Firstly, I wish Reading and Steve Clarke all the luck in the world - he was a hard working, likeable individual who has brought me many happy memories as a West Bromwich Albion fan - most notably in games against Man United. Our thrilling 5-5 draw in Fergie's farewell and our 2-1 victory at Old Trafford. In the high times of his success he was very complimentary towards his players and never hogged the limelight like managers tend to do nowadays.
He was quite fortunate that in his first season the squad was more or less ready built from the Roy era and had pretty solid foundations, i.e. they were very organised, disciplined, hard to beat and were a competitive squad. For the first couple of months Steve came in and managed to improve on the good work Hodgson initially started. We were all of Roy's favoured qualities but furthermore we had a bit of style and swagger about us - our home form under Hodgson was poor at times but under Clarke we played some very entertaining football, our home form improved and he had us in the lofty heights of 3rd in the league as we headed into November.
From there however things started to fall apart slightly - he was let down badly by Odemwingie who created divisions amongst the playing squad. For me, it was the catalyst of where things started going wrong. Clarke should have stuck to his guns and removed Odemwingie from all first team affairs on principle. The second half of the season our football tailored off and despite some impressive wins at Liverpool and Southampton, we never built on the solid foundations we set ourselves.
His second season just didn't get going - we had some very poor refereeing decisions go against us which denied us of points. You might remember the most controversial being a Ramires dive at Stamford Bridge in the 90th minute when we were winning 2-1. That kind of set the wheels in motion for his departure. Our performances nose dived, we lacked creativity, mainly due to a poorly assembled squad (which he can take little blame for) and we didn't have the striking options of the previous season having lost Odemwingie and Lukaku.
His sacking was branded as harsh but if you take a look at the statistics then they're quite compelling. In his previous 41 games we had won 9. In the calendar year of 2013 we had picked up 31 points from 34 games - we won seven games - the goals were drying up. We had reached the point where seeing any sort of improvement was unlikely due to performances getting progressively worse.
That was Clarke's first major challenge and you could say we didn't give him chance to recover but the signs looked ominous that we wouldn't recover. Discipline, a hallmark throughout a Hodgson side which accumulated 0 red cards in 2011/12 disappeared, under Clarke we had several red cards for playing lashing out at others, players spitting at their opponents etc.
He had an impressive tutelage from a number of the games greats - Bobby Robson, Ruud Gullit and Jose Mourinho. We definitely resembled a Mourinho side. We were lethal on the counter attack. We defended well and in particularly when we had Lukaku & Odemwingie we would just catch sides on the break - in Clarke's second season he didn't have those options and we were caught on a pedestal with no direction or idea to our play because he had lost his greatest assets.
Having conceded six against Birmingham I expect Steve Clarke to firstly, lay down some defensive foundations and build from there. I have no doubt that you have acquired a very successful, intelligent coach. The big questions is whether Steve Clarke can learn from his mistakes that he made in the Premier League - that league is pretty unforgiving for your first managerial job.
I wish him the best of luck.
Thanks to Liam from westbrom.com for giving us his thoughts on our new manager.