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Approval Ratings For Veljko Paunovic And Owners Down, But Still Pretty Good

A drop-off for manager and owners after Reading’s poor late-season form was to be expected.

Stoke City v Reading - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Recently we asked you to grade Pauno and Reading’s owners, and you seem pretty happy with the job they’re doing. Pauno’s approval now stands at 3.59/5, while the owners are on 3.35/5. Those numbers are however down from last time; in February you gave Pauno 4.79 and the owners 3.75.

To break the latest results down, just over half of you (50.8%) gave Pauno 4/5, followed by 28.8% on 3/5. Despite the drop-off in form, more of you gave him a perfect 5/5 (10.7%) than 1 (3.4%) or 2 (6.2%) combined.

As for the owners, the most popular rating was 4/5 (35%) - narrowly beating 3/5’s 33.9%. Like with the manager, 5/5 was next (13%), ahead of 2/5 (10.7%) and 1/5 (7.3%).

Pauno

Reading’s strong start to the season was reflected in Pauno getting a very impressive 4.51 in October, at the time second only to Jaap Stam’s 4.59 from just after the loss at Wembley in May 2017. Pauno then surpassed the Dutchman by getting 4.79 in February, thanks to Reading’s sustained presence in the top six.

Dropping out of the playoffs after just five wins in the 20 matches since that February poll was bound to be borne out in Pauno’s approval rating this time round. Going all the way down to 3.59 is a hefty drop, but for me that’s more due to the high standards Pauno had already set earlier on in the season. 3.59 isn’t a bad number at all.

By way of comparison, it’s just below the 3.89 registered by Mark Bowen in February 2020, and between the Jose Gomes scores of 3.84 in August 2019 and 3.41 in February 2019. Those were all points at which the man in the dugout still had some convincing to do, but had nonetheless made a positive enough impression to be in the fans’ good books.

The important caveat to put in here is that, naturally, the circumstances in which managers are being graded aren’t directly comparable. Gomes’ first season was a relegation battle that wasn’t won until late on, Bowen managed to get Reading into mid-table pretty quickly, and form under Paunovic has dropped off significantly after an excellent first half of the season.

With that in mind, I’d say these approval ratings are better read as snapshots of fan confidence in the manager at any one point - rather than ‘X was definitely doing better at this point than Y was at this point’. Still, it’s interesting to see that confidence in the manager now is (broadly speaking) similar to those times mentioned above.

Going forwards, if Reading are in any kind of playoff battle next season under Pauno, he’ll probably push above 3.5. He may even be able to stay around 3.5 if the Royals are in midtable, depending on how tough the circumstances out of his control are - such as transfers and contracts.

The Dais

That brings us nicely onto the owners, who have recovered pretty well from last July’s score of 2.92 by getting up to 3.35 (after recording 3.75 in February). We ran the July poll a week after the end of the 2019/20 season; the results illustrated a poor end to the campaign, worrying 2018/19 accounts, a lack of transparency and a large amount of staff furloughing on the pitch and off it.

I dare say that number would have been a lot lower had we run the poll a few weeks later, just before the start of the 2020/21 season. The final section of pre-season was seemingly thrown into chaos with the removal of Nigel Howe as CEO, an unsuccessful attempt to move Bowen to his old DoF role, and even some brief confusion when it looked like we were appointing a different Serbian manager altogether.

Ben Thomas tried to get his head around all the summer upheaval in this piece and bemoaned the constant managerial merry-go-round here.

As for your thoughts, you were overwhelmingly against the decision to remove Bowen and overwhelmingly unsure about his replacement, going by some Twitter polls we ran at the time.

With all of that in mind, getting back above 3/5 and staying there should count as decent progress for the owners. That said, it does put them well below the period from June 2019 to March 2020 when they were near or above 4/5. A prolonged high like that was probably down to the amount of money the Dais were spending on the squad and the initial success from appointing Bowen.

The Dais face a very tough summer now though. Although their cash reserves are still massive, their ability to spend it on new players will be very limited due to financial fair play, although knowing anything more specific than that is very difficult when there’s no public clarity from either the EFL or Reading on the club’s financial situation.

Urzz1871 had this take on the owners’ lack of communication in the comments for this approval rating.

“My biggest beef with the owner is the facelessness and anonymity. A football club inevitably takes on the character and aims of the chairman/owner – and in this case there’s just nothing except a prolonged absence and lack of visibility.

“When Reading have been successfully promoted, it’s been because everyone in the football club – from very top to bottom – has been working together and focussed on the same aim – this isn’t the sort of thing that can be managed at arm’s length or left to run itself, and I can’t help but think that the lack of direction and visibility from the top is something that isn’t helpful to the team. SJM appearing in the dressing room to gee up the team before every match is maybe taking things too far, but at least the team had a visible reminder of who/what they were playing for…”

I agree with all of that. It’s deeply frustrating to get so little from those who are ultimately responsible for the very future of the club. We’d love to hear more from them about their ambitions for Reading and how they think things have gone so far.

Even getting anything about the current CEO, Dayong Pang, is difficult enough. He’s so far made just one statement - a fairly generic thanks to the supporters - and has appeared in a handful of official photos. Interestingly, the statement and most photo appearances have come in the last month or so, so perhaps his visibility is deliberately being ramped up. I may well simply be reading too much into that.

At this stage, it’s tricky to say what a ‘good’ summer would be for Reading’s owners. As much as we’d love the kind of cash-splashing recruitment drive to turn the Royals into automatic promotion contenders, maintaining the level we’re currently at will be challenging enough.

That means sorting new deals for those out of contract this summer and next, replacing anyone who leaves and doing what we can to avoid an FFP-related points deduction. In years gone by, most of that would have been fairly straightforward, but in the difficult-to-predict era of spending regulations and Covid-19, Reading’s financial future is ever more uncertain.

Starting 2021/22 on zero points and with a squad broadly similar in quality to the one that ended 2020/21 may end up being the best outcome we can get.