After speaking to and rejecting Fulham for the vacant manager’s position, Laura Jones asks whether Reading manager Steve Clarke has made his position untenable.
Steve Clarke has made himself an unpopular man in Berkshire. The Reading manager has flirted with another club, realised the grass isn’t greener and is now begging for forgiveness from the club he’s contracted to. But will they forgive him enough to keep the relationship going?
The fans have been very vocal about their views on Clarke looking elsewhere for employment. Clarke has been forced to deny that he didn’t take the Fulham job because of the money offered by the London club, which has led fans to speculate whether Clarke is really interested in the mission to get Reading promoted back to the Premier League or whether money is his primary motivator.
The fans feel it is a betrayal, especially as the job would be a sideways move. Most fans seem to think that it could have been forgivable if the job was a step up in his career, but Fulham could even be seen as a step back considering the squad and position Reading currently have.
The club’s chief executive Nigel Howe told the local press that the owners are “happy” that Clarke has decided to stay, but “they think he’s got to get on with the job… they want success.” However, to the BBC his tone was much more apposite by saying: “Steve can only show his worth to the club now by being successful on the pitch.”
Although at a glance Reading aren’t in the Premier League ‘we’ve lost a few games so it’s a crisis’ stage, but when you look at their current form it doesn’t make for pretty reading. They’re currently ninth in the Championship and only a point off the play-offs, but in the last six games they have only won one game, drawn two and lost three, five points in total. Only Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers and Huddersfield Town have worse form than Reading and one of those clubs has already parted with their manager due to their form.
If the board’s trust in Steve Clarke is waning then he could find himself out of a job should the next few games follow the same vein of form.
Looking at the players Steve Clarke has signed, on paper this is a team that should be vying for promotion; and at the beginning of the season Nick Blackman looked like he was about to pull a Jamie Vardy, such was the consistency of his strike-rate. After the Nottingham Forest game last weekend – where Reading surrendered a one-goal lead to lose 3-1 – many Royals fans complained that the players looked disinterested. Is that a sign that the players may hold the same view as the fans about their manager?
Orlando Sa and Matej Vydra haven’t performed to the standard they are capable of and Stephen Quinn and Aaron Tshibola are out injured, so Clarke does have some issues in the team.
The situation reminds me of Lee Clark’s dismissal as Huddersfield Town’s manager in 2012. Clark only lost five games in 55 fixtures, including 43 games without defeat. Despite still in being in position to secure promotion from League One to the Championship, Huddersfield decided to let Clark go. Why? The main reason appears to be because Clark courted other suitors including Leicester City and Leeds United in a very public manner without any regard for the feelings of Huddersfield’s board or fans.
Hell hath no fury like a supporter scorned and something tells me that apologies and flowers aren’t going to win the Reading fans over.
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