Boss on the speculation, the fans, the task in hand and the future
Reading manager Steve Clarke spoke to the media this morning ahead of this weekend's home game against Bolton Wanderers - and he gave his open and honest reaction to recent media speculation linking him with a move to Fulham at a press conference at Hogwood Park before taking first team training.
He confirmed that the club had allowed Fulham the chance to speak to him about the vacant position at Craven Cottage, but after that one discussion he quickly decided to follow his ‘head and heart’ and to continue to finish the project he has started in his first 11 months at Madejski Stadium.
You can read the press conference transcript from this morning below...
...on his decision to stay
“It has been a strange week, but I know I have made the right decision and now I just want to get back on with the work that we’re doing at Reading Football Club.
“Everybody behaved very professionally – the club were great to me and gave me the go-ahead to speak to Fulham. I went, I had a good conversation with them, and decided what I had here was better for me. I wasn’t close [to joining Fulham] – I got permission from Reading, we had a chat and I came back here the next day and was on the training pitch working towards the weekend.
“It wasn’t about money – it was about professionalism. I didn’t want to be in a situation where I was always thinking, ‘what if I had gone and spoken to them – they might have come up with something that was mind-blowing’. That wasn’t the case, and what I have got here is more mind-blowing. I’m happier with what I’ve got here at Reading.
“We started a project when I came here last December. I’ve done a lot of work here at the club with great support from the owners and the board – they allowed me to reshape the club over the summer; I brought in a lot of my own staff and a lot of new players. When I sat down and weighed up the options in front of me, this was the best option by a mile – to continue what we’re doing here.
“That’s why you have to go and talk – you have to find out what their plans are and what their thinking is for the future, and whether they can give you something more tempting than where you already are. The answer after that was ‘no’ – what I have here is better, I feel comfortable here, and I feel I’ve got good support from above which is very important. And I know I have got a good group of players and I’ve got fantastic set of staff, and we all want success for Reading Football Club. That is the reason I’m here, sitting here now.
“I couldn’t control the media speculation around what I was doing, but all I wanted was a chance to speak to another club, weigh up in my mind what was the best way forward for me, and the best way is to come back here where I have got the support of everybody – and I believe I have still got that support 100 per cent. Now we look back to winning ways on the pitch."
...on the Reading fans
“First and foremost, I understand the angst and the anger amongst the supporters. The supporters are the most loyal people at any football club, because they go week-in, week-out. They probably looked at it and thought, ‘why is he going to talk to Fulham?’
“But I’m a professional, and when someone is prepared to pay a substantial amount of money to speak to you about a possible job, then it is something as a professional I’ve got to look at. It was a professional decision. I’ve had a lot of good support from the fans as well, who want me to stay and are happy that I’m staying.
“I can understand the some supporters were angry because I was going to leave, but hopefully they can realise that I have made a decision to stay and work hard to try to get Reading to the Premier League...which is what everybody wants.
“The board want that, the supporters want that, the players want that, I want that. Everybody wants to take Reading to the Premier League, so together we all have to go forward and start winning matches again."
...on the players this week
“The players have been informed all week about what’s happening and there is no issue with any of them. This group of players are great and they didn’t want me to go anywhere.
"So the last few days won't have a detrimental effect, because I think the players are quite categorical in the fact that they want me here. My staff and I have a really good relationship with the players – I have worked every day with the players here on the training ground this week, ready for the game against Bolton tomorrow.
“There’s no more pressure on the players this weekend - the pressure on the players is always to get to win of course. There might be a bit more pressure on me, but that’s the situation I have to deal with and I will.
“So in my mind, and I think in the minds of the players, we are all focused on getting back to winning ways for Reading Football Club."
...on the future
“I think the fact that I am still here says everything about what I feel about this group of players that I have got here. I love the group, I love the players – I think they like me and support me...and what we had earlier in the season felt really good.
"We’ve obviously gone off the boil a little bit in recent weeks, but we’re looking to get back to winning ways as quickly as possible, starting on Saturday.
“Reading have already shown that they are with me. I’ve had a good chat with the board last night – they’re obviously disappointed that things transpired as they did this week. But there’s no problem now and everyone is focused on the future and getting Reading in the Premier League. Everyone is ready to go.
“There are probably a lot of football managers in the Championship this year who are wishing their clubs had shown them a little bit of loyalty, because it is a very precarious profession.
“And I think that’s one of the reasons why you have to explore all options when they come in front of you. But you have to make the right decision and you have to follow your head and follow your heart, and that’s what I did. And I’m still here working for Reading Football Club."