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Steve Clarke: 3 Postives And 3 Concerns

A whirlwind 24 hours, which saw Reading sack Nigel Adkins and then appoint Steve Clarke, left little time for reflection. But with the dust now settled, @WilliamOwain has had a look at the positives and concerns from the appointment of Clarke.

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His coaching pedigree

It's easy to see why John Madejski said Steve Clarke has "a CV of the very highest order." Anyone who has coached at Chelsea, Liverpool, Newcastle and West Ham must be a half decent coach.

His coaching honours list already makes him possibly the most decorated man to ever take charge of Reading. When he was at Newcastle they lost the FA Cup final; during Clarke's four seasons coaching at Chelsea the Blues won the Premier League twice, the League Cup twice, the FA Cup, and were also runners-up in another League Cup final and the Champions League.

When he was at Liverpool, the Reds won the League Cup and were runners-up in the FA Cup. Even in Clarke's first season at West Ham saw a position of 9th achieved, which has only been matched, and not bettered, in the Hammers' last 12 seasons. He also took West Brom to their highest finishing position since 1981.

José Mourinho said of his time working with Clarke at Chelsea that "he was more than an assistant coach; he was in control of training, match preparation, so he had a very good experience as assistant manager."

Mourinho wouldn't allow any old Tom, Dick, and Harry to have such an influence on his teams. To put it simply: Reading's new manager is one of the most respected British coaches in the game.

He'll sort out the defence

As a man renowned for his ability as a defensive coach, Clarke will be shocked with the state of his new Reading team. Only Huddersfield have a worse goals against record in the Championship than the Royals.

If the Reading fans want hope, then it may come with a look back at Clarke's time at Liverpool. When he was appointed Dalglish’s deputy in January 2011, Liverpool had conceded 27 goals in 20 games.

In the remaining 18 fixtures while he was assistant manager and defensive coach, they conceded only 17. An obvious improvement in a short period of time. This continued into the following season where Liverpool conceded just 13 goals in their first 17 games.

During his time at Anfield, Clarke said, "your success is always based on how you defend. If you defend well as a team and don’t concede goals then you will always give yourself a chance to win the game. I know it sounds like an old cliché and it’s really simple but the basis of any good team is built on a strong defence."

I think it's safe to say we know which area of the Reading team he will be working on this week.

His links with Chelsea

The last time Reading had a manager with Chelsea connections, we managed to borrow Ryan Bertrand, one of the most talented left backs the club has ever had. By appointing a Chelsea legend in Clarke, there must be hope that we might be able to sign a few more prospects on loan again.

The standout player during Clarke's time at West Brom was Romelu Lukaku, on loan of course from Stamford Bridge. With Nicky Hammond hinting at a lack of funds available for the January transfer window, loan signings may offer Clarke his best chance at bringing in new players.

Mourinho has already loaned three players to another Championship manager, Aitor Karanka, who used to be his assistant. There would be very few complaints from Reading fans if he wished to do the same, if it means players as good as Bertrand don the hoops.

Reading born striker Dominic Solanke may start to see his name regularly appear in the tabloids linking him with a loan move to his home-town club.



He's never coached at Championship level

Clarke's whole coaching career has been in the Premier League. This, and the fact he's a British coach, means he will know all about the unpredictability of the Championship.

But watching it from afar is a lot different to actually coaching and managing a team at this level. How will Clarke adapt to having to deal with players with a lower ability than he's used to? It could be more of a culture shock than he's expecting.

The alarming dips in form at his last three clubs

If there is one consistency from Clarke's last three jobs, it is the worrying set of results that happened so soon after initially positive results. As mentioned, in his first season at Upton Park, West Ham finished 9th, with the brand of football being praised.

Gianfranco Zola, the manager, and Clarke, were rewarded for their good work with new contracts, with Clarke's new deal rumoured to make him the highest paid assistant manager in the Premier League. The second season though, was a near disaster, with West Ham only narrowly avoiding relegation. This led to the sacking of Zola and Clarke left soon after.

A similar dip happened when Clarke was at Liverpool. The Anfield team only conceded 30 goals in the first 35 Premier League games Clarke was at the club. In the next 17 games, Liverpool conceded 26 times during a bad run of form that saw the Reds only pick up 22 points from a possible 51. Again Clarke's manager, Kenny Dalglish, lost his job, and the Scot soon followed him out of the door.

By now you are more than likely to be aware of the bad run of form which cost Clarke his first managerial job at West Brom. Just seven wins in 34 games in 2013 saw the sometimes trigger happy Jeremy Peace sack Clarke. The 51 year old though has already said that he feels he was harshly sacked by Albion.

At the moment Reading fans won't be too concerned by these dips in form, and they will be long forgotten if he turns this season around. But any poor form after early good results may see these previous bad runs being mentioned again.

Has sacking Adkins and appointing Clarke pushed Reading over the FFP limit?

Earlier this month Nicky Hammond suggested that it was very tight whether the club would pass the Football League's Financial Fair Play test for this season. In regards to the January transfer window, the director of football said, "to go and spend significant money this coming January will potentially take us beyond where we need to be in terms of financial fair play and therefore in the future it may leave us open to a transfer embargo or a potential fine."

Sacking Nigel Adkins, Andy Crosby and Dean Wilkins, and then appointing Steve Clarke, and possibly Clarke's own staff, will not come cheap. In fact it's likely to be the significant money that Hammond warned about.

So where does this leave the club regarding FFP? Certainly Reading were going nowhere under Adkins, but the change in management may have come at expense of being able to make changes in playing personnel, and even the potential for a transfer embargo or a potential fine next season.