Coppell runs out of answers at Reading
The rumours had been doing the rounds for weeks, ever since a story in the Daily Mail at the back end of April suggested Steve Coppell would quit not only Reading but also football in general at the end of the season.
The Royals boss said that it was "absolute rubbish, a non-story" but stopped short of saying that he would remain at the Madejski Stadium.
And a few hours after his team's play-off semi-final defeat at the hands of Burnley on Tuesday evening Coppell duly announced his resignation from Reading after six years in charge at the Berkshire club.
The 53-year-old had refused to discuss his future in the immediate aftermath of the game, choosing to wait until he had fulfilled all his media obligations before releasing a short statement.
In some ways it was typical Coppell; straightforward, low key and done with the minimum of fuss.
"I feel it is the best thing, for both the club and myself, for me to leave," he said in his statement.
Yet the clues about what was to follow were there as the 53-year-old fielded questions following his team's 2-0 defeat at the Madejski Stadium.
There was a deep despair in his frank and honest assessment of his team's failure to bounce straight back to the Premier League. Coppell is never the most emotive but his disappointment was clear.
Reading's had been a season that often promised much but ultimately failed to deliver. It is a story of ifs and maybes and Coppell, as he had suggested over the previous weeks, was short of answers.
The Royals failed to win any of their last nine home games and Coppell admitted: "It is something I could not understand and something that I could not solve."
Just two wins in those games (or if they had beaten Birmingham in their final game of the regular season) would have seen them go up automatically and Coppell concluded: "No team had more chances to be promoted than us."
Coppell is an honest, straight up guy and did not hide from the issue when he said his team's failure to secure promotion was "the manager's fault". He pointed out that the club had made a profit this season and said "there is no credit crunch here". I could not help but wonder whether he wished his team had spent more money after just falling short.
Or maybe what cost them was a loss of form from key players at a crucial point in the season. Why else would Coppell have handed a first league start to 20-year-old striker Simon Church for the second leg against the Clarets while leaving the likes of Stephen Hunt, Dave Kitson and Glen Little on the bench?
Perhaps the most telling statement of Coppell's growing disillusion, or perhaps frustration, with his failure to meet his own standards, came with the line: "I did not expect this (end to the season), I expected something else. I have no plan for the summer. I apologise to the fans."
It was the fans who played a major part in persuading Coppell to remain at the club after he considered quitting in the wake of the club's relegation from the top flight last summer.
They hold the 53-year-old in great affection - and rightly so. It was Coppell who presided over the club's promotion to the Premier League for the first time in 2006, with the Royals winning a record 106 points and finishing with a goal difference of plus 67.
The following season the Royals' attractive brand of football saw them achieve a remarkable eighth place finish in the Premier League, above the likes of Aston Villa, Newcastle, West Ham and Manchester City. It was the stuff of dreams. But reality bit in a big way in their second season in the top flight and the club were relegated on goal difference.
I must admit that I thought Reading would bounce straight back - that keeping hold of Coppell would prove to be a decisive factor. The fact he walked out of Manchester City in mysterious circumstances after 33 days back in 1996 probably means there will always be doubts about his ability to handle stress at the very top level. But he is clearly a very good manager whose time at Reading was a definite success.
He possesses a sharp, dry wit (Question from press after defeat to Burnley - what are you going to do now Steve? Answer - I'll probably play golf tomorrow.) And in some ways he almost seems a bit of a throwback to a previous era. A former economics student who drives to training in a car many of Reading's supporters could afford, there is nothing flash or celebrity about Coppell but he is a very good football manager.
His teams play attractive football - they might have lost to Burnley but the Royals played some stunning attacking stuff and their defeat is more about missed chances than anything else - while a steady calm and sense of equilibrium surrounds his sides.
Having said all of that, it might well be the right time for a change at Reading. There is certainly no point in Coppell staying if he does not want to be there and the decisiveness of his resignation suggests a man who knows his time is up. Coppell perhaps succumbed to emotion last summer and was not willing to chance a repeat.
I have been to a few games at Reading recently and been decidedly underwhelmed by the lack of excitement about the place even though they had been close to promotion.
The fact that fans did not see their team win at home for nine games is probably a key factor in that but I hope they do not let the recent disappointments cloud their judgement.
The greatest era in Reading's history took place under Coppell and he rightly leaves with his pride intact.
The question is - who next?