Brian McDermott: Arsenal occasional, manager, Dylan lover.

By Tony Attwood, AISA Arsenal History Society

Brian James McDermott was born on 8 April 1961 and is one of that select group of players who has played for Arsenal and has since gone on to a period of management in the Premier League.

Although he has spoken of his sadness that he did not play for Ireland, and his desire to manage Ireland he was born in Slough, although his parents are Irish.

He joined Arsenal as an apprentice in January 1977 having been rejected previously by Millwall and QPR.   He signed pro forms in February 1979 and was top scorer in the Combination in 1978/9 before making his debut for the first team as a sub in the match against Bristol City on 10 March 1979.  It was a 2-0 win in front of 24,288.  The team he joined was

Jennings, Rice, Nelson, Talbot, O’Leary, Walford, Brady, Heeley (McDermott), Stapleton, Price, Rix.

This was the game in which, after months of handing the spotlight to Brady, Rix stepped out of the shadows to head in Arsenal’s first on 31 minutes and to set up Stapleton for the second on the eve of half time.

Bristol meanwhile used their traditional ultra physical approach which, if it were ever seen on the streets of Britain, would lead to immediate arrest.  It was a style that had worked when they first entered the top division since coming up in 1976, but by this time the top clubs were used to it, and knew how to play around it.

Not too much was made of this win for Arsenal however as this was City’s sixth successive away defeat, proving that a single tactic is never enough to win matches.

However despite this winning start McDermott did not make a wholesale breakthrough although in 1980/1 he made 16 starts in the league  and 7 as sub.    The following season he started the first six games as number 9 but after that only made three more appearances  in the league.  (I have seen one site that makes mention of 45 appearances in each of those seasons, but I just can’t see how that figure is reached.)

But he could not build on those appearances, and in following season he was loaned to Fulham in 1983 and then to  IFK Norrköping in 1984 (and incidentally became the Player of the Year for the Swedish League in that season).  After that he played for Oxford, Huddersfield, Cardiff, Exeter and Yeovil before a spell in Honk Kong.  He then sold insurance for a while, before playing for Slough (his home club) and then moving into management with the same club.

He left Slough Town in 1998 after the owners of the club pulled the funding, and then took over at Woking, but after poor results was sacked on 29 February 2000.

After seven months out of work he joined Alan Pardew at Reading as chief scout and manager of the under 19s and reserves.  He stayed in place through the Brenda Rodgers era and became manager on 17 December 2009.

He regularly had FA Cup success with Reading, beating Liverpool, WBA and Everton, and having the club’s best run for over 80 years  and in 2012 took Reading into the Premiership.

And then we come to 30 October 2012, when Reading took a 4-0 lead over Arsenal in 35 minutes in a league cup game.    With the home crowd jeering at the loyal Arsenal support, Arsenal came back to 4-4 at full time and to win 5-7 and McDermott called it, “the worst defeat of my career.”

The Arsenal goals were, in order, from Theo, Giroud, Koscielny, Theo, Chamakh, Theo, Chamakh.  McDermott however lost face somewhat not by the score – Arsenal were clearly the superior team – but by then allying himself with Ferguson at Man U by complaining that more than the regulation time was played.  “You can’t tell the time as wrong as that, but he did,” he said.

On 11 March 2013 McDermott was sacked as manager after four successive defeats.  In an interview about his time at Reading McDermott said, “I’d have loved to have played under Arsene Wenger. The club are run the right way, they play really good football. I’ve got the utmost respect for Wenger and the Arsenal crowd.”

The same interview reveals that Brian McDermott had a picture of Eric Cantona in the room where he gave TV interviews at Reading, and reportedly said of Paolo di Canio, who managed Swindon, “I love him. I love the way he manages. He was a brilliant player. I’d love to have managed someone like that.”

Brian McDermott then took over as manager of Leeds United on 12 April 2013, making a most unlikely double since the manager of Leeds Rhinos at the time was also called Brian McDermott.

In January 2014 Massimo Cellino came on the scene in a proposed takeover of the club and on 31 January it was reported that Brian McDermott had been sacked as manager of the club.   Then it was claimed that the Cellino family had no authority to dismiss him.

Next, on 1 February, the club released a statement saying McDermott had not been sacked and two days later he returned.   One player  Andrea Tabanelli, was signed during the two days of McDermott’s absence, but this was cancelled on 7 February.

And so that’s it for now.  Although here is a lovely PS.  After being sacked by Reading Brian McDermott was filmed singing “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” in a koraoke pub.  A manager who appreciates Dylan.  Well I never did.

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