Madejski Stadium, Behind East Stand

STAR FANS’ FORUM WITH MARK BOWEN – 29th October 2019

About 100 STAR members were in the audience to ask questions of Mark Bowen at his first Fans’ Forum, hosted by STAR’s Roger Titford. Here are the highlights:

Getting the Reading job?  Thought I could be Sporting Director for several years (role is no different to Director of Football). Was in the middle of the process of appointing the next manager, had interviewed three, when the offer came. Proudest moment of my professional life.

Where did it go wrong for Jose?  It was partly a matter of luck. I was disappointed with only two of our eleven games this season – in others we missed chances and made simple defensive errors. I had a good relationship with Jose, we’ve had a few chats since he left.

Current first team coaching structure?  I was told not to have a lot of disruption, I could bring in one person – which was Eddie Niedzwiecki, an old friend and very good coach. Several of Jose’s staff still with us. John O’Shea has more responsibility, he’s destined to be a manager one day.

What improvements have you made to the team?  We’ve got a talented group and I think they’re in a false position. They are short of confidence and have to earn the right to play. I’m trying to help them to play forward earlier, we over-did it in first half against Preston. We’re working at a higher intensity on the pitch and in training. I want us to be a team that is feared, I don’t want teams to enjoy playing against us.

Tactical plans?  Like any coach I want us to play good, attacking football but we need the points too. The passive game drives me mad. I hate it when teams kick off and then make 20 passes in their own half. Good defenders enjoy defending. Full backs must stop crosses into the box. When midfielders receive the ball they should look forward to the strikers – like Ovie’s pass to George for the goal at QPR.  We may play three at the back or four, I’m not going to pin it down.

Keep a winning team?  Not necessarily, there’s always one or two you might change. I pick a team to get a result. On Saturday I would have played Pele instead of Andy, partly as he would be against his old club (Forest). The desire they show in training is a factor. Sam and Garath have shown that hunger and ability in training.

Striking partnerships?  I’m playing with two strikers now. They need to have an understanding and work on their pairings. Talking is part of the game and it’s good to have Sam Baldock there because he’s a good communicator whereas against Preston Yakou and George were too far apart. Lucas is out for a few weeks. He took a conditioning coach with him on a break abroad and sent me back videos every day to show him working out!

Your own playing career at Reading?  I knew I was coming to the end, I’d been injured, Alan Pardew rang me, I came and trained and played one game and then the contract offer was withdrawn! I think it was a pre-season game against Derby. (No, it was an AMC game in December against Leyton Orient in the middle of the PANTS protests!). I don’t remember any of that, no need to go to those extremes! At the QPR game my son said why didn’t you wave to the fans when they sang a little burst of ‘Mark Bowen’s blue and white army’. I didn’t hear them, I was so focussed on the game’.

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