Reading manager Steve Coppell will spend the next few days considering his future and talking with Royals chairman John Madjeski following the club's relegation to the Championship.
Coppell suffered his fourth relegation as a manager despite his side rediscovering their goal touch to end a run of over nine hours with a 4-0 win at Derby.
But it all proved irrelevant in the final reckoning as Fulham's defeat of FA Cup finalists Portsmouth deprived Reading of a third season in the top flight.
The insurance of playing the worst team the Premier League has ever seen was not enough to prevent tears of sadness within the Reading dressing room and among the 3,000 travelling fans as they joined Derby in their relegation misery in the cruellest of circumstances as they came within 14 minutes of a stay of execution before Fulham's winner at Portsmouth.
It now appears unlikely that Coppell will spare himself as the inquest begins into the failings of the club who only three seasons ago stormed to the Championship title with 106 points and a 16-point margin.
He insisted that his salute to Reading supporters after the final whistle was a thank you for their efforts this season, but it was far from convincing.
“I have got to look at my situation. It is too soon to make any decision now. I still have a huge affection for Reading and I will do what is right for them. Right now the dressing room is a very sad place and there are no words to ease the pain,” Coppell said.
“There is a very numb feeling. We've brought some good stuff to the Premiership and it is sad it ended like this. But we have to give credit to Roy Hodgson and Fulham, they have had a terrific run. All we could do was win our game, but it was not enough.”
Coppell will look back at the six-game run, prior to this victory, where is side failed to muster a single goal. That failing was addressed from the moment James Harper curled them ahead and Dave Kitson and substitute Kevin Doyle added further goals early in the second half to at least keep their half of the bargain.
However the party atmosphere was punctured when the news of Danny Murphy's goal for Fulham filtered through, rendering Leroy Lita's fourth goal irrelevant and it seems unlikely that Coppell has the stomach for another struggle in the Championship.
The same cannot be said for Derby manager Paul Jewell – who has been waiting for the season to finish pretty much from the moment he walked into the club.
His side depart the top flight as the worst the Premier League has ever seen and he is promising wholesale changes this summer.
“No one in our dressing room has any right to think that they are safe this summer,” he said. “We just don't have enough people with enough stomach for a fight. The players don't care enough.
“It is never their fault, but I can't see too many of them getting a Premier League club to play for next season,” said Jewell.
Derby have broken every one of the un-wanted Premier League records – but will still bank over 52 million pounds for their season of ineptitude in the top flight.
That tells all about what is wrong with the system of rewards in the English game, when Derby's own fans were roaring “you're not fit to wear the shirt” after the final whistle as the players refused to come out and acknowledge their own supporters.
They fall into the Championship as the worst team the Premier League has ever seen with only one victory all season. It will be a long-haul back for Jewell and company.
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