Reading have today confirmed the appointment of Mark Bowen as Technical Consultant until the end of the season. It’s a move that has come out of the blue (“It’s very random” was the reaction of TTE editor Simeon Pickup), so here’s what we know about Bowen.
Who is he?
Bowen had an 18 year long playing career as a left-back in the 1980s and 1990s predominantly at Norwich City - he was voted in the club’s all-time XI in 2002. He also had spells at Tottenham (where he won the UEFA Cup), West Ham, Japanese side Shimizu S-Pulse, Charlton and Wigan before ending his career with one appearance for Reading under Alan Pardew. He was also capped 41 times for Wales.
Upon retirement in 1999, Bowen became assistant manager to international teammate Mark Hughes who had just been appointed Wales boss. He would go on to work alongside Hughes, as well as another former Welsh international Eddie Niedzwiecki, at Blackburn, Manchester City, Fulham, QPR, Stoke and most recently Southampton. Last October, before Hughes was sacked by the Saints, The Guardian profiled all the assistant managers in the Premier League, describing Bowen as “central to one of the tightest coaching units in the business” and writing:
“He is prominent in every training session – he will run through the set pieces on the days before matches – and he has a vital off-field role in terms of the organisation of meetings and travel.”
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Daily Mail in 2015, Bowen discussed how he worked as an assistant manager under Hughes:
“We [Eddie Niedzwiecki and I] may have a chat with a player and then say to the gaffer, ‘maybe pull him in for a chat’.
“The players know every day what we are doing before we get on the grass. It’s all written down in the dressing room. What we are doing and why.
“When I was playing you would be warming up and wouldn’t know what we were doing. I didn’t like that.
“Some managers will just throw in a five-a-side game one day. We don’t. We have learned the best players don’t want to waste a day’s training.”
Away from working with Hughes, Bowen has also previously been assistant to Steve Bruce at Crystal Palace and Birmingham City. The 55-year-old has never been a first team manager, but has previously been linked with taking over at West Brom, Norwich and Swansea respectively. In January 2018, he was interviewed by the Welsh FA for the vacant managerial position, eventually losing out to Ryan Giggs.
Why have Reading brought him in?
Put simply, more hands on deck. We’re now into the home straight as Reading fight to avoid the drop to League One, with eight very tough games remaining in the Championship - including six in the space of 21 days in April. It means that any help the Royals can get will be hugely beneficial, and Bowen arrives with a strong CV and a lot of experience. He’s dealt with relegation battles in previous jobs too.
The role title ‘Technical Consultant’ might sound pretty fancy, but Bowen will essentially just add to the coaching set-up as per the official club website:
“Bowen’s focus will be to help manager José Gomes and his coaching staff in their tactical preparation for the end of season run-in through the analysis and assessment of our opposition.”
That’s not to say Reading don’t have people in place doing this sort of thing already, João Penedo for one joined as an analyst and assistant coach following Gomes’ appointment in December. There are likely to be others too, but you can understand Reading making it public knowledge when a figure with Bowen’s calibre arrives at the club.
The fact that he only has a contract until the end of the season emphasises that he is seen as having great importance as the club battles relegation. Let’s just hope he’s a little more content with a short-term deal in Berkshire than he was in 1999, as according to Teamtalk two decades ago:
“He arrived at the Madejski Stadium at the beginning of the week, initially on a non-contract basis to see how things went. But Bowen was a little unhappy with those terms because he wanted to negotiate something with a bit more security like an extended loan deal.”
On the plus side, this time around he’s not working with Alan Pardew.