How Brian McDermott turned Reading play-off trauma into promotion triumph

Pain of last season's play-off defeat spurred manager to guide team back to Premier League

Reading found solace on Tuesday night. Less than one year on from their Wembley final defeat to Swansea City, they completed their task of returning to the Premier League; and this time without the pain of the play-offs.

The whole season has been one long reaction to that trauma. Reading started slowly, following their first two league games with four straight defeats. But since then it has been pure progress, ascending relentlessly to the top.

Maybe Reading just got their blip out of the way early, while West Ham United and Southampton were hit at more fragile moments.

Since Reading overcame the memories of Wembley, they have been impressive. "I thought it would take up to 10 games to get it out of our system, but it only took six," their manager Brian McDermott said in the aftermath of the 4-2 win at West Ham last month.

McDermott's steady game-by-game approach has served Reading well. Only ever focusing on what was in front of them, they have gone step by step to the summit. Since that early stumble, they have maintained a pace far beyond that of their opponents. If those first six games, when the play-off defeat was still being cleansed from the system, were deleted from the Championship table, Reading would be 14 points clear of next-placed Southampton – and another three ahead of West Ham.

After the recent victory over Southampton, McDermott said that "everything that was good about football" was to be found in his dressing-room. Jason Roberts, whose arrival in January followed news of the imminent investment by Anton Zingarevich, has been vital. He has been the perfect reference point for Reading's attacks, with the quality of a man who has that much Premier League experience.

While Roberts might well have been Reading's most influential player, he was quick to point out the importance of the group. "What a great occasion, a great achievement by these players," he said on Tuesday night. "I'm 34 and I may have not have another opportunity to play with people like this again. It's been a pleasure. It's a team of proper people. Some players have not played Premier League and you can see the desire and I hope they get the opportunity to show how good they are now."

As good as Roberts has been, Reading's most impressive feature this year has been defence. They are the only side to concede an average of less than one goal per game. They probably have the division's best goalkeeper in Adam Federici, as well as the experienced Kaspars Gorkss and Ian Harte.

With a solid base, Reading are able to sit back, keep games alive and then hit opponents on the break. Two defining moments this season were that 4-2 victory at Upton Park at the end of March and a 3-1 win at Southampton 13 days later. (There was also a 1-0 win at Brighton & Hove Albion in between the two.) They were all object lessons in how to play away from home.

It takes real character and spirit to play like that on the road, but Reading have shown it all season. McDermott, who was promoted to manager from chief scout, knows the club intimately and has a touch which clearly brings the best from his players.

When asked recently about his relationship with his squad, McDermott was very positive. "I'm definitely friends," he said. "I would say that they're friends of mine. The staff are friends, the players are my friends. I love them, I really genuinely do."

McDermott, after a recent visit to Google headquarters to see how the company was run, has gone as far as to introduce a form of flexi-time for the Reading players in terms of training hours. Such is the mutual respect it has worked for the club.

Sir John Madejski, who is in the process of selling to Zingarevich, is predictably proud of the man that he gave the job to. "Brian McDermott has done it," he said. "He's been here 12 years – it feels like 100 – and knows the squad, he's been a stalwart and he's been a first-class gentleman. He's handled the team in just the right way and that is why we are where we are."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected