Football League Expert & Columnist
The Royal wave
Peter Beagrie hails Brian McDermott for turning Reading's play-off pain into promotion pride.
Last Updated: 19/04/12 11:16am
Relentless Reading are set for a right old Royal knees-up after securing promotion back to the Promised Land.
One of football's quiet men could be forgiven for shouting from the rooftops after exorcising the pain that haunted him right until the final whistle at the Madejski Stadium on Tuesday night, when promotion was finally secured.
In Brian McDermott's own words, nothing in football could hurt any more than the agony he and his team suffered at the hands of Swansea in last May's exhilarating Championship play-off final at Wembley.
The hangover from that game was very evident at the start of this season and was arguably more debilitating than the loss of star striker Shane Long and captain Matt Mills. They were second bottom of the table after the first six games with just four points but McDermott, in his own quiet and studious way - massaged and cajoled (he's never been one of the game's bawlers) his charges.
He refocused the Reading squad and used the pain of that Wembley heartache as a tool to re-energise the club. As a manager you must adapt not season by season, but month by month, game by game and minute by minute. McDermott certainly did that.
Mills was replaced by Kaspars Gorkss, whose experience helped Alex Pearce shine and improve to a massive degree.
The permanent signing of Mikele Leigertwood from QPR after an impressive loan spell has also proved a masterstroke. Strong, powerful and athletic, Jem Karacan's minder also ensured Reading's midfield wouldn't be a soft touch. The goals he has scored recently - including the one that sealed promotion against Nottingham Forest - have been a massive bonus too.
Knowing that Reading needed one final ingredient, Brian (unsurprisingly an anagram of 'brain') convinced a seen-it-all, done-it-all powerhouse professional with a desire to play regularly at Premier League level to swap a relegation battle for a promotion one.
That consummate professional was Jason Roberts and he has proved to be the final piece in the jigsaw. He's a centre-forward with knowledge, know-how and an obvious goal threat, but most significantly he offered different qualities to the other strikers at the manager's disposal.
He took the pressure off Noel Hunt as the targetman and was an aerial threat for wingers Jobi McAnuff and Jimmy Kebe to find. He also wore centre-halves out so that young Adam le Fondre could show his natural goalscoring ability in the latter stages of games.
"More by luck than by good management" is a phrase I've heard often throughout my time in the game, but this, ladies and gentlemen, was definitely good management. They've picked up 46 points from the last 51 as they galloped to promotion.
Reading looks, as a club, to be in safe hands with the club's takeover a story in itself. Sir John Madejski agreed a fee with Anton Zingarevich which didn't take into consideration promotion to the Premier League and the riches that come with that.
But even though the club is a more prized asset now, Madejski has kept his word and the original fee because he believes that the Zingarevich family will take the club forward with the level of investment needed to secure Reading as a permanent fixture in the Premier League.
Speaking of safe hands, I must also mention Adam Federici who has had an outstanding season, particularly at the business end.
So congratulations to Reading. Professionalism, dedication, loyalty, humility and, most of all, talent has afforded Brian McDermott the chance to relax with two games to go.
The potential heartache of the play-offs is something he doesn't have to worry about this time around.
In League One it's nice to be able to congratulate one of football's good guys.
Chris Powell has done a tremendous job to steer Charlton to promotion after the horrendous run they had at the end of last season, and the club have been rewarded for showing their loyalty to him.
He overhauled the playing staff, bringing 19 new players in at the start of the season, and many people thought that might be too many changes - but sometimes a change is as good as a rest.
Powell has moulded all those new faces together as a team. Stand-out performers have included Johnnie Jackson, who has been instrumental in midfield, both creating and getting his own share of goals.
Also the likes of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Yann Kermorgant have shone up front, while the signing of Dany N'Guessan has proved vital as he has netted three goals in his six games for the club. His firepower has helped them over the line.
Promotion is the most important thing for the club, but they are six points clear of Sheffield United with three games to go and as a consummate professional, Powell will want to clinch the title for the fans as soon as possible. I can't see the Blades catching them.
After years of turmoil at The Valley it is one of the old guard, a guy that was associated with the good and the great of the team that played in the top division for many years, that has taken them out of the third tier of English football.
Powell has always had a great desire and passion for the game. He played on for as long as he possibly could and players don't put themselves through that physically unless they absolutely love the game.
He's proved this season that he can motivate, he can man-manage, he can spot a player and he can mould a team. He's answered a lot of questions about whether he was capable of making the transition from being a good coach to being a good manager.
Some people might argue that a club like Charlton should be getting promotion from that division, but when you look at their rivals - the Sheffield clubs, Huddersfield and Notts County - it was far from a given.
But he won't relax this summer. His phone will follow him everywhere and his family holiday might be cut short as he prepares for a Championship campaign.
I know his smile lights up the dressing room and it will have lit up the stadium last Saturday when promotion was secured. I can also reveal that he's a very good dancer and I hope he's been throwing a few shapes this week!
More to come
Swindon can't officially celebrate promotion from League Two just yet, but I'm sure they will be popping the champagne corks sometime soon. But from now until the end of the season it will be strictly mineral water for the players.
And finally, I'm off to the Riverside Stadium on Saturday to see if Southampton can join Reading in the Premier League by securing automatic promotion against Middlesbrough.
The home side will still have ideas of trying to get into the play-offs, but that might just be beyond them after the midweek draw with Doncaster. Nevertheless, they've had a fantastic season under Tony Mowbray.
Join us live on Sky Sports 2 HD on Saturday evening for that one.