Paolo Di Canio among candidates shortlisted to be the new Reading manager

Brian McDermott was sacked earlier this week

Reading are drawing up a shortlist of candidates to replace Brian McDermott as manager after his dismissal on Monday.

It became apparent that there was no immediate plan in existence to replace the popular McDermott, whose sacking – along with his background staff – came after he won the manager of the month award in January.

Reading were quietly sounding out possible replacements with nine games left to save their Premier League status, following last season's promotion. They currently sit second bottom of the table.

Former Swindon manager Paolo Di Canio remained the bookmakers' favourite tonight, but the former Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo has also been linked with the club.

The Reading owner Anton Zingarevich met with the players at the club's training ground today. A statement on Reading's website said it had been a difficult decision to dismiss McDermott. "Anton told the players it was the hardest decision of his life," the statement read. "[He was] thanking all of the staff for their contribution, and he and Brian remain on good terms after meeting in person on Monday."

A devastated McDermott is believed to have flown off on holiday. Academy director Eamonn Dolan, who was with Zingarevich, is currently in charge of the team.

"Anton Zingarevich and Eamonn Dolan met with the first team players and staff at Hogwood Park [training ground]," the statement also said. "Eamonn held a series of meetings throughout the day in preparation for Saturday's Barclays Premier League fixture away to Manchester United, and he is scheduled to speak to the media later this week."

The Tottenham manager, Andre Villas-Boas, reacted with dismay to the sacking of a fellow Premier League manager. "It is extremely disappointing. I think it was along the same lines as what happened to Nigel [Adkins] at Southampton," Villas-Boas said.

"I think sometimes you are a victim of the success that you have achieved. You do ever so well to put clubs in the Premier League and then you pay the price when you're not probably given the best conditions to succeed.

"I think it's tremendously unfair. Obviously it's not my decision, or my responsibility, it's something that happens in the game. It happened to me before. I just hope that Brian is able to continue showing his qualities that put Reading in the Premier League."

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