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Steve Clarke vs Nigel Adkins: Who Did The Better Job?

Olly looks at the time Steve Clarke spent at Reading FC and compares it with his predecessor Nigel Adkins.

Ben Hoskins/Getty Images & Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Ben Hoskins/Getty Images & Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Steve Clarke's time at Reading FC that lasted just under a year can be looked back on with perhaps frustration more than anything. His spell in charge was filled with highs and lows, and the reign of his predecessor Nigel Adkins could be described in a very similar way. But how do the two bosses compare in what they achieved whilst at the Madjeski Stadium?


The easiest thing to do is to look straight away at the win percentages of both managers. Adkins was in charge for 80 games between March 2013 and December 2014, winning 29 matches, drawing 20 and losing 31 - giving him a win percentage of 36.25%. That means that he does beat Clarke, but only very just. The Scot managed Reading for 53 games, winning 19, drawing 14 and losing 20, meaning his win percentage is 35.85%. So in that sense, Adkins comes out on top, whilst you can't forget that eight of his matches were in the Premier League.

In the league, the longest that Reading went unbeaten under Nigel Adkins was six games at the start of the 2013-14 season, whilst Clarke has had two spells of five games without a defeat - both came earlier this season with the defeat against Derby County separating them.  On the other side of the virtual coin, Reading went six games without a win under Adkins, but Clarke oversaw nine winless games on the bounce at the end of last season.

In terms of league positioning, Adkins of course oversaw relegation from the top flight, but Reading were seven points from safety when he was appointed, and the general consensus was that he should prepare the team to come straight back up from the Championship the following the season. Despite being in and around the play-offs for the majority of the 2013-14 season, the Royals missed out on the final day (cue embarrassing pitch invasion) and finished seventh. When he was sacked last December, Reading sat in 16th in the table.

In came Steve Clarke, who despite early signs of promise, couldn't do much better and even ended up making relegation a small possibility. Safety in the end though was never in doubt due to the poor quality of the relegated trio of Blackpool, Wigan and Millwall, with Reading finishing last season in 19th. Once again, it's all pointing towards an Adkins landslide in this battle of the bosses.

But now we come to the cup, which is arguably Steve Clarke's defining achievement as Reading boss. Whereas Adkins managed two wins out of a combined five League Cup and FA Cup matches including a dismal 6-0 defeat to Peterborough, Clarke won six out of a combined nine. This included the magnificent FA Cup run of last season as he became only the second manager in the club's history to lead Reading to the semi-finals of the competition, and had luck gone our way, a place in the final might have been assured. It will live long in the memory of Royals fans and for that, Clarke must receive huge praise.


Across three transfer windows, Nigel Adkins brought in seven players on a permanent basis. Only three of those players remain at the club, whilst we also have the Scouser to thank for the arrival of Royston Drenthe along with his high wages and negative attitude. Saying that, those three aforementioned players - Danny Williams, Oliver Norwood and Anton Ferdinand - have all become key assests to the side. Furthermore, Adkins' loan signings of Jamie Mackie and Glenn Murray made a positive impact. With not a huge amount of money to spend, overall Adkins did a fairly good job. That's five out of ten signings I'm counting as successes - Williams, Norwood, Ferdinand, Mackie and Murray.

Steve Clarke had less time to bring in players (two transfer windows), but did indeed sign more, probably to do with the fact that he had more money available due to the Thai consortium takeover. He brought in nine permanent players, but only two - Paul McShane and Orlando Sa - have more than 10 league appearances. Yakubu, Jure Travner and Zat Knight can be classed as failures, and Paolo Hurtado may well be heading in the same direction. As for loan signings, last season Nathaniel Chalobah and Nathan Ake impressed greatly, but Kwesi Appiah not so much. This term, the only loanee who is earning consistent praise is Andrew Taylor. Many are questioning why Alex Fernandez, Lucas Piazon and Ola John are even at the club, whilst Michael Hector and Matej Vydra haven't been good enough considering the hype surrounding them. In total, I'm classing only six out of his nineteen signings as successes - Chalobah, Ake, Sa, McShane, Quinn and Taylor.

Fan Support

As aforementioned, nobody was expecting Nigel Adkins to keep Reading up when he arrived despite the faint glimmer of hope we all had in our hearts! Throughout the 2013-14 season it was all relatively positive, especially when the man himself was exclaiming enthusiastic remarks to the media each week. Saying that, to end the campaign by missing out on the play-offs left fans feeling a little down. It was a trend that carried on through the start of the 2014-15 campaign, with things beginning to turn sour as form took a severe dip. The #AdkinsOut bandwagon began to gain speed at the start of November, and the 6-1 defeat at Birmingham was the final nail in the coffin. All in all, most fans were glad to see the back of Adkins, feeling his tenure had ran it's cause.

Until recently, the majority of the Madjeski Stadium were in full support of Steve Clarke. Fans were willing to forgive the poor form in the league because of the cup run, whilst at the start of this campaign, bets were being placed on Reading to win the league. Clarke was being compared to Sir Steve Coppell, whilst Tilehurst End readers gave him a 4.23 out of 5 in our approval rating poll in September. Impressive signings, beating promotion chasing teams, Clarke could no wrong in the eyes of many - oh wait, he could. By speaking to Fulham about the vacant managerial position, he lost the support and trust of fans, whilst performances on the pitch suffered perhaps as a result. Like Adkins, Clarke has left the Madjeski Stadium with few good luck cards.

Concluding Thoughts

It's actually quite hard to compare the two as the situation at the club was different for both managers, especially off the field. But if anything, this difference works in the favour of Nigel Adkins. With money tight, FFP looming and uncertainty in the boardroom, he could have easily have walked away from Reading in the summer of 2014. But he made the most of what he had before and after, whilst injuries also affected him more than they did Clarke. Of course, the cup run last season was incredible and I'm taking nothing away from Clarke for that, but in the league his record was dire. The aim for both managers was promotion, and although neither achieved it, Adkins came closer. But then again, he had more of an opportunity to do so. He left the chance for Clarke to do so last season almost impossible, whilst it's also easy to forget that Reading are, as I write, just one point off the play-offs. Who knows what could have happened if the board had given him more time?

But my personal opinion is that Clarke had more money to spend, more backing from the owners and a better team on the pitch. Yet his win percentage is worse than Adkins' when on paper it should be a lot better. It might be because emotions are still high following his sacking, but Clarke needed to do a lot better than he did. Neither manager will go down in Reading FC folklore, but Adkins might be remembered more fondly than Clarke.

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