New man faces a tough task at Reading - Interview
Friday, 28th Dec 2018 11:52 by Clive Whittingham
It’s been a busy Christmas at Reading, with Portuguese manager Jose Gomes installed to replace Paul Clement and a defeat at Millwall dropping them to second bottom. Our Reading regular Simeon Pickup has graciously put this through several re-writes to keep pace.
How would you assess Reading's season so far?
It’s been thoroughly depressing, following on from last season being similarly awful. The team’s been low on confidence and organisation all season, bar a few bright displays here and there, and is deservedly in a relegation battle. We’re not good enough defensively, and lack control and creativity in the midfield, although we do have strikers in Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Yakou Meite that can score goals.
Even when we have played well - or not awfully, rather - we get edged out of matches far too easily with the players lacking the drive to be properly competitive. There’s also a worrying habit of conceding in the first 10-15 minutes after half-time which has cost us enough points to put us into a relegation dogfight.
A change of manager since we last spoke, why didn't it work out for Paul Clement? What could/should he have done differently?
To be fair to him, some key factors behind his failure weren’t his fault. He inherited a poor squad that was low on confidence and favour from the fans, and he didn’t have anything like the necessary financial backing to turn things around in the summer. That said, his inability to properly motivate the players (or the supporters for that matter) prevented him from turning round a dire situation.
He also failed to properly organise the defence - Reading have decent defenders individually, but as a unit they leak goals at an alarming rate - get the attack firing on all cylinders, and bring in a distinct style of play. Being kind, you could call him pragmatic rather than an idealist, but on the whole he was too reactive both in his tactics and game management.
Your deeply unpopular CEO has also gone as well - what was the problem with him? Is the hope the double departure will turn things around?
A lot of fans hated Ron Gourlay, to be honest. He came into a club that he didn’t understand, didn’t try to buy into the culture, isolated long-serving staff behind-the-scenes, and didn’t seem to care much for the club’s links to the community. Recruitment was also dangerously haphazard during his 16 months at the helm, with Reading paying too much for pretty average players with little resale value. A reported £7.5million fee for Sone Aluko (not confirmed) is the stand-out example.
The hope is that Nigel Howe - who had the job for two decades during our most successful period as a club - can sort the club out behind-the-scenes and restore the club’s identity and community links. That said, this is a very different club to 5-10 years ago - with different owners - so that task might not be straightforward.
What do you know of the new manager?
After a lengthy/disorganised recruitment process, we eventually ended up with Jose Gomes from Rio Ave, a Europa League-rate side in Portugal. He doesn’t have a particularly impressive track record, mostly managing in the Middle East, but he does seem to be an ambitious, optimistic guy who plays good football - all qualities that can help us out.
The two key questions though are over a) how well he can adapt to managing in England for the first time, and b) what players he can recruit in January. At the moment, we don’t have the technical and creative players required to play his brand of football, so new signings are a must.
We've seen Kia Joorabchian's name circulating around your club recently. Be afraid. What's going on there?
It comes from a Football.London article which claimed Joorabchian was driving the Luis Castro (non)appointment. Similarly, he’s thought to be involved in going after Gomes and Pereira. How true that is is anyone’s guess, but he was influential in the summer of 2015 (when Howe was CEO), getting us to sign Lucas Piazon, Ola John, Orlando Sa and others. I pray to God he’s not actually involved this time around - third party interests are not what this club needs right now to rebuild in the long-term.
Stand out players and weak links in the side?
For the former - not many. Meite and Bodvarsson as previously mentioned are capable of scoring goals but have also had injury problems. In the midfield, academy graduate Andy Rinomhota is becoming more reliable and dominant by the week.
As for weak links, we lack solidity at centre half, left back and often defensive midfield, struggle for creativity out wide and through the middle, and can be short of goals when neither Meite nor Bodvarsson are in the side. That was laid bare during our last meeting when Bodvarsson’s absence (announced just before kick-off) went a long way to you running out 1-0 winners.
Any hints of January activity? Specific names being mentioned?
Nothing at the moment in terms of incomings - we’re focussed on shipping players out. The squad is ridiculously bloated so the club’s focus is on trimming the fat in January. The outgoings are likely to include at least some of: John O’Shea, Paul McShane, Vito Mannone, Sam Walker, David Meyler, Dave Edwards, Pelle Clement, Callum Harriott and Marc McNulty. If we bring players in, they’ve got to be first-team quality, but the budget is anyone’s guess.
Do you survive this year? What are the consequences if you do end up in League One?
I really don’t know at the moment. We’ve probably got 50-50 odds as I write this, but a good January window will increase our chances significantly. If we do end up in League One, expect a fire sale of our few best players, the worse players to stay put, young talent to jump ship, and fans to lose interest even more than they already have. I dread the prospect.
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