Eamonn Dolan's morning words with the pressWith national TV, radio and written journalists all patiently anticipating the arrival of Eamonn Dolan and his pre-match words ahead of a trip to Manchester United this weekend, a bit of self-effacing Irish humour was thrown in to lighten the mood. A message came through from the Galway-born boss..."I'll be two minutes, but that might be an Irish two minutes!"
If that jovial message didn't relax the world's media, as he calmly sat down in front of the rolling cameras, Eamonn smiled and jokingly began to give his post-match reaction to the under-18s' 3-1 win over Fulham yesterday. Everyone in the room was immediately at ease.
It naturally wasn't all smiles. As the questions began to fly his way, Dolan was brimming with respect and admiration for his friend Brian McDermott, constantly conscious that this was not a time for him to be personally congratulated on taking charge of first team affairs, but instead 'a difficult week' he had been charged with safely navigating the club through.
He openly admitted that the players had been 'on the floor' when they came into training on Tuesday morning, knowing the man who had helped them reach the promised land of the Premier League would not be leading the session.
Simultaneously, he spoke of his respect for the owner and his decision, and of how he spoke to the players face to face the following day. The spirits, as a result, were swiftly lifted. All focus was clearly now on getting a result against Manchester United, a team he called "the greatest in the world, in everything they do".
And it was obvious from his demeanour that he wasn't feeling the strain. "Genuinely, I'm not under any pressure whatsoever. I've spoken to the owner a couple of times and he's put me under no pressure at all."
Talking of tension, Dolan will be stood alongside the peerless Sir Alex Ferguson on Saturday evening - the last first team manager he locked horns with was Barnet's Paul Fairclough eight and a half years ago.
"I don't know anyone who has ever been anything other than excited about a trip to Old Trafford," he smiled, unfazed by the daunting prospect of facing the runaway league leaders. There was no thought of what might happen in the future, it was only about using the next two days to prepare a team capable of getting a result against United.
There was no thought of himself and his own position. This was not the time. This week especially "was not the time for any individual to be opportunistic" and Dolan repeatedly explained that it remains solely about 'the group' - that is the ethos of this club.
Knowing he has the full support of the players, the staff and everyone connected with the club, Dolan was also asked if he had received many other messages of good luck. Fishing for names, the journalists were disappointed when Eamonn sheepishly grinned and told them he wasn't going to drop any names. Then, he picked up one of the phones on the table recording his every word, and pretended to read a text message from it. "It's Pep. Good luck on Saturday - you've picked an easy one!"
The press conference lasted almost an hour in total and besides the light-hearted moments, an injury update and a lot of talk of this weekend's fixture, the normally verbose Dolan naturally remained a little guarded in his comments.
"If you look at this morning with the press conference, it's just a different level. It's interesting, it used to just be Radio Devon, the Express & Echo and Western Morning News. I know it was a bit bland, I was aware of that," he told BBC Radio Berkshire afterwards. "But the first thing I have to be is respectful - to Brian and the club."
After all, now was not really the time for talking. "Wouldn't it be great to get a result - and if we did, then the first person we'll be thinking of is Brian."
As reports began to file and footage wended its way into the edit room, Dolan headed out onto the training pitch, shaking the hands of each player and greeting them with a smile and a welcoming word as they trotted out of the dressing rooms and onto the turf. "I love football, I love training," had been a theme in his address to the press and, as the sun beamed down at a bitterly cold Hogwood Park, Dolan seemed quite at home with whistle around his neck and clipboard in hand.
Hogwood Park had a familiar air of positivity and confidence. Old Trafford awaits. The Royals remain in safe hands.
You can watch the full press conference online now with Reading FC Player.