The Wokingham Paper

“Reading fans can expect a manager who is intense and committed to trying to win”: Getting to know new Royals boss Veljko Paunović

Veljko Paunovic
Veljko Paunovic

READING have made their latest managerial appointment as Serbian Veljko Paunović replaces Mark Bowen. 

Paunović is a relatively unknown quantity in England having only held the managerial position at one club. 

He began his managerial career as Serbia U18’s manager and has also managed the country’s U19 and U20’s sides, with the highlight of his career so far coming after winning the 2015 U20 World Cup with Serbia.

It is the fourth managerial appointment since March 2018, but what can Royals fans expect from the latest man in the Madejski hotseat.

Paunović was the manager of Major League Soccer team Chicago Fire from 2015-2019.

Wokingham.Today spoke to people with experience of having covered Paunović’s former side during his tenure in America to get some insight into what Reading fans can expect from their new boss.

American journalist Brian Sandalow who covered Paunović’s time at ‘The Fire’ for Sun-Times Sports and North American Soccer Reporters said: “He preferred to play with a 4-2-3-1 formation for much of his time. 

“However, it was tough to decipher a true style while he was there. The tactics were very flexible which on one hand can be a good thing as it means that he’s willing to adjust. However, it also meant the Fire were always adjusting to opponents. 

“Something to watch closely will be his man management. In Chicago, players would get into his ‘doghouse’ and struggle to get out.

“After snubbing star attacker David Accum for the MLS All Star Team against Real Madrid, this caused an issue between him and the manager and helped torpedo a promising season.” 

Paunović led Chicago Fire to the play-offs just once during his four years, in 2017, which was the first time the team had qualified for the play-offs in five years. 

However, Sandalow believes that his time at Chicago Fire will not be considered as a success by most sections of the fanbase. 

“Paunović’s time at Chicago won’t be considered a success,” continued Sandalow. 

“His first year was a rebuild and transitional year so that wasn’t held against him. 

“In 2017, they had the third best record in the league but lost in the first round of the play-offs.

“The 2018 team was poorly built and the 2019 was the referendum season. They had one of the league’s highest pay-rolls but missed the play-offs.” 

Despite a difficult time in America, there may be more reason for Royals fans to be optimistic about their new manager. 

“He is passionate and engaging and very good with the media, so he would have been very popular if results on the pitch had been slightly better.

“The Championship is an incredibly tough and unpredictable league so I’m not sure how he will do but nothing would shock me.” 

Wokingham.Today also spoke to Patrick McCraney, who also covered Paunović’s time in the USA. 

“He’s a manager that likes his team to build out of the back. He changed things up quite a bit here. In fact, he used Bastian Schweinsteiger in six or seven different positions. 

“Fans rightfully felt Pauno was unsuccessful here. But to be fair, most managers have been poor in Chicago.

“Until this year, the club had an absentee owner who didn’t give Paunović much help.

“As a World Cup winning youth manager we were hoping he’d come and develop young players. That didn’t happen as much as we would have liked, but that’s more on the club than it is him.

American journalist Guillermo Rivera, who covers Chicago Fire for The Athletic, also went into detail about the new Royals head coach. 

“His management style is somewhat intense and demanding but some players quietly voiced displeasure about the lack of direction internally.

“One of his biggest fails with the Fire was his lack of development of a consistent style, formation, or approach.

“He came into the job preaching ‘adaptability’ but he was never able to find something that worked for an extended period of time.”

However, despite his lack of experience having never played or managed in England before, McCraney believes that Paunović has a bright future as a coach and could fare well in Berkshire.

“I think he can be successful. I wouldn’t let his time at Chicago define him as a failure. I’m not even sure Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp could have won many matches in Chicago here over that time!”

Revera added: “Paunovic’s time in Chicago is ultimately judged by his won-loss record and that wasn’t very good. 

“Although he was very good with fan interaction, 41 wins against 58 losses will temper any good memories the fans might have.

“Reading fans can expect a manager who is intense and committed to trying to win. 

“He’s very competitive and if he’s learned from his experience with a first team squad in Chicago he could find some success with the right support.”

The Royals are currently in a training camp in Portugal with their new boss as they make preparations for the new Championship seasons which begins on Saturday, September 12 with an away trip to Derby County. 

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