Things have not been good at Reading for a while now. In the last four Championship seasons we have finished in the bottom seven three times, and last season survived on the last day. As for this year, if Reading fail to win three out of their four remaining games of 2018, they will have failed to win ten league games in a calendar year for the first time since entering the Football League in 1920. A damning indictment into how woeful proceedings really have been recently at the Mad Stad.
Taking this stat into consideration, perhaps it is no surprise that Paul Clement will now be circling the films he wants to watch this Christmas from the TV listings section of the newspaper, whereas Nigel Howe and co will be having a very busy festive season deciding who takes the hot seat at the Madejski.
With the famous Christmas period fast approaching the English Football League, there’s no doubt that the Reading hierarchy will be frantically mulling over who they should appoint as the successor to Clement - judging by our home defeat to Sheffield United you would think they would like their man of choice in sooner rather than later. However, that should take nothing away from Scott Marshall who is doing brilliantly with the U23’s.
For me, I think it is essential that the next Royals manager is someone cut from the same cloth as predecessors who have been in charge of Reading during some of our best spells in our club’s 147-year history. Notably Steve Coppell and Brian McDermott spring to mind when thinking of managers that moulded a style of play that brought great success to our club, that style of play has become typified by the phrase “The Reading Way”.
What embodies this identity is a philosophy based on attacking football at a high tempo using the flanks and getting balls into the box, serving to put the defence’s back four under as much pressure as possible. “The Reading Way” puts large emphasis on the team working hard as a collective, defending and attacking in numbers, and giving youth a chance.
Up until recently with the emergence of Andy Rinomhota and Danny Loader, this kind of identity that Reading fans grew to love had diminished over the past few years - it comes as no surprise that our league form has dropped as a consequence of this. Instead of buying into an ethos that has worked so well for us in the past, large sums of money have been pumped in on players based on individual qualities rather than buying a specific player to match a developing identity. Our record transfer signing Sone Aluko depicts the short-sighted transfer policy I am alluding to, and I think if one player was to face the brunt of criticism the most it would be Aluko, as he never really seems to understand what he is meant to be doing on the football pitch.
It is for this very reason as to why I was worried when I heard Luis Castro was favourite for the job , and that we were set to give him up to £100 million over the course of two summers. It’s also a continuous worry of mine when I keep hearing Steve Bruce is still in contention to become our manager. Have we not learnt anything from last season and this present campaign? It is a lazy fallacy to suggest that throwing money into a football club solves anything, when in fact it could prove costly in more ways than one - I think I speak on behalf of all Reading fans when I say I don’t want to hear the dreaded word “administration” any time soon.
In an ideal word, Slavisa Jokanovic is appointed our new manager and all our worries are solved, however this seems to be extremely unlikely. I feel this time around it’s time to go back to basics - our new manager should be someone familiar with the division and someone who will implement “The Reading Way” that we so desperately crave. I think for this reason all avenues point towards Reading legend Phil Parkinson to be the man to revitalise the club and to get us falling back in love with our Reading again.
One thing is for certain, whoever the next manager may be, they have one heck of a job on their hands.