A tough season is done and a tough summer is underway, so we thought it’d be a good time to check back in on what you make of Reading’s manager and owners. Last time we ran an approval rating - in early February - you made your frustrations with Veljko Paunovic and the Dais clear, giving them the lowest scores we’ve ever recorded: 1.31 and 1.61 respectively.
Pauno lasted a matter of weeks after that, being replaced by Paul Ince in mid-February. This approval rating is therefore the first Ince himself has had. As for the owners, the fifth anniversary of their takeover came up a few weeks ago in mid-May. It’s easy to forget just how long they’ve been here.
So how do you gauge the job they’re all doing at the moment? While much of the focus at the moment is on what work will be done over the coming weeks and months, we’d like you to assess what’s already happened.
Let’s start with the man who has, to all intents and purposes, successfully completed the mission he was handed a few months ago. Paul Ince was tasked with keeping the Royals in the division and he did just that, securing safety with a few games to go. Reading ultimately finished four points and one place above the bottom three, despite a six-point deduction.
That process wasn’t always smooth. Performances and results didn’t pick up under Ince immediately, and the Royals’ prospects looked bleak for a while, as I outlined after the Nottingham Forest thrashing here. However, three wins and three draws in the next seven games set Reading on the way to safety as late fightbacks became the norm. The season wrapped up with three limp defeats.
He’s also seemingly had an impact behind the scenes, with his comments about the need for structural changes at the end of the season preceding the appointments of Mark Bowen (head of football operations) and Brian Carey (director of recruitment). While we don’t know the ins and outs here, it appears Ince got the ball rolling on these changes.
On the flipside, the performances we saw under Ince sometimes left a lot to be desired. We didn’t see clear, substantial and lasting improvements on Pauno’s Reading, with the Royals often saved by late fightbacks or stand-out individual moments. Take the Barnsley draw for example: Josh Laurent’s equaliser sealed a crucial point, but it also papered over a very poor first half.
The biggest plus I can give the Dais is that they made a managerial call which ultimately paid off. If Reading had been relegated, we’d be criticising the owners for appointing Ince, so it’s only fair to give some credit on this front where it’s due.
It’s also been evident in recent weeks that - to some extent - the owners acknowledge the need for changes to be made behind the scenes. Fans have long called for the addition of people with football knowledge, and that came in the shape of Bowen and then Carey.
However, some serious worries remain. The day after we published the last set of approval ratings, supporters expressed their frustrations off and on the pitch at the Coventry City game. First came a pre-match protest about the running of the club and lack of communication...
...and fans’ emotions boiled over into outright anger at full time, with some running onto the pitch.
Despite the prior-mentioned encouraging appointments, it’s hard to feel that the owners really get why fans are worried. A lack of communication has driven all of us up the wall, with one open letter (published shortly before the Coventry game) looking more like an attempt to calm supporters than a sincere effort of properly engaging.
There are also serious concerns over the depth of the squad after an extended period with few contracts agreed. The only progress on that front has been new deals for Scott Dann (who’s yet to play since), Kelvin Abrefa and Jay Senga.
In total, only 26% of the players who appeared for Reading in 2021/22 are due to be at the club next season, with a further 33% offered a new contract. At time of writing, no one in that 33% has agreed terms. You can catch up on the full retained list here.
Grade Ince and the Dais
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