After the past couple of seasons hovering dangerously above the relegation zone, this has turned in to a campaign of stability. Despite our frustration with the style of play, we have got ourselves out of danger under Mark Bowen and now have a platform to kick on from. However, I have an opinion on what I would like to see happen in the summer which is (most probably) very unpopular.
When Mark Bowen first joined the club, it was obvious he was a good influence behind the scenes and, with a decent amount of experience in English football, albeit under Mark Hughes, I still feel he has an important role to play at the club.
This is where the unpopular opinion comes in. I would like to see Bowen moved back upstairs to the Director of Football position, where he can work with Nigel Howe on building a vision and identity at the club. I was very excited when he said that our academy graduates are the future of the club and he has real potential to get this football club back on track.
However, as manager, I cannot help but think he may have taken us as far as he can go. Whilst I do not expect us to be competing for promotion over the next couple of seasons, I can’t see us finishing in a position in line with our expectations with him at the helm in the next campaign.
People will make the case for him to have the summer window to be able to put his stamp on the squad – and I understand why people would think that. It would perhaps be unfair to not give him the chance to do this seeing as he has had to inherit Jose Gomes’ squad. For his first season as a manager, he has done an excellent job.
Another factor that could make this opinion even more unpopular is that the time between our last game of this season and the start of next season is likely to be much shorter, giving any new manager a shorter amount of time to assess the squad and make the changes he wants to make.
What I can see happening is Bowen suffering the same fate as Gomes and Paul Clement in terms of being sacked in the first half of the following season if he runs out of steam. For me, that would be gutting because I think he has a lot to offer behind the scenes, especially now we have got a decent spine.
Rafael has done brilliantly in goal, especially given the fact he had huge shoes to fill when Emi Martinez returned to Arsenal. He is likely to start again next season, along with Andy Yiadom who is arguably one of the best full backs in the division. Tom McIntyre is also in contention for a start after proving his worth and Michael Morrison has been a very astute signing, not forgetting Omar Richards could also kick on and become the first-choice left back.
One player that I am desperate to see stay next season is Andy Rinomhota and he will be key for us, especially in helping a new potential midfield partner settle in next season. Pele is unlikely to return and there are rumours John Swift may leave in the next few months. Ovie Ejaria is also likely to join, Michael Olise has shown promise and Yakou Meite continues to be a valuable first team player.
Lucas Joao may also establish himself as a starter for next season after fitting in to Bowen’s system completely. Perhaps I need to have more faith in Bowen’s managerial ability. We need a manager who not only makes signings to fit his system – but can also improve the existing players he already has.
What Marcelo Bielsa has done at Leeds United is a prime example of a man who can get the very best out of what he has. Can Bowen do the same? Perhaps so. Either way, a manager with vast experience in the English leagues is just what we need and maybe our current manager fits that bill.
We also need a Director of Football to give us a direction and provide some stability even when managers come and go. Now that Bowen has had the chance to work with these players, he has everything he needs to be an excellent asset to our club.
Arguably, a DoF is becoming just as important as a manager at professional football clubs with higher manager turnover over the past few years. I think most of us agree Bowen should be in a prominent position at the club – but we may have a differing opinion on which role it is.
Regardless of what happens, the next transfer window will be an important time for the club. In fact, it is so important that I’m getting a little nervous about it. As a fan, I will be scrutinising every signing we make and some of the business we did last summer - with the likes of Michael Morrison and Ovie Ejaria - gives me hope that we can trust Nigel Howe and Bowen to do a good job.
Our transfer policy cannot be dictated by Kia Joorabchian’s contact book however – and I cannot help but feel we need to keep him at arm’s length if we are to be successful in the next few months. He has probably played a big part bringing in some good signings but I still have reservations over him.
Our main priority will be to reduce our wage bill and it is much needed. There is no doubt that doing this will make the club more sustainable and, from there, we can continue to repair the awful damage that Ron Gourlay did to the football club. The owners need to take responsibility as well for allowing this to happen – but they have good intentions and I believe they want the best for this club. Mr Dai’s decision-making needs to be on point this summer.
I also must thank Bowen for providing a bit of stability after Gomes’ departure. He took a lot of flack after his appointment and understandably so – but considering this is his first season as manager – fair play to him. He has proved everyone wrong and I hope he does again next season because this could be another Yann Kermorgant moment for me!
His lack of experience managerially still worries me and that is perhaps the main reason why I would like to see him move upstairs. However, I wish him the very best of luck and we can only hope he can take this side places.
His record since taking over has been better than we would have ever expected and he does perhaps deserve the chance to make an impact in the next window. I’m not so sure this will be the best option for the club in the long-term but we can only keep our fingers crossed. Our defence has certainly improved and away from home, the club is a force to be reckoned with.
Despite this, we really need to improve our attack and home form. Goals win games and we need to ensure we look a big threat going forward. If we can fix this, who knows where it could take us?
However, Mark Bowen will not be able to turn the club around on his own and certainly isn’t the biggest problem right now. We need to have the right people calling the shots in the next window behind the scenes and Sam Baldock’s interview on BBC Berks is a worry.
We can only hope any bad eggs are driven out the club because this is the most important transfer window for ages. It’s vital. The right decisions need to be taken and we can only keep our fingers crossed!