Ron Gourlay admits his first year as Reading’s chief executive has been more challenging than he expected it would be.
The former Chelsea man arrived in July 2017 with an impressive CV to replace Nigel Howe, who switched his role to become the vice chairman.
Fresh off the back of a run to the Championship play-off final and with new owners Dai Yongge and Dai Xiu Li on board, the outlook appeared positive for the Royals.
But 14 months on and having only avoided relegation on the final day of the 2017/18 campaign, Reading find themselves bottom of the table after six games of 2018/19 with just two points.
And when asked if this year had been tougher than he first anticipated, he said: “Yes. I’m very honest.
“It’s only when you get inside a club that you truly get a feel for how much work is required.
“There’s been a lot of changes off the field. You’re going to get churn in any football club but we’ve been working very, very hard behind the scenes and hopefully we’ll reap the benefits of that going forward.
“There is more needing to be done than what I envisaged when I came in.
“But we’ve brought some key experienced people into the club.
“The head of the academy (Ged Roddy) is the guy who set up the academy in the Premier League, EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan). My operating officer has years of experience at Manchester United and Chelsea.
“We’re talking about experience, behind-the-scenes working on the business side and there’s a lot of good things that are there, but at the end of the day you’re judged on the performance on the field and we know that.”
One of the big developments Gourlay has presided over since his arrival was the change of manager from Jaap Stam to Paul Clement.
Following a run of just one win in 19 league games, Reading were sliding towards the relegation zone under Stam before he eventually left in March, with Clement quickly drafted in for the final eight games of the campaign.
However, while Clement ensured the Royals avoided the drop, the start to this season has seen him placed as the bookies favourite to be the next Championship manager to be sacked.
But Gourlay believes he’s earned a chance to put things right.
“There was a lot of patience (with Stam) from the board and the owner back then,” said the CEO.
“But I need to restate to you that it was by mutual consent with Jaap. It wasn’t just the club that decided. It was also the coach.
“Who knows what would’ve happened in that last eight games?
“Paul was brought in to protect our position in the Championship, which he did and I think he deserves a lot more time than some of the criticism that has been raised at this present time.
“But in fairness, you’ve got to look at it over a period of time from where we were in the play-offs to last season to how we’ve started this year and I understand that.
“I understand the concern of the fans. The fans will be here long after I’m gone, they’re the heart and soul of the club, so I understand the criticism.
“The only way we can put criticism away is to perform on the field.”
Check back to wokinghampaper.com later for more from Gourlay.