A member of staff mutters ‘Well done!” to Reading manager Veljko Paunović as he strides through the tunnel after a victory to begin his post-match media duties.
“Well done us!” comes the reply from a fist-pumping fist-bumping Pauno.
Paunović has said from the very start that this has to be a team effort. Everyone pulling in the same direction. Everyone giving their very best, fighting to the end, supporting the eleven men chosen to fight for three points out on the pitch on a Saturday afternoon. And he has maintained that approach throughout a successful September that saw him swipe the first Manager of the Month award of the season this week.
It is not uncommon for managers to share the glory of such an accolade with the coaches who stand beside him in the dugout. Indeed, when a Royals manager last won a monthly award in the Championship, Jaap Stam was flanked by Andries Ulderink, Dave Beasant, Said Bakkati and Steven Reid back in 2017.
But Pauno is happy to share his and his team’s successes with anyone who has helped him build the environment in which that success has been earned.
So as his coaching staff gathered to stand, socially distanced, behind the manager for a photo, Veljko called for more to join the photo.
He stopped a groundsman’s buggy in its tracks as it began to prepare the pitches for the next day’s training. He then insisted the four Bearwood-based groundstaff disembark and join the group.
He called in the physiotherapist and his medical team, the kit man, the doctor, the sports science guys – until there was no-one else in earshot who could be dragged into frame.
John O’Shea missed the photo call as he was spending the international break away with the Republic of Ireland’s Under-21s, while there were others who couldn’t be corralled from the various nooks and crannies of the training facility. If anyone had missed out, the manager was keen to pose with others for portraits with the trophy, the Royals crest behind.
Pauno wanted as many staff as he could include to feel the glow of September’s success.
And that is all part of his plan. A plan to nurture a team spirit, grow a togetherness, build an identity at the club. He knows it has begun well. But he also knows there is a lot more work to be done and a very long road ahead. His staff know the same.