ability is there, the confidence is there. We have 21 games to sort our season out."
Then came the job pitch. "This is a great club. I know because I have been here 10 years. People think I have just walked off the street but I know the players, know the chairman, know the club. The circumstances are right for me. I feel my time has come. "
The circumstance which is most likely to help McDermott is Reading's impecunious status, not helped by the compensation paid Watford to hire Brendan Rodgers, and the subsequent pay-off when Rodgers was fired after 22 matches. Ironically the cash Reading are making from this cup run may give the chairman, John Madejski, room to manoeuvre. He and McDermott will speak upon the former's Wednesday return from Tenerife, but no firm decision is anticipated.
McDermott said the key to survival, and probably his own prospects, is becoming "a team that doesn't have to play great to win". That, he said, is achieved by doing the "dirty work". "I was a winger at Arsenal," said McDermott. "I thought my job was to send over a good cross. Then it was up to the forwards to score. When I went to Cardiff Frank Burrows taught me the other side of the game. The need to defend, to be part of the team shape, all the things you need to do when the other team have the ball. That's why it's great to see our winger, Jobi McAnuff, making a 60-yard run to help our defence in the last minute."
There was certainly no shortage of effort on Saturday with Reading harassing, then outwitting, an under-strength, under-par Burnley. McDermott's introduction of Jimmy Kébé was significant, providing width and enabling Gylfi Sigurdsson to move inside. The talented young Icelandic midfielder was thus in place to break into the box past Kevin MacDonald and onto Andy Griffin's pass to win the tie.
The vibrant conclusion recalled the glory days when the likes of Kevin Doyle and Steve Hunt were running Premier League defences ragged. Madejski would like those days back on a weekly basis, McDermott hopes to prove he is the man to provide them.
Reading (4-4-2): Federici; Griffin, Mills, Ingimarsson, Bertrand; McAnuff, Aracan, Gunnarsson (Kébé, 74), Sigurdsson; Rasiak (Thorvaldsson, 83), Church (Long, 63). Substitutes not used: Cissé, Hamer (gk), Pearce, Howard. Burnley (4-1-4-1): Jensen; Mears, Duff, Edgar, McCann; Alexander; Eagles McDonald, Gudjonsson (Blake, 85), Elliott; Thompson (Paterson, h/t). Substitutes not used: Penny (gk), Easton, Guerrero, Rodriguez, Carlisle.
Referee: A D'Urso (Essex).
Booked: Reading: Mills, Ingimarsson. Burnley: McCann, Eagles.
Man of the match: Griffin
Attendance: 12,910Reuse content