For large parts of this season, I was firmly in the Clement out camp. Recent performances and to a certain extent results have improved.
I came to the realisation at the start of this week that I had softened my stance, and I was willing to accept Clement being given a little more time. Ultimately it seems that Ron Gourlay’s departure has been the catalyst for Clement’s sacking. Nigel Howe has been permanently appointed as CEO, and his first act has been to end Clement’s tenure. Six wins in 28 is certainly not good enough.
However many would argue that he was responsible for the club avoiding relegation. With that task set to him at the end of last season, Clement inherited a squad devoid of confidence and belief. There was certainly an identity when Jaap Stam left, but sadly Clement has been unable to construct much of an identity this season, despite a number of new signings and the development of of younger players.
Andy Rinomhota and Danny Loader have found themselves firmly in the first team picture recently, with Rinomhota in particular making a huge impact on the team. Yakou Meite certainly owes his Reading career to Paul Clement. Unsure of his future at the start of the season, Clement put a lot of faith in Meite, and he has been one of the best performers this season.
Clement made several summer signings, but only one of arrivals can be seen as a success. Andy Yiadom has been brilliant at full-back, displacing a seasoned player in Chris Gunter. Elsewhere, David Meyler finds himself well down the pecking order in midfield, with O’Shea, Ezatolahi, Walker, Sims, McNulty have found themselves with little opportunities, with some of them battling injuries for a several weeks. Sam Baldock divides opinion, but I feel he as contributed enough, given the style and the attributes that he possesses.
Notable performances that showed the worst of Clement’s reign include the home defeats to Norwich, Bolton and QPR – all truly terrible showings. Performances like that were dreadful for Clement – the fans really began to turn on him after the QPR. Reading teams of the past have been solid at home, but that has been a million miles away from Clement’s team since his arrival, as well as a large part of Stam’s.
Another major downfall in Clement’s reign is the midfield. Recruitment was poor durng the summer, and the departure of George Evans raised a few eyebrows – I for one was extremely disappointed that he was allowed to move on, and this season has somewhat vindicated my view – there is no way that he is not good enough to play in this team!
Too many games have been lost due to the lack of control in midfield, and I’ve lost count of the times I have criticised the selection of Kelly and Swift in the same team. Balance, tempo and control have been so, so poor throughout, placing a lot of pressure on wide players to perform. Clement was beginning to find a better balance, but it’s come too late.
The new manager has a tough task in January, with improvements required, but also with trimming the size of the squad. There a number of players with uncertain futures – Harriott, Clement, Popa, Edwards, Mannone, Blackett and McShane to name but a few.
Clement had a tough task when he first arrived – the team he inherited was in a terrible state. But he hasn’t been able to make enough improvements on the pitch, and the business done during the summer wasn’t good enough.
Matters off the pitch certainly haven’t done anyone at the club any favours. But now, with Gourlay gone, it’s time for a fresh start. I’m hoping that the next appointment will be a experienced Championship manager, and somebody handy in the transfer market – Steve Bruce is an early contender, and I wouldn’t be disappointed with him.
I would imagine that Slovisa Jokanovic is above our weight, but stranger things have happened in football. This is not the time for the romantic and fairytale appointment of a former player such as Murty or Parkinson. The next manager must be able to give the players a kick up the back side and seriously steer the ship in a better direction.
Let’s get behind the new manager and more importantly – get to the Madejski and support the team. It’s a crucial period and this could kick start the future of this club. Up the Biscuitmen!
Picture Credit: Reading FC