There's more in the afternoon Mailbox about Jose Mourinho and his potential return to Chelsea, while there's also a link to some pictures of eagles that look like Arsene Wenger...
After a disappointing end to his three years at Real Madrid, could Jose Mourinho struggle to bring immediate success if he completes his anticipated return to Chelsea?
If you have anything to say on any subject, mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I thought maybe this morning, in the cool light of day, I would feel a little less distraught about McDermott's sacking. But alas, no. I feel a mixture of anger and sadness when people mention it to me at work. It feels like my Dad has stopped talking to my favourite uncle, and I don't understand why.
Yes we have been poor recently, yes we were poor even when we were winning games (I don't remember Reading ever controlling a game), and yes there have been discipline issues within the squad. But McDermott, and those who surrounded him in the backroom, were not brought in from nowhere, they were people who had been with the club for years. They had been scouts, youth team coaches, reserve team coaches. A big chunk of the family has been stripped out.
And why now? I know we apparently will have a reasonable transfer kitty in the summer, but what decent manager is going to gamble on Reading staying up with 9 games to go to then try and build something long term? And if we go down, surely the best manager to get us back up was Brian? I do hope that, like Southampton, they have someone of calibre up their sleeve in waiting... but I am not holding my breath.
However, I don't want to write this without trying to have at least a bit of self-awareness. If the new manager keeps us up (even if it is the difficult to like Di Canio), then maybe I will look back at this mail and realise I just lack the ruthlessness to make these kind of decisions. Too much loyalty and not enough sense. I would have happily gone down with Brian and given it another shot. And for many fans who have been clamouring for more resources, more investment, and more success, then these are decisions we should expect to see more often. It is the harsh flip side.
...In early December, with us at the bottom of the league and looking implausible as a Premier League side, a friend asked me if I thought we had any chance of survival. I said probably not, but that it wouldn't be the end of the world if we got relegated. This is Reading, after all. Regardless of what happens, this will be at least our third highest final league position in our 142-year history. I then added, to my friend's incomprehension, that were I offered then and there guaranteed relegation, but with the manager not having been sacked, I'd take it.
The reason for this is simple - today's sacking of Brian McDermott may be the end of everything I've grown to love about my football club. Under John Madejski, we have been a model of stability and decency. When we've won, we've won the right way. We've taken punts on players from the lower divisions and from the more unfashionable leagues of Europe, and unearthed countless gems. We've played an attacking, if rarely technically gifted or defensively competent, brand of football, and have normally gone about it in a sporting manner.
We've grown our fanbase as we've gone along by turning the heads of kids from Reading and the nearby Thames commuter-belt towns from distant London clubs. We're an absurdly polite bunch of fans too - Brighton were so moved by this last season as to feel compelled to write us a thank you note (I know there are many football fans that pride themselves on their anti-social behaviour that will snort with derision at this point, but I like being polite. So f**k off). We're often a 'second club' for fans of other teams, and remarkably few people seem to dislike us (apart from Oliver Holt for some reason).
All of this makes me proud to support Reading. Throw in the bonus of that record breaking Championship season, our first year in the Premier League with Sir Steve, and some of our best ever cup runs, and it's been an incredible 10 years or so. I look at a club like Chelsea, and I genuinely don't know how I could have continued to support them had I been a fan who's seen their club turned into a billionaire's peculiar football freakshow. So is that what we can look forward to under our very own new Russian owner?
I desperately hope not. On the basis of his behaviour so far, I can't discount the possibility that he's taken a keen interest, knows his football, is aware of the dressing room and has made a reasonable, if slightly brutal call. But it may well not be that, and this may well be the point that we start behaving like so many other clubs, chasing a ridiculous dream and thowing money and dignity all over the place in the process.
Farewell to Brian then - a great manager for the club. I'm sorry he's gone.
Steer RFC, London
p.s. Signing Di Canio would be an excellent way of improving my mood, though...
Arsenal Should Bring Him Back
Was saddened to hear of the sacking of Brian McDermott.
But I think Arsenal should bring him home.
The Bould/Wenger duo doesn't seem to be working as they seem to be two heads moving in two different directions - one was to plug the gaps and the other thinks if we score more than the opposition nothing else matters.
Our assistant coach ever since the 1990s has always been an Arsenal stalwart but this way we could get the best of both. George Graham, who brought in Stewart Houston, like Fergie knew you have to have a good number 2 (no laughing at the back please) and it doesn't matter if they have no direct links to the club.
Brian has already proved himself an accomplished assistant boss, who can take the reins when necessary, while Wenger needs a good coach alongside him.
Let's snap up our former gooner before someone else does!
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
Premier League Predictions
Given that we are now well and truly into the end of season run-in, I decided to spend my morning tea-break doing a Lawro style predictor of how the top and bottom of the Premier League will finish up. I've seen a few fans of teams involved in the mix referring to comparatively tough/easy fixture lists for themselves and their rivals, so I was curious as a neutral to see just how tough/easy they really are in comparison. Just to keep it interesting, I also decided to apply a massive Man City / QPR bias.
I'll spare the mailbox the tedious details*, but suffice to say that even with Man City winning all remaining games, and Man Utd suffering an enormous collapse including draws with Stoke, Swansea, Chelsea and West Brom and defeats by Arsenal and Man City, United still take the league trophy by a point. Spurs fans will be delighted to hear that they crumble to 5th place behind Chelsea in 3rd and Arsenal 4th.
At the bottom, Houdini Redknapp pulls off some cracking results against his relegation rivals but it is all too much and they finish in 18th place on 33 points. Joining them in the Champo next season are Wigan and bottom of the heap Reading. Villa and Southampton scrape survival by 2 points, and despite a horrible set of results Sunderland breathe relatively easily with 37. That said they really are best of a bad bunch as none of the current bottom 6 achieve the magic "40 points" survival threshold.
So there you have it - no need to watch any more footy between now and August. You're welcome.
Terry Hall, Switzerland (given this is a Lawro-style predictor the above is, of course, completely wrong).*Past performance is no indication of future events, your teams final position may go down as well as up, no correspondence entered into.
Damn those Spurs for having such a reasonably good season and playing some really wonderful, attacking football along the way!
If they continue to play such attractive football that means their supporters aren't going to send in mails criticising the players, the manager, the owner and, even the ball-boys. So, and this is the thing, the mighty, renowned Spurs fan, thayden, has had no recent reason to put his own unique spin on things - and I, for one, miss his tirades. They were magnificent and, I admit it quite freely, had me reaching for either a dictionary or Googling his more obscure references. (At least I'm hoping they are obscure references and there are not just huge gaps in my own education).
So, thayden, I'm sort of hoping your second team is QPR and you could maybe switch your attentions to them. You know, for the sake of continuity of managers, if nothing else. So what do you think thayden? Can you give QPR and their players, manager, owner and ball-boys a quick critique before you get a bit rusty?
Why do I feel like I might have prodded a bee hive with a too-short stick?
Mata Should Be In The Running
It looks like it's becoming a two horse race for Player of the Year, but why is it not a four horse race?
Putting Michu (while I don't think he'll win it, I can't see him not being on the list) and the automatically reserved place for Scott Parker aside for one moment, it seems that Suarez and Bale are now the front runners, while Van Persie is being punished for choosing the point where people start talking about the award to have his worst spell of the season.
However, if we were to go on impressive performances and consistency throughout the season (the only thing Gareth Bale did of note before Christmas was avoiding getting maimed again by Charlie Adam in a Wales v Scotland game), then surely another name should be up there.
It's the same player that pops up if you go by stats to find out which players have made the biggest contribution (combined goals and assists) to their club this season.
Robin Van Persie - 31
Gareth Bale - 31
Luis Suarez - 36
Juan Mata - 39
Yet, incredibly, from reading various tweets from journalists, it looks like he will even miss out on being nominated, in favour of Walcott, Cazorla, Joe Hart, Baines and Carrick. One journalist even mentioned Papiss Cisse in front of him.
Is he stuck in 2011-12 or something?
Michael, of Chelsea persuasion.
Has anyone else seen the clip of Steven Taylor distracting the Stoke goalkeeper in the build up to Cabaye's free kick goal? (one link is https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=440359406043515 - its on facebook but can be viewed publicy, I think.)
On the one hand, its quite funny. On the other, some of the things he did seem like they shouldn't be allowed. I was wondering what other mailbox readers thought.
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva Switzerland
Liverpool v Spurs
Nev and Nick Smith raised interesting points when comparing players from Liverpool and Spurs' squads. I wrote in on a similar topic in the summer, expressing disappointment that Liverpool had fallen so far off the pace of Spurs given that I thought on paper that they had a better team. Offhand, I think my team went something like Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, BAE (in hindsight I should've had Kelly and GJ at left back); Lucas, (got a bit of stick for that but Parker this season has vindicated my decision), Gerrard, Modric; Bale, Suarez, Lennon. So 7-4 to Liverpool.
This season however, my team would be Lloris; Johnson, Agger, Vertonghen, LB (who cares? Both teams need a better left back); Lucas (just shades it from Sandro), Dembele, Gerrard; Lennon, Suarez, Bale. So 5-5, though on current form I'd probably have Dawson over Agger, Sandro probably only misses out through injury and he and Lucas are equally important to their respective sides, and Holtby because I haven't seen too much of him (though I was careful to not include Sturridge and Coutinho either for this reason).
Anyway, my point is that despite all the current man-love for AVB and the derision of Rodgers, the respective managers inherited teams that finished 17 points apart, over the season, and they are only 9 points apart now. This is despite AVB being able to swap Modric for Vertonghen, Dembele, Lloris AND Holtby, all of whom went straight into the first team, whereas Rodgers has massively reduced the wage bill, often with no transfer fee gained and subsequently no replacements (the departure of Kuyt, Maxi, Cole and Bellamy has left Liverpool reliant of teenagers), and one of his only two 'proper' signings has been injured for the majority of the season - leaving only one senior striker.
Add to that the continual progression of Bale, which would've happened if Redknapp stayed anyway (he developed Bale into a pretty decent player first, Bale did win the PFA Player of the Year under his watch), and you wonder what would've happened if Redknapp had not been fired. For all his faults, he really did do a wonderful job at Spurs - having them just miss out on third with the squad they had was a pretty darn good achievement.
...Average age of the Liverpool team that beat Spurs - 27.5
Average age of the spurs team in the same match - 26
Phil, Liverpool says Liverpool has a young squad and too much shouldn't be expected? You have the fifth highest wage bill in the premier league. I expect Kenny got the shove partly as a result of that. If I were a Liverpool fan, sixth should be a minimum requirement given the team at Rodgers disposal.
Beating relegation candidates Wigan, a second string Swansea with one eye on the cup, and getting lucky to beat spurs doesn't mean much unless you sustain it. Liverpool are "the 2nd beat team in the premier league on form" as claimed by Gerrard on the basis of three games. THREE! It's this kind of one eyed bs, peddled by a manager who rivals Goebbels for propagandist output, really grates. If you take a longer period, LIverpool are forth in form - pretty good it has to be said - based on the last 8 games, behind the two Manchester clubs, and...Spurs.
...To fellow Liverpool fans. The "next year will be our year" thing isn't really working out. Can I start a new trend? It is...
"The year after next will be our year".
Works better for me anyway.
GM, LFC (how funny would it be if we got 4th place ahead of Chelsea then Rafa came back to Anfield?)
Worst Players This Season
In response to Matt Pitt's 'Who's Been The Worst Player In The Prem', Andy Carroll has to be one of the contenders here. 3 goals in a side who is supposed to play to his strengths. I actually thought Sam Allardyce might be able to get something out of big Andy but it almost looks like he doesn't care anymore. As a Liverpool fan, its depressing to know that no one is going to want Carroll and we are stuck with paying his wages for a few more years.
...In response to Mat Pitt's pondering of worst player of the year, here is my worst team of the year, obviously compiled relative to pre-season expectations and not ability.
Defence was much harder to do, Evra would have been a shoe-in back until he watch Buttner score on his debut bucked up his ideas. Captain of under-performing XI has to be Tony V, easily the most obvious case of someone being abducted by aliens and replaced by god knows what.
...The mail nominating Joe Hart for 'Worst Player of the Season 2012/13' has done it. My tether has reached an end. My rope has been snapped. My gears have been successfully ground. My spot has been popped. My t*ts have been completely got on. That last one was a little poor, but you understand what I'm saying.
After the matches against Madrid and Dortmund, journalists everywhere starting asking each other 'Could it be? Could England actually have a world class player? I think it's true lads, but whisper it, we don't want to look ridiculous if we're wrong'. Now, he did perform incredibly in those matches. But that's all it was. He had a great game and was in great form. The complete over-reaction from those games seems to have pushed him onto a pedestal he accidentally found himself on. He hasn't successfully maintained that level of performance, so now the aforementioned journalists are laughing at and ridiculing each other for suggesting that he is anything better than excellent.
Using the F365 Stats page, Man City have conceded 24 all season (second is Chelsea on 30). Joe has kept 13 clean sheets in 28 games: almost 1 every 2 games. Let's compare this to last season, when he made the PFA Team of the Year. He kept 17 clean sheets all season. I don't need to tell you that is just 4 more than this season, where there are still 10 games left. The stats suggest he isn't really better or worse than he normally is. It's just we have become used to his very high standards. Very few City fans will proclaim him to be one of the 'best in the world'. It's just very infuriating to hear people agree with those national journalists that we like to laugh and scoff at for poor analysis and opinion. Yeah, he has made a very small number of mistakes (against Southampton and Ibrahimovic), but he saves us time and time again (penalty save vs Chelsea and double save against Brazil).
Now then, I can't really defend "the worst player in the league" without offering a replacement, can I? Two words: Adebayor and Emmanuel. A total of 2 goals in the best Spurs team for a very long time is horrific and embarrassing. A player of his quality should be excelling in that squad. Spurs fans championed Levy for getting Adebayor so cheap. Only time will tell whether it will be a waste of money or not.
Sam (hoping for a publish because of that Stats page plug) Chambers, MCFC