McDermott had attitude of manager as youngsterBy Alan Manicom
June 14, 2012
Brian McDermott is pictured giving one of his first press interviews more than 31 years ago.
Reading’s Championship-winning manager had just broken into the Arsenal first team as a 19-year-old striker.
Ironically the interviewer is Reading Post head of sport Alan Manicom, who at the time was working as a trainee journalist for McDermott’s local paper the Slough Observer.
Below he recalls their meeting.
Brian McDermott was the first of hundreds of professional sportsmen and women I have interviewed during my career as a journalist.
For that reason alone the memory of speaking to him all those years ago is always going to be clear in my mind.
But there was also something about the way he conducted himself that struck me.
And I am not surprised that he has gone on to enjoy fantastic success as a manager.
When we met both of us were the same age, taking the first steps in our respective careers.
I had been a cub reporter at the Slough Observer for less than a month when the sports editor offered me the chance to go and interview Brian at his parents’ home in Cippenham.
Brian had featured in the paper before, having starred for the Slough Schools team that, if memory serves me right, had played in the semi-finals of the national competition at Anfield.
He was playing for Arsenal, having recently made his first-team debut.
The previous season he had been top scorer for the reserves and was now looking to nail down a first-team place.
But there was none of the brash arrogance associated with many young whizkids on the verge of the big time.
He was very amiable and mature and I remember him saying to me: “You’ve got a good job, haven't you?”
I was probably the more nervous of the two of us, but his comments instantly put me at ease.
So when I hear pundits talk about his excellent man-management skills I don’t find it difficult to believe.
There was also a steely determination shining through from the teenager in front of me.
We went on to talk about his England Youth cap, which the Slough Observer photographer put on my head.
I felt more than a little foolish wearing it, but hey, I was an Arsenal supporter and this was one of my heroes.
The picture you see here featured alongside my article, which was published in the Slough Observer in November 1980.
It’s easy to see why Brian is so grounded.
His parents were very supportive and welcoming.
I remember his mum saying that Brian could always be found with a football as a youngster, and that he would run rings around older relatives in the back garden.
Brian went on to score 13 goals for Arsenal in 44 starts and 28 substitute appearances.
He is described in the club record books as a pacy, industrious striker who could also operate in midfield – a useful man to have around.
I was on the North Bank among 57,472 fans at Highbury when Brian probably enjoyed his finest moment for the Gunners – six months after our interview.
He scored a crucial goal as Arsenal beat the 1980/81 Football League champions Aston Villa 2-0 to secure a place in Europe.
His team-mates included Pat Jennings, Kenny Sansom and David O'Leary.
Villa clinched the title that day, though, despite their defeat because nearest rivals Ipswich Town also lost.
Brian scored the second goal against a Villa team that included seven of the side that went on to win the European Cup the following year.
Coincidentally the captain of the Villa side was Dennis Mortimer, uncle of Craig Mortimer-Zhika, Reading FC’s current head of communications.
And chief coach of the Arsenal team at the time was Don Howe, whose nephew Nigel is now Royals’ chief executive.
When Frank Stapleton left Arsenal for Manchester United in the summer of 1981, Brian was given a chance to fill the vacant slot alongside Alan Sunderland in the Gunners’ attack.
He impressed but could not nail down a first-team spot and much to my disappointment, eventually left the club for Oxford United on New Year’s Eve in 1984.
Brian's 14-year playing career included spells at Fulham, IFK Norrköping (where he was named Sweden’s Player of the Year), Oxford United, Huddersfield Town, Cardiff City, Exeter City and Yeovil Town.
He hung up his boots at Slough Town in 1995 to become the club’s manager the following season.
And his very successful years in the Conference began a journey which has taken him to Reading FC and now the Premier League.
Oh, and Brian, if you ever read this, when England – or Ireland – come calling about the manager's job, I'll be more than happy to continue covering your career and successes at the World Cup finals!