So the inevitable has arrived and just two weeks after his dramatic flirtation with Fulham, Steve Clarke has become the third Reading manager in as many years to be 'relieved of his duties'. In his brief tenure with the club, Clarke did manage to produce some truly memorable performances from his team. However, with the lowest win percentage of a Royals boss since a certain Brendan Rodgers was in the dugout, Reading fans were also made to endure some outings under his stewardship that we have tried hard to make ourselves forget.
3 of Clarke's best...
Arsenal 2-1 Reading (18th April 2015)
Undoubtedly what most fans will always associate with the Steve Clarke era is our history-making run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup. When Clarke led out his team onto the hallowed Wembley turf, he became the first Royals boss to reach the last four of the world's oldest cup competition since 1927. Between Reading and a place in the final stood Arsenal, a team against whom Reading have had little to no joy in recent years. Still vivid were the memories of the Royals blowing a 4-0 lead in a 2012 League Cup tie that they went on to lose to the Gunners 7-5, which served as a stark reminder of the gulf in class between the two sides. Yet on that April afternoon, roared on by one of the most passionate and fervent Royals' crowds in recent memory, Reading produced one of their gutsiest performances under Clarke. Despite going behind to an Alexis Sanchez effort, the Royals fought back thanks to Gareth McCleary's second-half strike. It was only of course a freak error that allowed Sanchez to pounce again and cruelly dump us out of the competition. This cruelness was doubly painful as the Royals had more than matched their Premier League counterparts on the day, defying all expectations and pre-match talk of a walkover to almost force the Cup holders into a penalty shoot-out. Even with this defeat, the pride felt by many of the fans outweighed any sense of sadness, as Reading had done themselves justice on the biggest stage in English football.
Reading 5-1 Ipswich (11th September 2015)
After all the excitement of Transfer Deadline Day, the hope and expectations for a new look Reading side ahead of their game against Ipswich Town were as high as they had been since their relegation from the Premier League. In no ways were these expectations not met, as the Royals' swept aside the Tractor Boys with a display of clinical precision in front of goal. A hat-trick from new arrival Orlando Sá, as well as stunning efforts from Nick Blackman and Oliver Norwood saw the Royals deliver a masterclass in attacking flair, reminiscent of the glory days of 05-06.
Burnley 1-2 Reading (26th September 2015)
Going to one of the toughest away grounds in the Championship is never an easy task. So to come away with all three points after a consummate tactical performance was one of Steve Clarke's finest hours as Reading boss. After a scorching start thanks to goals from Nick Blackman and loanee Lucas Piazon, the Royals found themselves 2-0 up within the opening nine minutes. From here, Clarke successfully executed a nuanced away performance, as despite the Clarets pulling a goal back on 67 minutes, the Royals were able to return to Berkshire with all three points, as they rose to third in the Championship table.
AND...3 of his worst...
Huddersfield 3-0 Reading (24th February 2015)
After having dispatched of a tricky Derby County side in the FA Cup in the previous week, this whimper of a performance was a real crash down to earth for a Royals side still struggling for form in the league. In a game where Reading struggled to provide any real attacking threat, the Terriers made easy pickings of a lacklustre Royals defence on a day to forget in Yorkshire. "Disappointing" was how Steve Clarke described it at the time. However, there were worse results to come for the now former Royals boss...
Fulham 4-2 Reading (24th October 2015)
After an electrifying start to the season, the Royals arrived at Craven Cottage unbeaten in five and having lost only once in their last eight Championship games. Thanks to goals from Lucas Piazon and Orlando Sá, the Royals looked, at 2-0, to be cruising to a impressive victory. However, all this hard work was undone within the space of a frantic six minutes, as goals from McCormack, Dembele and Kacaniklic saw the Lilywhites race into a 3-2 lead. Shellshocked, the Royals were unable to react to a rejuvenated Fulham attack, who went on to increase their lead as Dembele doubled his tally for the day on 74 minutes. This game not only started a run of form that saw the Royals notch up only one win in their following six games, but may also have contributed to Clarke's aforementioned courting of the West London outfit.
Reading 0-1 QPR (3rd December 2015)
And the straw that broke the camel's back. After 'Fulham-gate', Steve Clarke knew that he had not only alienated a large section of the Reading fans, but that he was also in dire need of some impressive results in order to win back the support of said fan-base. However, what he got was an utterly insipid performance, which allowed a below-par QPR to leave the Madejski Stadium with all three points without ever really being challenged. A toothless showing seemed to reflect the attitude of a side who may have thought that their manager's heart was no longer Berkshire-based. As soon as Nedem Onohua found the back of the net with his 90th-minute header, the writing was on the wall for the under-fire Clarke, as the Royals now begin their search for their fourth manager in just three years.
Do you agree with these choices? Or are there some performances that we've left out that you are think are worth mentioning? Let us know in the comments below!