Just a matter of days before the start of the 2020/21 season, Reading have shaken things up by replacing Mark Bowen as manager with 43 year-old Serbian Veljko Paunović.
Bowen is reported to be returning to the Director of Football role that he held last year, although that’s not been officially confirmed. There was no mention of Bowen in the announcement of Paunović’s arrival. Owner Dai Yongge said:
“With vast experience of top flight football as both a player and a coach across Europe and in the United States, and with proven pedigree of successfully working with young up-and-coming footballers on both the domestic and international scene, I am confident Veljko can help take this club forward.
“This has been a process and this appointment has been made only after long, careful consideration. After meeting with him, we found Veljko to be an exceptional candidate who impressed us immediately. I am sure he is the right man for Reading Football Club. I’m delighted he has agreed to sign as our new manager.”
This follows Monday’s switch in Chief Executive as Nigel Howe was replaced by Dayong Pang. Bowen had been busy preparing his squad for the new campaign and was in the dugout for the 2-1 friendly victory over Gillingham on Saturday. Rumours of his departure accelerated during the week, and there was talk that Aleksandar Stanojević would be his replacement. However, it emerged a few days ago that it would in fact be Paunovic.
Bowen took charge of 40 games since his appointment last October, winning 14, drawing 12 and losing 14. He is the third Reading manager in a row to last less than a year in the job following Paul Clement and Jose Gomes.
Yet his record is significantly better than that pair, as he guided the squad to 14th place in the Championship last season - our highest finish in three years and a good achievement considering we were 22nd in the table when he took over from Gomes. Reading’s post-lockdown form (W2 D2 L5) was a little worrying, but with injuries to key players and motivation understandably low as the season petered out, it was generally recognised that Bowen would be given the summer to make the squad his own and have a crack at 2020/21.
Of course his original managerial contract only lasted until this summer anyway, but four wins in a row over the Christmas period earned him a new deal until 2021, making the decision to now replace him even more confusing.
The man coming in, Veljko Paunovic, was most recently in charge of MLS side Chicago Fire, and left that position last November after four years Stateside. The Serb previously earned acclaim for winning the under-20 World Cup with his country.
During his playing career, Paunovic appeared for the likes of Atletico Madrid, Hannover 96 and Partizan, before ending his career with the Philadelphia Union. He retired in 2011.
Stay tuned to The Tilehurst End over the coming days as we’ll aim to provide plenty of opinion and analysis on what this all means for Reading and how the future looks under the new manager.