It’s certainly been a baptism of fire for new manager Mark Bowen. The Welshman was appointed as Jose Gomes’ successor on Monday after a week-long search for a new gaffer, and it’s a decision that hasn’t at all gone down well with Reading fans.
Both before and after his appointment, Reading FC social media was awash with supporters making it crystal clear that they had no time for the club’s decision. Replacing a very well-liked manager in Gomes, with whom many fans had a close emotional connection, with the man who may well have had a hand in sacking him, went down like a lead balloon.
Football fans of any club want to know that those behind the scenes are making decisions fairly and in the best interests of the team. And in this case, Reading fans who have experienced severe mismanagement of the club in recent years would have been perfectly justified in having their own fears this time around.
The possibility that Bowen had dethroned Gomes and handed himself the crown seemed like something out of Game of Thrones. But after Reading’s own troubles behind the scenes, supporters feared the worst and their anger spread like wildfire. Never before have I seen such an extreme level of hostility from Royals fans towards a single event.
It demonstrates the popularity built up by Gomes in his 10 months at the club that his abrupt departure and subsequent replacement by an unpopular candidate was met not by so many not with apathy, but outright rage.
To be fair, the original fears around what had unfolded at the club were almost certainly unfounded. As he went on to point out in his first press conference as Reading manager, Bowen would not have had the authority to sack Gomes and certainly couldn’t have simply installed himself in the dugout. At the very least, all decisions would have had to be taken by owner Dai Yongge.
During that press conference, to his credit Bowen answered questions about his own appointment directly and frankly, and that seemed to earn the respect of supporters on social media. And yet, the damage has still been done. There’s still a large amount of animosity towards him, perhaps unlike anything we’ve seen towards a new manager ahead of their first game.
To win over the rest of his doubters, Bowen simply can’t afford a slow start as Reading boss. There must be an immediate improvement in both performances and results, starting on Saturday with the visit of Preston North End.
No pressure, Mark.