Veljko Paunovic has made an almost-perfect start to life in the Royal County, but it’s not quite enough to give him the highest rating we’ve had in our series of manager approval polls. Pauno took an average score of 4.51/5, which is just shy of the absolute zenith: Jaap Stam’s 4.59 in the summer of 2017.
Back then, the Dutchman had just finished the best season in Reading’s post-Premier League years, defying the odds to get the Royals to the play-off final. His impressive score reflected not just his own personal popularity, but also the culmination of an impressive first full year in the hot seat.
After that though, everything went south for Stam. His rating collapsed along with Reading’s fortunes in the 2017/18 campaign, meaning he registered the lowest-ever average when he was sacked the following Spring.
Successor Paul Clement didn’t manage much of an improvement, although Jose Gomes very much did. Reading’s survival from relegation in the 2018/19 season meant the approval rating climbed back over 4/5 for the first time since Stam’s departure. As you can see in the chart below, the average bounced between 3/5 and 4/5 somewhat, although Mark Bowen was at the bottom of that range when he was relieved of his role in the dugout.
Pauno will likely need to emulate Stam’s sustained success from the 2016/17 season if he’s to beat the 4.59 score.
So far so good though; he’s barely put a foot wrong, winning all of his Championship games so far and quickly earning the fans’ respect. The nature of those victories have been impressive; Reading’s team spirit and organisation has been clear to see, while there have also been eye-catching individual displays, particularly from Lucas Joao.
There are now two linked questions: how long can Reading’s form last, and how will the team evolve? Over to you, Pauno.