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Top 5 Reading FC managers of all time

20 February 2023
By Hob Nob Anyone?

Reading Football Club has a long-standing history and has been managed by several notable coaches who have all made their mark on the club.

While not all the managers on the list may be considered favourites with the fans, we have created our top five manager list based solely on the win percentages they achieved during their tenure.

It's worth noting that any list ranking top managers is bound to be a matter of personal opinion, and some fans may agree or disagree with our choices.

However, there can be no doubt that each of these five managers led Reading F.C. to great things during their time in charge.

Whether it was helping the club secure promotion to higher leagues, achieve success in cup competitions or simply elevate the team's overall performance and stature in the football world, these managers each had a significant impact on the club's history.

5 - Mark McGhee

Mark McGhee took charge of Reading in 1991 and was at the helm for 160 league games. During his tenure, he won 70 of those games, an overall win percentage of 43.8%. Under his management, the Berkshire side conceded just 1.08 goals per game on average.

One of the main highlights of McGhee's tenure at Reading was leading them to the brink of promotion to the Premier League. Unfortunately for Reading, McGhee's success caught the attention of Leicester City, who swooped in to hire him away from the Royals in 1994.

Aside from his time at Reading, McGhee enjoyed a successful playing career and went on to manage other clubs, including Wolves, Millwall, Brighton, Motherwell, Aberdeen, Bristol Rovers, Barnet and Dundee

4- Steve Coppell

Steve Coppell took charge of Reading in 2003, with the daunting task of filling the void left by the departure of Alan Pardew. Despite the pressure, Coppell went on to become one of the club's greatest managers.

One of the highlights of Coppell's tenure was leading Reading to the Premier League for the first time, during the 2005/06 season. The team recorded a remarkable 106-point campaign to secure promotion, and Coppell was rewarded with the Championship Manager of the Year award.

The Royals went on to finish in eighth place during their first season in the Premier League, before being relegated in the 2007/08 season. Coppell stayed on for one more season but resigned after the team lost to Burnley in the playoff semifinals.

Overall, he had a win percentage of 44.6% during his time at Reading.

3 - Brian McDermott

Brian McDermott served in multiple roles at the Select Car Leasing Stadium before finally being allowed to manage the first team, following the departure of Brendan Rodgers in 2009. McDermott's appointment was made permanent in January 2010.

One of the highlights of McDermott's tenure was leading Reading back to the Premier League in April 2012. The Royals secured their promotion with a 1-0 victory against Nottingham Forest.

The team went on to win the league title that season, which was seen as a significant achievement since they didn't have the best squad on paper in the division.

Reading did not feature as possible title winners by bookies on the pre-season betting tips. The favourites were Leicester at 4/1, with Nottingham Forest, Birmingham and Blackpool also among the frontrunners, with Leeds at 20/1 being seen as outsiders for the playoffs.

It’s fair to say not many people would have used a free bet and backed Reading at the start of the season.

McDermott was sacked in March 2013, with his side in the top-tier relegation zone. He returned for a second stint in 2015 before being dismissed again the following year.

His overall win percentage during his first stint as manager was 45%. He was always given a warm welcome whenever he returned to the away team dugout in the years that followed.

2 – Ted Drake

Ted Drake was appointed as Reading's manager in 1947 and he led the team for 218 league games, winning 107 of them, for an overall win percentage of 49.1%. Drake's tenure at Reading was only a small part of his long and varied career in football.

Drake had a successful playing career, playing for Southampton and Arsenal. He was also a first-class cricketer for Hampshire before the Second World War. Following his time at Reading, Drake went on to manage Chelsea and even served as assistant boss at Barcelona.

1 – Alan Pardew 

Alan Pardew had two stints as Reading's manager. He first came in as a caretaker boss on two occasions, following the departures of Terry Bullivant and Tommy Burns. He was then appointed permanently in 1999.

Pardew is a key figure in the history of Reading F.C. and one of the club's most successful managers of all time.

During his time in charge, Pardew led the Royals to promotion from Division Two (now League One) in 2002, following a failed playoff campaign during the previous season.

The 2002/03 season saw Reading back in the second tier, and they finished fourth in the league reaching the playoffs but ultimately losing to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the semifinals.

Despite this setback, Pardew's leadership helped to establish Reading as a competitive force in the division, and they would go on to earn promotion to the Premier League under his successor, Steve Coppell.

Pardew's tenure at Reading was not without its controversies, however. His departure from the club was a messy affair, with reports of a falling out between him and the club's board of directors.

He eventually left to join West Ham United and went on to manage several other Premier League clubs, including Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion.

Despite his departure from Reading being somewhat acrimonious, Pardew's contribution to the club cannot be denied.

His win percentage of 53% is the highest of any Reading manager on this list, and his success in leading the club to promotion in 2002 helped to set the stage for the club's future achievements in the years to come.

Reading F.C. has had a rich history with various managers leading the club through different eras. The top five managers on this list have all made significant contributions to the club's success, each leaving their mark on the team.

From Mark McGhee, who laid the foundation for the club's success in the 90s, to Alan Pardew, who helped guide the club to new heights, these managers have all played a crucial role in the development of Reading F.C.

As the club looks to the future, the legacy of these top five managers will undoubtedly continue to inspire and motivate the team.

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