Paul Clement closes in on Reading job

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 21 March 2018, 15:35

The clearest indication of Jaap Stam’s fate, after his side’s 3-2 loss at Norwich on Saturday, was not that assistant Andries Ulderink assumed post-match media duties, but how his compatriot responded to questions about what that meant.

Rather than defiantly emphasize his and Stam’s determination to turn results around, Ulderink accepted with a wry smile that the defeat gave the board a decision to make. Indeed, majority shareholders Mr Yongge Dai and Ms Xiu Li Dai made it on Wednesday by sacking the Dutchman, thanking him for the work he did the previous season.

Who should replace Stam? The main leading contender at this point is Paul Clement, the favourite with BetVictor.

Paul Clement

Why he should get the job:

If Reading fans were told that their next manager is Carlo Ancelotti, many would crack out the champagne bottle. The Italian has led Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich to a combined 11 major trophies over the last decade, whilst winning eight individual awards in the process.

We’ll just about forgive Carlo if he’s too busy tanning himself in Italy to take charge of a struggling Championship outfit, but the closest thing is Clement, who should take a lot of credit for the football legend’s achievements. Ancelotti himself has said previously that the 46-year-old "Absolutely has the skills, the quality to be a top manager."

That praise is somewhat backed up by Clement’s impressive initial impact at the two clubs he has managed as a number one. The first 20 games at Derby and Swansea saw a combined total of 19 wins in 40, which is especially impressive given the latter were battling relegation in the Premier League.

Clement would bring with him to the Madejski an extensive contacts book, helping Reading to sign a calibre of player they might not ordinarily attract. His experience of working with young players at Chelsea might also be of benefit to the Berkshire club, for whom the academy has recently been a major success story.

Why he shouldn’t:

Modou Barrow has established himself as Reading’s most productive player this season: the Gambian has a respectable nine goals and his pace allows the team to play through opposition pressing. However, the winger’s only appearance under Clement at Swansea came in an EFL Trophy game, before he was loaned out to Leeds on the final day of January 2017, then sold permanently to the Royals the following August.

It may be that Barrow doesn’t fit in with the 46-year-old’s approach, which could be described as ‘risk-free’. His Swansea side often retained the ball – they had more than 50% possession in eight of their 13 games this season against non-top six opposition under Clement – as sideways merchants such as Roque Mesa often made the starting eleven. When Swansea didn’t have the ball though, they stayed in a deep, compact shape, so matches involving them didn’t see many turnovers in possession – not dissimilar to Reading’s games under Stam.

When the Royals have been at their best over the last couple of years, they have shown intent. They must encourage opposing teams to press them by keeping possession effectively, then look for a quick ball out wide for somebody to flick into central areas and give the midfielders – especially Liam Kelly – space to monopolize. Whether Clement is the type of coach that will give his players the confidence to be brave on the ball at the right times remains to be seen.

The Sack Race’s Verdict:

We reckon Clement could be a good option for Reading, if he learns from his mistakes in the latter stages of his time with Swansea.

Alternative candidates:

Scott Parker – there is no denying Parker has showed leadership qualities during his playing career, when he was seen as inspirational by many of his teammates at various clubs. The former Charlton academy graduate is coaching Tottenham's Under-18s - his only post-playing experience to date - and might need to get a feel for senior coaching before jumping into management at this level. 10/1

Mark Warburton – the 55-year-old oversaw reasonable progress at Nottingham Forest, where some would argue he was unlucky to lose his job with a win ratio of 41%, higher than eight of the last nine bosses on Trentside - even if he made mistakes in the last month of his tenure. Warburton's sides always play with creative freedom; that philosophy lends itself to the development of young players which can be very beneficial in the long-term, although his methods can lead to the odd defensive mishap. 12/1

Marco Silva – having done well at Olympiakos, Silva very nearly led a seemingly doomed Hull side to survival last season. He enjoyed a similarly impressive impact at Watford, who sat proudly in fourth in mid-October with Richarlison in red hot form. His public courting of the Everton job contributed to a decline and because Silva rarely wholly commits himself to clubs, his relationship with fans depends squarely on results. 12/1

Graeme Murty – he will always be a legend at the Madejski after playing there for nine years, including a key role in the record-breaking 05/06 title-winning campaign. Murty, currently at Rangers until the end of the season, would be considered by many romantics as the dream appointment. 20/1

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Graham Westley
Graham Westley
16th February
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