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Steve Clarke Approval Rating - April 2015

Are you happy with the job Steve Clarke is doing as Reading manager? Vote now.

Justin Setterfield/Getty Images


Steve Clarke has done something that the previous twenty-three (permanent) managers couldn't achieve - reaching the Semi-Finals of the FA Cup. In recent seasons Reading have had good pedigree in the competition, getting to the Quarter Finals twice in successive seasons under Brian McDermott before faltering against Aston Villa and Manchester City.

Quite a different proposition this year though, as instead of facing a giant, it was giant-killing Bradford City between us and Wembley. Clarke's men battled to a 0-0 draw on a dreadful pitch at Valley Parade before showing their class back at the Madejski Stadium to seal a place in the semis.

Royals fans won't be expecting much from the game in April facing the current holders and this year's favourites Arsenal, but it promises to be a memorable day - the first such day in 88 years.

The results in the League don't smile too kindly upon Clarke this month, but one of those (Watford away) featured a reserve/under-21 lineup, whilst Charlton were one of the form teams in the division, claiming their sixth win in eight against the Royals. But the 2-1 victory against Brighton was solid and showed the Royals could, on their day, put in a good performance.

Clarke also deserves some praise for the upturn in form of Jamie Mackie. The on-loan winger is now a prolific on-loan striker, firing home four goals in five games in March - every single one of them was sublime and he's running away with our March Player Of The Month vote. Another player to show his class in March was Nathaniel Chalobah, who looks every bit a Premier League footballer in the making. It'll be a miracle if he's back next year, but even Mackie will be a challenge if he keeps his form up until the end of the season.

It's probably worth mentioning Clarke's Chelsea link here as a tentative positive. Nathaniel Chalobah came from West London on loan, and yesterday we borrowed Nathan Ake for a month. Whilst I wouldn't like to see us turn into a feeder club or a developmental area for Chelsea youngsters, a couple of loan moves here and there to bolster the squad can be helpful over the course of the season. It would seem that Clarke and Jose Mourinho still have that link - if we can prove ourselves a good spot for his young talent to mature, it could be fruitful without going against the ethos (and indeed the club academy) of Reading.


Pretty much every Reading supporter knew that if we lost against Bradford, the season would be over. That says a lot for how disappointing the League campaign has been, certainly in comparison to the last 15 or so years where there has almost always been something at stake in the last few weeks of the season.

If you're being extra negative (hey, some Royals fans are pessimistic by nature) then you could say we're in a relegation scrap - 19th place, 9 points ahead of top-of-the-drop-zone Wigan Athletic, with 8 games to go. And with difficult home ties against Bournemouth and Brentford upcoming, as well as a last-day trip to Pride Park the iPro Stadium to face Derby County (wouldn't that be an irony), everyone in Berkshire wants it to be "mathematically sure" before we can breathe easy.

It is a concern, however, that the form in the FA Cup and the League can vary so wildly. Granted, there's an obvious difference between facing a League One side for a potential trip to Wembley, London, and heading to Charlton, London or Watford, London for a League encounter. But the results in the League haven't picked up consistently, as you don't quite know which Reading side will turn up.

Clarke worked wonders in fixing the leaky defence when he first came in, but the Royals have now conceded 15 goals in their last six League matches (including that makeshift side at Watford), and haven't kept a clean sheet since that trip to Ipswich in the middle of February. Reading have conceded 25 goals in 17 League matches under Clarke, or 1.47 per game - Nigel Adkins' side was going at a 1.71 per game rate, for comparison.

The negatives of the aforementioned Ake deal are yet to see light as we're in the middle of the international break, but you would imagine that Jake Cooper, Zat Knight, Stephen Kelly, Danny Guthrie, Hope Akpan, Jem Karacan, Aaron Kuhl and even Danny Williams might wonder where their futures lie. A fair few of those players are out of contract this summer - perhaps this is an early message that Clarke is doing things his way.


Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Reading

Bradford City 0-0 Reading (FA Cup Quarter Final)

Reading 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion

Watford 4-1 Reading

Reading 3-0 Bradford City (FA Cup Quarter Final Replay)

Charlton Athletic 3-2 Reading

(League: W1 D1 L2 F6 A9)

So after just over three months, how do you feel about Clarke's reign so far? Vote out of 5 below (5 is highest, 1 is lowest) and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.