The recent speculation surrounding the West Ham job has raised questions whether Pardew will remain at Reading or, as is widely reported, leave after the game on Saturday to take up the reins at Upton Park. Despite Madejski's blunt refusal of offers from West Ham, Pardew's comments (albeit via his agent) over the weekend suggests he is unlikely to remain manager for the rest of the season even if the West Ham job falls through. Many Reading fans will be dismayed at this news, pointing out that not only does the move represent, at best, a sideways step for Pardew but also questions the loyalty of the manager plucked from obscurity by Madejski. Pardew's critics will point out that against Millwall a couple of seasons ago, Alan was forced to publicly apologise after berating Mark McGhee for deserting Reading when under contract. Pardew should examine his own morals before questioning others, especially considering McGhee achieved a lot more with a lot less and only left for a Premiership club. Indeed if Pardew does move to West Ham, a rival club in the same division, he should be vilified in the same manner.
Pardew's imminent departure raises serious questions about the state of the football club, what directions we are heading in and to what extent is this down to the manager. There are two schools of argument, one crediting our rise to Pardew, and the other accrediting it to various factors including the financial difficulties that have hit football. Pardew supporters would argue that on the face of it, RFC seem in a healthy position with rising crowds, large stadium, wealthy backer, academy and a high position in division one. Despite the current economic climate, the 16,000 average crowd even allowed us to break even last year - a feat not matched by 20 out of the 24 clubs in the division. The team is playing well, with talented youth in Tyson, Sidwell, Harper, Shorey and Peter Castle and excellent players such as Williams, Forster and Scott Murray. However, we have very little cover at the back (John Mackie is not considered a footballer) and several members of the team who are playing above themselves, such as Andy Hughes and Ricky Newman. We also possess John Salako. Arguably it is down to Pardew's man management and tactics that we have seen the most from these players, and with his departure it is questionable whether we will ever see the team performances that we have become accustomed. Reading's strength over the past few years has been due to having the strongest team rather than a collection of talented individuals, and a new manager with a change of tactics may bring to an end that winning formula.
When Pardew took over, Reading where languishing in the bottom half of division two with a whole side of failed signings. Pardew's appointment was greeted with great scepticism and disappointment by the same fickle fans who now fear to open the newspapers in case they find that he's gone. After a short(ish) period, he was able to turn the club around and guide us to promotion, buying higher quality players and reintroducing the winning quality back into the club. However the question must be posed whether this was mainly down to him. Pardew doubters would argue that Reading were a huge club in division two, with more money to spend and greater levels of support than any other team. Whilst one must accept that this is no guarantor for success, Reading certainly had an advantage over all other clubs and yet it took Pardew years to succeed in gaining promotion. We were fortunate that upon promotion, ITV digital collapsed, creating a more level playing field in the division due to the bigger clubs crippling debts. Whilst Pardew has taken this opportunity well and has established Reading as one of the top sides in the division, he has of yet won little other than praise for his efforts. The current upward direction of the club is down to a combination of our ground, our Chairman, the financial restrictions at other clubs as well as Pardew. Pardew's departure, whilst disappointing and perhaps a blow to promotion this season, will not affect the other factors that have pushed us to second in the division. I will be interested to hear which school of thought RFC supporters' support, or indeed whether they believe our accent of the league is down to another factor entirely.
The choice as successor is highly important in the direction
the club wish to pursue after Pardew has gone, and there will be no shortage
of applicants. The fans favourite may well be Lawrie Sanchez, a former Royal
and current manager of Wycombe, but realistically he has taken Wycombe from
mid table division two obscurity down to a relegation dogfight. Whilst he
is young and bright, he has precious little experience and it may be too soon
for him to take the job. Ronnie Moore of Rotherham would be an excellent choice,
although rumours are that he is waiting for a Premiership job offer and would
turn down the Royals. Other possible candidates are Peter Taylor (look what
he did at Brighton), Phil Parkinson (lacks experience), Iain Dowie and George
Graham. Any of the above would be a positive move by the club, although Madejski
may look towards another untested manager or a former player such as Tony
Adams. Whether any can match or better Pardew remains to be seen, but there
is no reason why they shouldn't. Reading is on the verge of exciting times
with or without Pardew, all we need is a bit of belief.
Then again, he might just stay.
Thanks to Edgar Morse for supplying the above article for
inclusion on Hob Nob Anyone?