After the commotion of the recent managerial change at Reading, which saw Jose Gomes replaced by Mark Bowen, it’s worth remembering the one thing that’s yet to be resolved: who’ll take over from Bowen. The Welshman had been in his position as sporting director for a matter of months, having taken the post in August, but that role is yet to be filled.
When he was asked about this topic shortly after being unveiled as the club’s new first-team manager, Bowen didn’t seem to know anything about who would be stepping into his shoes behind the scenes.
“It’s not my decision. Loads of clubs are now looking at the position and having served that role over the last few months I think it’s something most clubs would benefit from, if not all. It’s important to have someone with a football background to see how things are done.”
Bowen is right to say that “most... if not all” clubs would benefit from having someone coordinating the club’s operations behind the scenes. Whether they have the title ‘sporting director’, ‘technical director’, ‘director of football’ or anything else doesn’t really matter - although the different wording probably reflects slightly differing areas of expertise and responsibility.
Reading are no exception. It’s no coincidence that our most successful period when we not only had an established director of football - Nicky Hammond - but he was also given the required time and trust to help mould and guide the club over the years.
His successors haven’t been so lucky. Brian Tevreden ultimately replaced Hammond but only got one full summer window before the appointment of Ron Gourlay - the two reportedly had a poor working relationship - while Gianluca Nani didn’t get any transfer window before leaving shortly after Nigel Howe’s return. Bowen himself has said he worked on signings over the summer, but his role was only made official in late August.
Finding a replacement for Bowen obviously shouldn’t be rushed, but an appointment must come sooner rather than later. Reading are now only two months out from the opening of the January transfer window, which could end up being key in how successful this season ends up being. Having an extra pair of hands to work on transfers is a sensible choice.
But it’s the long term that’s really important. As has been the case for years now, Reading need a long-term strategy, and making sure it’s imposed by the end of the season will allow us to really make some progress in 2020/21.
As things stand, that summer is set up to be one ripe for change at the Madejski Stadium. Bowen’s contract expires then, meaning we may well be on the lookout for a new as first-team manager, as do the contracts of various high earners: Garath McCleary, Chris Gunter, Tyler Blackett, Charlie Adam, Jordan Obita, Adrian Popa, Danny Loader and Vito Mannone among them. That’s not to mention loan deals running out, such as those of Matt Miazga, Joao Virginia and Lucas Boye.
All in all, there could well be plenty of leeway (both in freed-up funds and squad places) at the end of the season for Reading to remould how they operate. Although the last few years have taught me to not to be so optimistic, it’s still an opportunity that Reading really can’t afford to pass up.
Preparations for that should already be being made now. The earlier a new director of football/technical director/sporting director is appointed, the more time they have to get to grips with the workings of the club and the more time can be spent on getting ready for the summer.
Who exactly they should be isn’t something I can answer. What their remit is, how much experience they have, and what ideas they bring to the table are all considerations that need to be properly thought through by the club according to what long-term vision they have.
Enacting that long-term vision - assuming there is one - will be vital for Reading's future.