When you hear from a trusted source that something is going to happen, it’s probably best to assume that it’s got a better than 50:50 chance of being accurate. A few days ago, I was told to ignore all of the Di Canio hype, and that it was all smoke and mirrors to disguise the real target for the Reading managerial position, Gustavo Poyet. Of course, you get swayed by the press and with no talk of the Uruguayan, it led me to dismiss the tip. So, having written my article, as the operators of this site can confirm, I then pulled it, not wanting to look like a fool. As Poyet is now odds on with the bookies to take the hot seat at the Berkshire club, I accept my mistake.
Poyet came to England as one of the early Hoddle purchases for Chelsea, and soon struck up a strong ‘little and large’ relationship with the diminutive Sardinian Gianfranco Zola, as they combined to form part of the potent spearhead of the Blues in pre-Abramovich days. Earning a reputation as a combative and yet creative midfielder with an eye for goal and outstanding aerial ability, the Uruguayan picked up a trophy or three in his days at Stamford Bridge. Later shipped on to Spurs, Poyet maintained the steady midfield goal-scoring form of his earlier career before leaving in 2004. Perhaps never widely recognized as a stand out ‘manager in waiting’ during his career, it’s worth noting that Zola consistently acclaimed him – and did so a few weeks ago - as being tactically astute and an excellent motivator. He also served his apprenticeship as assistant to Dennis Wise, first at Swindon Town, and then Leeds United, prior to a spell under Juande Ramos at Spurs, before striking out on his own at Brighton.
So what would Reading be getting if they appointed the Uruguayan? Well, there’s a certain style to Poyet’s approach to the game. After taking over at Brighton in 2009, and eschewing the caricature of a South American obdurate defensive format, Poyet built on the Spanish ethos, learnt during his seven year period as a player at Real Zaragoza, of possession and passing. Not quite Barcelona style, but certainly with a nod towards that ethos. This, coupled with astute purchases in the transfer market, through use of his contacts with the Iberian game, leant a very ‘easy on the eye’ appreciation of his team. Without outlandish spending, Poyet built a squad that had the Seagulls promoted as Champions of League One in 2011. He was also crowned League One Manager of the Year in the same period. The same squad, with as few tweaks immediately challenged for promotion to the Premier league, before falling away. The question then arises as to why he would want to leave Brighton to move to the Berkshire club, apparently in a tailspin towards relegation. The answer may lie in the fact that sometimes, there’s a limit to what you can achieve at any given club.
Of course it’s true that, if he is appointed to the Reading hot seat, unless Poyet performs a minor, well actually major, miracle pretty quickly, Reading may well kick off next season in the same league as his current club. That’s all true of course. What the Berkshire club will have however is a Premier League set up and the much-heralded ‘parachute payments’ for a couple of seasons, meaning the chances of getting promoted again will be much higher than with the Seagulls.
A bit like information about potential hot seat appointments, opportunities to move on up the managerial ladder don’t present themselves very often, so don’t be surprised if the news breaks over the next couple of days or so that Gus Poyet is the new Reading manager. I only wish that I could say that you heard it from me first. I should be able to, but can’t. Hey, that’s football, next time I’ll trust my sources and go with what I’m told. Then I’ll be able to say that you heard it here first.