Noel Hunt was dealt one hell of a tough hand when he was asked to save Reading’s season at the 11th hour. Ultimately he couldn’t manage that, with the Royals relegated to League One before the final day of the campaign. However, we want to know what you make of the job he did during his very brief spell in the Reading dugout.
Surely he can’t come out anywhere near as badly as his predecessor. Paul Ince was sacked in April after the 2-1 defeat to Preston North End, and signed off with an approval rating of 1.53/5. That was the second-worst score we’ve ever had, only slightly above Veljko Paunovic’s final result of 1.31/5.
As for Hunt, he had five games in which to enact a turnaround and managed some improvement, but it wasn’t significant or long-lasting enough to lift the Royals out of the relegation zone. Those five matches read as follows: draw, draw, defeat, draw, defeat.
The first one was the best of the bunch by quite some way. No one gave the Royals much of a hope going into Burnley’s visit, but a re-energised Reading held on for a commendable 0-0 draw.
The following result, a 1-1 draw with third-placed Luton Town, was creditable too, but more frustrating. Andy Carroll opened the scoring but saw red later on, before a Joe Lumley error handed the Hatters an equaliser. That’s one point which should have been three, and you have to wonder if it was a sliding-doors moments in Reading’s season.
Things only got worse for Reading though. The Royals were firmly second best away to Coventry City, beaten 2-1 but opened up and defeated too easily. Then came a 1-1 draw in a must-win match at home to Wigan Athletic before a 2-0 dead-rubber defeat to Huddersfield Town on the final day.
On the whole, performances were decent but not good enough. That’s reflected in our player ratings: the average under Ince in 2022/23 comes to 5.58, while Hunt’s comes out as 5.79. A 0.2 difference isn’t nothing, but it wasn’t enough of an uptick for the situation facing Reading at the time.
Really, Hunt (or anyone else) should have got much longer than five games in which to save Reading’s season. Ince could well have been sacked as far back as February, but even pulling the trigger at the start of the last international break would have given a successor eight matches and a fortnight on the training ground in which to make an impact.
So, although Hunt didn’t do enough, I can’t feel too critical towards him for that. On the contrary, he stood out in his own right in a few ways: Reading’s style of play was noticeable more proactive under him, youngsters were used much more effectively than under Ince, and Hunt connected with a beleaguered fanbase really well in his short spell.
So how do you assess the Noel Hunt era? As ever, we’d like you to grade the job he did on a scale of 1-5. You should be able to see the poll below, but if it doesn’t display on your device, please use this link right here.