Completely out of the blue, Reading have made a significant appointment behind the scenes in what’s now looking like a proper shake-up in the running of the club. Brian Carey is the Royals’ new director of recruitment.
Carey, 53, is a former Ireland international who spent the bulk of his playing days with Wrexham before retiring in July 2005. Since then he’s coached at Wrexham, worked alongside Dean Saunders at various clubs, and most recently been at Tottenham Hotspur for six years.
It’s at Spurs where Carey built up his recruitment experience. Having started out there as senior scout for North West England, his remit would expand to cover Europe before he became head of recruitment. However, his time in North London ended in late April, with Spurs managing director Fabio Paratici conducting a wider shake-up. According to the Evening Standard, Carey “worked remotely” and his role “was understood to be less grandiose than his title suggested”.
The club’s quotes on the appointment interestingly came from Mark Bowen, who officially took up his new ‘head of football operations’ role on Monday. He said:
“Brian is a man who has experienced it all in football – he has been a player, captain, a coach, an assistant manager, a manager and has recently excelled during six years spent as Head of Recruitment at Spurs.
“He proved the ideal candidate to help the owner, myself and the manager bring in players with ability but who also possess the right character and temperament for our club and have that hunger to succeed and the potential to improve. It is a real coup that we have managed to beat off competition to secure the services of a man with his wealth of experience and I’m delighted he has agreed to join us at Reading.”
So, it looks like Reading really are serious about getting their house in order. It wasn’t all that long ago (the day after Carey left Spurs in fact) that then-interim manager Paul Ince said “this club needs to change in a lot of places, it really does” and stressed the need for a better recruitment structure.
A matter of weeks later, Reading not only have a permanent manager in place (Ince), but two new roles have been created and filled: Bowen as head of football operations and Carey as director of recruitment. While Bowen and Carey would ideally have been in place months ago in order for them to be ready for this summer’s transfer window, getting them through the door by mid-May is still quick work.
While I don’t have specific information about Carey’s time at Spurs to analyse, it’s certainly fair to say he’s a well-qualified appointment for Reading. After all, he was there for a significant amount of time and worked his way up Tottenham’s recruitment structure, clearly impressing the club’s decision-makers. It was only when a wider shake-up was enacted by a new figure that he departed - there’s no clear suggestion that Carey was underperforming.
So, on the face of it, it’s very promising that Reading have been able to snap up someone with that CV. And from the opposite point of view, it’s encouraging that Carey - who could presumably have taken a job at a higher-ranked club - was happy to choose Reading. You’d think Bowen has been trusted to overhaul how the Royals are run and, as part of that, he’s been able to present a compelling pitch to Carey.
Reading bringing in qualified and experienced people to run the club: feels odd, doesn’t it?
Potentially just as significant however is who potentially loses out from this move. Kia Joorabchian has been rumoured to be heavily influential over the Royals’ recruitment, with The Guardian saying “all of the club’s recruitment seems to go through one person” and The Athletic adding that “‘nine out of 10 deals’ went through Joorabchian”.
Would Carey take up an important recruitment position if an external figure were still heavily influential in Reading’s recruitment? You’d strongly suspect not, although it can’t be ruled out that Joorabchian will have some influence going forwards. Carey’s appointment is therefore cause for optimism on this front but not the be all and end all. Time will tell.
Carey’s attention will imminently turn to putting together a competitive squad ahead of next season - no mean feat given the severe financial restrictions under which Reading are operating. The priority will of course simply be for the Royals to stay in the league, but it’ll be interesting to see how recruitment is conducted to achieve that. What profile of player will Carey look to recruit? Will Reading be able to snap up long-term additions or will we stick to one-year loans and free agents?
While EFL restrictions and the serious threat of relegation are hugely concerning, they’re not insurmountable obstacles. Failure isn’t inevitable; with the right decision-makers behind the scenes, Reading can in theory not only see off these challenges but also lay the groundwork for lasting success.
While it is of course far too early know if Reading will manage those things, adding Carey looks very much like another step in the right direction.