Mark Bowen has quit Reading Football Club, completely. Having been replaced as first-team manager on Saturday morning by Veljko Paunovic, he had reportedly been considering an offer to return to his previous position of technical director. However, the club has this evening confirmed that he’s turned that down.
It brings to an end a week or so of turmoil that’s been farcical from the club’s point of view and deeply disrespectful from Bowen’s. Dai Yongge abruptly started to restructure Reading’s behind-the-scenes operations last Monday, starting by replacing Nigel Howe as CEO with Dayong Pang. That kicked off a few days’ speculation around Bowen’s future.
As those rumours went on, with talk of Reading’s new boss initially being Aleksandar Stanojevic, then Paunovic, Bowen’s position was left unclear. There was little clarity in the build-up to Friday’s friendly with Spurs over who would be in Reading’s dugout, before a last-minute announcement that Reading’s squad would head to Portugal for a training camp - widely known to be so that the players could meet the new boss, but not confirmed by the club.
Even when Paunovic’s arrival was ratified by Reading, there was no mention of Bowen. It’s perfectly understandable that the situation with Bowen’s future at the club wasn’t decided that point, but to completely erase him as if he’d never been at Reading in the first place wasn’t at all fair.
Today’s statement about Bowen was similarly disrespectful. One short line to confirm the Welshman’s departure, a sentence of explanation, another sentence about Bowen’s time as manager, and two sentences from Dai Yongge. The comment that he “stepped away from his position” doesn’t look good at all considering we all know the owners were the ones who wanted to move him out of that position.
Bowen deserved better than the treatment he’s got. I had my own frustrations and doubts about the back half of last season, as did other fans, and he hadn’t been at the club all that long, but he still should have been given more respect by Reading. Bowen shouldn’t have been pushed out in the first place, shouldn’t have had his job given to someone else before his own future was ratified, and the overall communication should have been more open and clear.
It’s not just a case of ethics though, of just being nice to a former employee. The sorry tale that’s unfolded over the last week - which was completely unnecessary of course - has hugely derailed the club’s pre-season planning and cohesion going into an important campaign. Penny for the thoughts of Reading’s players, who may well not have much more clarity than us.
And these events have of course also disillusioned the fans too. Seeing your club go through self-inflicted turmoil a matter of days before the start of the season is deeply troubling, and hardly makes you optimistic for the future.