No Premier League manager has lost his job so far this season, but with winter approaching and some jittery new owners panicking about dollar signs, the chances are that will soon change.
And nowhere is it more likely to do so than at the foot of the table. Reading and Southampton, promoted automatically from the Championship last season, find themselves in the bottom three along with Queens Park Rangers as Bonfire Night becomes a memory and the sense that the vultures are circling over their respective managers is inescapable.
Southampton manager Nigel Adkins appears in most grave danger of losing his job as eccentric owner Nicola Cortese sees his side bottom of the table despite a transfer splurge in excess of £30 million, while Queens Park Rangers also fall into a similar bracket, although Mark Hughes seems to have the support of his owner Tony Fernandes. But for Reading boss Brian McDermott, a recent change of owner spells danger and he could also be forgiven for thinking his job on the line.
It is ridiculous to say so given the way that the former reserve team coach has performed since succeeding Brendan Rodgers in January 2010 with Reading just above the relegation zone. A play-off final defeat in his first full season in charge was followed up with the Championship title the year after and you would think such a record would make him bullet-proof.
But that would be naive. McDermott is winless in the top flight this year with five draws and four defeats from his nine games and with the Royals stuck in the relegation zone, Anton Zingarevich may feel that changing the manager and crossing his fingers is the best way to preserve his investment.
A frugal summer and the fact that McDermott has a knack for getting his team to improve over the course of the season should go in his favour, but when a new owner finds himself with a manager he inherited and did not choose, if results are not exceptional you always think change is going to come.
It is enough to for you to question the point of winning promotion if you’re going to get the chop when you inevitably struggle, but the only way McDermott can keep his job is by winning games and I think it could be tenth time lucky when Norwich City visit the Madejski on Saturday.
The Royals are 6/5 with bwin to win the match, with the draw and a Norwich win both priced up ay 9/4 and let’s be honest, this is a match that McDermott really has to win.
I think he can, despite Reading’s struggles. The sides in the bottom three have the worst record of any three teams in the relegation zone at this stage of the season in Premier League history, but of the three I think Reading have looked the best and a win is just around the corner.
It’s not like they haven’t been close: the Royals led against Chelsea, Newcastle United, Swansea City, Fulham and QPR this season (not forgetting the incredible 7-5 game against Arsenal in the League Cup, where they led 4-0) and even if throwing away winning positions will lead to a lack of belief that they can actually close out a game, it shows their attacking prowess and they can get in front against Norwich and stay there.
And the reason for that is the Canaries’ poor away form. Chris Hughton has overseen an impressive turnaround over the last couple of weeks, with Norwich taking seven points from the last nine – including a win over Arsenal – and beating Tottenham Hotspur in the Capital One Cup.
But those three wins came at Carrow Road, and on their travels Norwich have struggled. Going back into last season, the Canaries have won just one of their last 11 away league fixtures, losing seven and conceding 22 goals at the same time.
Reading have been scoring goals a plenty at the Madejski, finding the net 14 times in five games in all competitions, and with Norwich struggling in front of goal – only Sunderland have scored fewer than their eight – I think Reading can get in front and for once hang on.
Reading have won games this season, beating QPR and Peterborough in the League Cup, so it’s not like they’re totally without confidence and I think that the first three points of the season are there for them at 6/5 on Saturday.