The Royals’ journey in the FA Cup is over for another year after a 1-0 defeat against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road. The youngsters were given their chance in the first team and, in the whole squad, there were 13 graduates from the academy. Unfortunately, a good goal from George Moncur sent the Royals out, seeing Town through to the fourth round - the second time that Luton have knocked us out of a cup competition this season.
Paunovic on the performance
“The young players who played today put in an amazing performance, showed an amazing spirit, and in this test they showed they are on the same page as the rest of the group.
“I’m also frustrated, because we played very good football and we deserved to score a goal. A goal which would have helped build the confidence in the young group we had - so I am a bit disappointed on that front. We saw that we have very good potential in our academy, our young players who are coming into this group.
“Even though we didn’t have a lot of the players who normally play, you still saw our identity and our culture. And I am very happy about that. And if we have to lose, it’s better we lose it this way.
“Seeing the young players so disappointed after the game in the changing room - giving so much and not getting a result. It was even a little bit painful for me. But that disappointment also tells you that they are winners, not complacent when they lose. That is a good quality to have.”
“When your opportunity comes as a player, that is how you claim your next opportunity. We gave them an opportunity today and they played very well, so now we know we have players there.
“We know what to expect from them. And we know when those opportunities come, you have to be ready. And they were ready. Personally, I always want to win. You could see how frustrated I was because we lost. But now, with only one competition to compete in, we turn our focus towards our quest for the top spots in the league.”
Paunovic on just having the league to focus on
“I always want to win - but now having only one competition and having our focus on the league and our quest for the play-offs and top spots is going to be helpful.
“We also know how to approach the coming months but it’s how you play it. I’m very pleased to have a group around me who can help and advise and who can work on a good plan moving forward.”
Paunovic on squad depth
“This gives me a better picture of what I can expect from our bench players. It’s also good to see their readiness for upcoming matches. Part of the focus is how we manage the players and when we rest them. Knowing we have players who can deliver helps a lot.”
Paunovic on hitting the bar twice
“It was unlucky (Melvin Lambert’s chance) - and exactly what we addressed to the youngsters. Don’t get too nervous and don’t get too excited, especially when you have an opportunity to score - just place the ball.
“But it happens and it’s a learning opportunity. The other thing is they tasted the powder so now they know what it looks like - they can do a good job to the team, the missing part is just the goal and confidence we would have got. I was very pleased with the group and what we saw.”
Paunovic on having a clear week ahead and injuries
“We have to rest, recover, regroup. We are getting back in good shape. Very soon we will have Gibson back, Araruna is back in non contact training, Yiadom is coming back in the next two weeks or even a bit earlier, but we have to be careful for him.
“It’s twice he has suffered an injury so we have to contain our excitement about players coming in. The expectations are good to have, we just need to know how to deal with them.”
Paunovic on the need for new players
“Its good we are recovering players and the investment we’ve made in teaching and motivating the group, and how they are responding, it’s our best asset we have.
“The transfer window is getting busier every day and we are getting more calls. We get involved in conversations every day which is how it should be but if something happens we’ll say.
“We are active and have been pro-active but it’s not easy to close the deals. The most important thing is I want to make sure whoever comes in they have to improve our players’ quality and our human quality on and off the field.”
Paunovic on Omar Richards to Bayern Munich
“I did have conversations with him and I gave him my complete support that we would like to have him here. It’s important to know we have to get a better understanding of what we are doing to the media where we have situations to deal with where we are not in full capacity of being able to make full offers to players we want to renew.
“From my end, I am speaking to them and say I really want you here - and also the club - but it’s not easy to close that down. We’ll see what happens in the upcoming months.
“He has told me he is on the same page as the team and wants to deliver his best. He is having a great year and we want to keep him healthy, on the field, and help him continue playing his best youth football so far.”
Paunovic on disappointment over Richards’ contract situation
“If we have to lose him - and I’m not giving up on that - if we have to lose him I would be disappointed. What he showed in his football, his quality and all the investment and the relationship I have with him is excellent.
“At this point I’m not giving up on him or any of our players who may be approached in this window or the next one.
Paunovic on players out of contract this season
“They can be approached by other clubs and that’s probably happening but this is football. We know this business and while we are enjoying each other on and off the field and working together over the past five months has been excellent and exciting.
“There is always tomorrow and planning though and everyone has to think about their careers, clubs and schedules.”