Jose Gomes has given a particularly blunt description of the state Reading Football Club were in before he joined. Gomes was talking to Portuguese outlet Record in a wide-ranging interview published over three parts this week, and had already suggested in the first section that the Royals’ self-imposed transfer embargo would be over on Monday (June 10).
In a subsequent part, the focus turned to Gomes’ time in Berkshire so far. Much of what he had to say wasn’t anything more than he’s discussed in previous interviews with English and Portuguese media - for one thing, he loves talking about how intense the match schedule was when he joined at Christmas.
However, in this Record interview, he was notably more blunt in his take on what Reading FC was like in December 2018, going so far as to use the word “chaos” in relation to a range of issues that had built up at the club. When asked how difficult his job was when he arrived at the Madejski Stadium, Gomes said:
“It was really an extraordinary challenge, as there were several difficulties to overcome, starting with what we found on arrival. There were almost 40 players on a squad with a very heavy environment, as it is normal that not everyone gets along well with each other.
“Then the local press itself was, as they say, with the sharp knife and stripping everything that involved the club, the decisions, the structure, the players; in short, it was what is called chaos.”
‘Very heavy environment’ is what our Google translation came up with. It’s not the best turn of phrase, but judging by the final section of that sentence it’s fair to say Gomes means there was a bad atmosphere at Hogwood.
I don’t think that next paragraph is simply a critique of what was being published in the media at the time. It’s hardly ‘chaotic’ just for the press to be critical of how the club is being run - Gomes clearly agrees with what was being said about Reading back then.
That he talks about the running of the club, rather than the management of the team, is interesting too. Gomes doesn’t have to name any names, but the blame is very much being laid at Ron Gourlay’s door rather than that of Paul Clement.
He went on in that interview to explain the decision to exclude several members of the squad from the first team and force them to train with the under-23s. That was Vito Mannone, Marc McNulty, Dave Edwards and David Meyler, all of whom left the club either permanently or on loan over the next two months. Judging by Gomes’ comments, it’s a choice that was made quickly.
“After four training sessions, they were soon dismissed for training with the under-23s, because there is no player who can feel minimally important to the team if they go three months without even being played.
“This is the worst thing you can do to a group and Reading was like this. A player who does not feel part of the solution demobilises energy and, even if it is not his intention, will infect the next colleague... This has a snowball effect and our first goal, rather than looking to win games, was to stabilise the group.”
Gomes has spoken about this topic before, but not this bluntly and honestly, and on the whole he clearly sees this decision as a key moment in Reading’s survival bid - so much so that it was even more important than winning games.
That being said, he still seems sympathetic to the players themselves. He doesn’t criticise the small contingent that was shunted off to the under-23s even for something like not training hard enough, instead noting how they’d come off badly from the sheer size of the playing squad.
He went on to say in the interview that things only really started to get better for Reading when the January transfer window closed - at which point more than a dozen players had left either on loan or permanently. It’s a process we’re set to see repeated over the course of the summer.
NB: These quotes were translated from Portuguese using Google Translate, and then minorly tweaked for wording. For example, “three months without even being played” was originally “three months without being summoned”. You can find the full original piece from Record right here.