After Readings’ victory over Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night the number of officially promoted clubs this season has risen to two. Charlton were the first club to win promotion this season; their similarly hard-fought 1-0 victory over Carlisle on Saturday guaranteed them Championship football next year, yet you may very well have missed it. Charlton’s achievement was allocated an approximate 45.6 seconds on the The Football League Show while praise Reading’s promotion is likely to be similarly swallowed up by the Barcelona/Champions League hype. Neither achievement should be glossed over as both Brian McDermott of Reading and Chris Powell of Charlton have provided two differing, but equally effective blueprints for achieving promotion.
Charlton may have accumulated more points in fewer games (94 in 43 to Reading’s 88 in 44) yet it would be a mistake to say Powell’s methods have been any more effective or impressive. In Charlton’s last ten games Powell’s team have picked up 18 points from a possible 30. Reading however, have won an astounding 26 points from 30. A glance over the respective league table positions throughout the season reveals for Charlton a steady and direct route to promotion. The team seems to have possessed a tunnel vision like obsession toward reaching promotion from day one and has topped the league since October. Conversely, Reading have blitzkrieged their way to the top in a few short months as a result of their phenomenal form. Unlike Charlton, it didn’t seem Reading were interested in promotion for the first half of the season as the team languished in mid-table. Unlike the long-term consistency of Charlton’s campaign, Reading have had a penchant for the dramatic, scoring 37 % of their goals in the last fifteen minutes of matches.
Unlike the long-term consistency of Charlton’s campaign, Reading have had a penchant for the dramatic, scoring 37 % of their goals in the last fifteen minutes of matches.
These two paths to promotion on the field represent a striking juxtaposition to the approaches of the managers off of it. Powell’s success with Charlton is an example of how to get results quickly while McDermott has been playing a more long-term game. The seeds of Reading’s promotion charge have been planted long ago. Despite missing out in the play off’s last year and having captain Matt Mills and Shane Long bought from them, McDermott has kept together a key core of players. Jem Karacan, Mikele Leigertwood, Jobi McAnuff, Noel Hunt, Jimmy Kebe, Ian Harte, Jay Tabb and Adam Federici have all been mainstays of McDermott’s tenure. Added to this, McDermott has brought experience (Jason Roberts on loan), youth (Alex Pearce and Simon Church coming into their own) and hunger (Adam La Fondre stepping up from a lower level). Reading may have only got it right at the last, yet the formula had been written for a while.
This has been Powell’s first full-season in charge as a manager. Powell took over halfway through last season and oversaw a collapse that saw Charlton finish in League One mid-table mediocrity, a far cry from the Premiership positions Powell achieved as a player with the club. The position of 13th meant that for seven straight seasons Charlton had sunk like a stone through the leagues, each season finishing lower than the last. These facts make Powell’s achievement all the more stunning; not only did he halt the fall; he completely reversed its trajectory. In a matter of months Powell has restored the smiles he is so famous for to the rest of the club. Displaying a not oft seen ruthless side, Powell tore apart his squad moving on most players with no regard for sentiment. Eighteen new faces were brought in last summer. Powell did not rely on one or two famous veterans to turn the tide. Instead he filled the squad with young and hungry players familiar with the lower leagues but eager for a taste of something more. Seven debutants started the opening game vs Bournemouth and the team hasn’t looked back since.
Once again this weekend we can expect the nation’s footballing narrative to be dominated by discussion about diving, goal line technology or the latest club to be in “crisis” while sitting in sixth place. In the football league however, there are two bright young English managers worthy of our attention. English football is not in a healthy state, we are still manager less and an early elimination at Euro 2012 looks a real possibility. If you need positivity, deflect your attention away from the latest wonderkid or superstar; Brian McDermott and Chris Powell are making things happen.
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