BRIAN MCDER­MOTT

The Read­ing boss is ea­ger to meet old pal Alan Pardew in the FA Cup

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

BRIAN McDER­MOTT still re­mem­bers the day he met Alan Pardew at a frozen, windswept Grif­fin Park in the win­ter of 1999. “I was man­ag­ing Wok­ing in the Con­fer­ence,” re­calls the Read­ing boss. “I went to a re­serve game at Brent­ford and Alan was there. He was in charge at Read­ing.

“I didn’t know him at all, but we got chat­ting, got along well and kept in touch. I lost my job at Wok­ing and, a few days later, the phone rang.

“It was Alan, ask­ing if I’d be his chief scout. Ob­vi­ously I said yes.

“I was quite young and I’d never done that be­fore, so it was an in­ter­est­ing few years, to say the least. But, be­fore long, Alan had me do­ing the Un­der-17s as well, so he cer­tainly got his money’s worth!”

That chance en­counter would prove the most im­por­tant of McDer­mott’s ca­reer. Over the next decade, he per­formed ev­ery role imag­in­able at the Made­jski; his miles on the road and work along­side academy man­ager Ea­monn Dolan help­ing to un­earth the likes of Kevin Doyle, Shane Long and Gylfi Sig­urds­son.

Glo­ri­ous

Then, in late 2009, came the sack­ing of Brendan Rodgers. Thrust into care­taker charge, the shy un­known with the li­brar­ian’s glasses took Read­ing to Liverpool and pulled off a re­mark­able FA Cup up­set.

Two years later, the Roy­als were in the Premier League.

Since those glo­ri­ous days, McDer­mott has man­aged Leeds and scouted for Arse­nal, be­fore re­turn­ing to Read­ing in De­cem­ber.

Yet he has never for­got­ten the man who made it all pos­si­ble. The man who, next week­end, will ar­rive at the Made­jski with Crys­tal Palace seek­ing to end McDer­mott’s hopes of a place in the FA Cup semi-fi­nals.

“I’ll al­ways be grate­ful to Alan for bring­ing me here and he’s still a very good friend of mine,” says McDer­mott, who also reached the quar­ter-fi­nals with Read­ing in 2010 and 2011.

“He’s a fab­u­lous man­ager. Just look at what he’s done. Pro­mo­tion with Read­ing. He got West Ham into the Premier League and to an FA Cup fi­nal.

“He did a great job un­der dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances at New­cas­tle. He’s gal­vanised Crys­tal Palace this sea­son.

“He’s highly-rated in the game, that’s for sure. Ev­ery­body knows his abil­ity and he’s never been out of work for long, has he? I’ll look for­ward to see­ing him.”

One re­union McDer­mott will be less keen on comes on April 16, when Read­ing pay a visit to Leeds United and their con­tro­ver­sial owner Massimo Cellino.

The 54-year-old spent 13 months in charge at El­land Road but was a dead man walk­ing from the mo­ment Cellino bought the club in Jan­uary 2014.

Sacked and re­in­stated be­fore the sale was even com­plete, he even­tu­ally be­came the first of six man­agers to be dis­missed in a tur­bu­lent 18-month spell.

In that time, Leeds have tum­bled from play-off con­tention to mid-ta­ble anonymity.

McDer­mott laughs when I ask if he knew he was done for when the Ital­ian ar­rived in York­shire.

“Well it was made pretty ob­vi­ous,” he says. “Massimo tried to get rid of me on Jan­uary 31, be­fore he’d even come in. That wasn’t ex­actly a good omen!”

Yet McDer­mott isn’t bit­ter, nor re­gret­ful about an episode that ul­ti­mately saw him re­turn to the scout­ing role he thought he’d tran­scended.

En­joyed

“I’m not one of th­ese peo­ple who dwells on the past or wor­ries about a fu­ture,” he ex­plains.

“And there’s no sta­tus thing in­volved for me.

“If I’m work­ing as a scout, I do the best I can. If I’m work­ing as a man­ager, I do the best I can. I’d be the same if I was clean­ing boots. I’ve done al­most ev­ery job at Read­ing and I’ve en­joyed them all. I’d never sit there think­ing ‘I miss do­ing this’ or ‘I should be do­ing that’.”

And the only anger he feels is for the Leeds sup­port­ers.

“It’s soul-de­stroy­ing for them,” he says. “They keep go­ing back, week af­ter week.

“You go to an away game on a Tues­day night and you’ve got three or four thou­sand Leeds fans be­hind the goal.

“Their re­silience is se­cond to none. You just can­not be­lieve, af­ter the way they’ve been treated, that the faith is so strong.

“Un­til you’ve been man­ager of Leeds you just can­not un­der­stand how good that place is.What that club means. Peo­ple have said it hun­dreds and thou­sands of times, but it wasn’t un­til I stood by that dugout that I felt their pas­sion.

“A friend of mine is a fan of Sun­der­land. He lives in Maiden­head now. He al­ways tells me about the big north­ern clubs – Sun­der­land, New­cas­tle, Leeds.

“That for the peo­ple in those cities the foot­ball club is ev­ery­thing. They live it, breathe it, talk it. It’s to­tally true.

“I was very lucky to be in charge for 50-odd games. It’s a shame I never had the chance to build some­thing, but that’s the prob­lem at Leeds. No­body gets to lay down foun­da­tions and plan for the next level.”

Which, for McDer­mott, is once again the pro­ject at Read­ing. He takes great pride in the achieve­ments of pre­vi­ous alumni.

“Shane Long’s a good friend of mine,” he says. “I go to see him reg­u­larly and we’ll of­ten have din­ner. I en­joy see­ing what he’s done. Gylfi is an­other one who we

brought through. Both of them will hope­fully be play­ing at the Euros this sum­mer. That means a lot.”

And, with the cash swirling about at the sum­mit of the divi­sion, grow­ing their own is once again the Read­ing way, with de­fender Jake Cooper, 21, the lat­est to blossom.

“If you’re talk­ing about the money be­ing spent in this divi­sion, well... my god, it isn’t get­ting any eas­ier,” he ad­mits. “But we’ve al­ways needed to do it a cer­tain way at Read­ing so let’s stick at it.

“I think it is im­por­tant. Your academy is your lifeblood, and Ea­monn has done such an in­cred­i­ble job.

Abil­ity

“Th­ese days, it’s so hard to break through at the top clubs. The top four or five have the best in­ter­na­tional play­ers. There’s no path­way.

“Here, there is. If I had a son with a bit of abil­ity, I’d want him to be at Read­ing.”

And, with any play-offs hopes now ex­tin­guished, is that Cup-tie with Pardew’s Palace the only thing keep­ing Read­ing’s sea­son alive?

“The Cup games are great,” says McDer­mott. “The at­mos­phere against West Brom was top drawer. It re­minded me of the old days.

“But, win or lose, we’re build­ing some­thing here. We’ve only been back a lit­tle while, but I can see progress. We’ve had four clean sheets in five, a good re­sult against Rother­ham.

“We’re get­ting there. I want to see the old days back ev­ery week­end, not just in the Cup.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

GLORY GOAL: Michael Hec­tor scores the se­cond for Read­ing against West Brom. In­set: McDer­mott with old pal Pardew and Read­ing prospect Jack Cooper

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