Paunovic’s dismissal despite a fine Reading victory highlights the ruthlessness behind football


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It is almost hard to describe the aftermath of Reading’s 3-2 win over Preston North End, which is just another strange chapter in the Royals’ history.

Inspired by the destructive Lucas Joao and the wonderful creativity of John Swift, the Berkshire based side won their first game since November 27th.

However, the revelation that Veljko Paunović had mutually agreed to terminate his contract with the Royals before the game overshadowed what should have been a joyous day for the club.

The Serbian coach managed the team despite knowing he was out of the job once the final whistle blew and he must be commended for his incredible professionalism.

One key fact is that the players did not know going into that game that their manager was a dead man walking, so after a good performance by Reading’s recent standards, the mood of the dressing room was somewhat dampened, Paunovic revealed.

Now you question whether the timing of the manager leaving the club was correct. It may leave the players confused and their thoughts could be consumed with worry about a new manager appointment rather than on a positive result.

Managerial changes at Reading have become part of the parcel at the football club and Paul Ince has been selected as the man to take interim charge.

Paunovic joined Reading in August 2020 and his now former side put in an excellent performance against the Lilywhites at a snowy Deepdale.

Immense credit must go to the Preston ground staff with the playing surface completely covered in snow only a few hours before kick-off.

The Lilywhites have had a bit of a resurgence under new manager Ryan Lowe but they were left shellshocked after Joao scrambled the Royals into a two-minute lead.

His season has been dented by injury, with the Portuguese striker only making 10 appearances during the campaign.

The former Sheffield Wednesday forward scored 22 goals last season for the Royals and his spell on the sidelines is one of the main reasons why Reading have underachieved this season.

He showed his goalscoring quality to double his tally for the game and the season with a classy piece of footwork and a stunning finish into the top corner of Daniel Iversen’s goal.

John Swift is one player that has always looked like he could play higher than the Championship and he showed his qualities against Preston.

Emil Riis Jakobsen may be a bit of a cult hero in the eyes of North End fans and it is deserved with Dane getting on the scoresheet 16 times this season, but he still has the potential to struggle when one-on-one.

Close to half-time, Scott Sinclair robbed Tom Holmes near the corner flag in the Royals half and fed Jakobsen, who was free in the box, but the 23-year-old fired his effort way over the bar when he really should have tested Karl Hein.

Reading fans must have thought they were dreaming after Swift put their side 3-0 up in the second half after a slick one-two with Joao and a caressed shot past Iversen.

With Swift out of contract at the end of the season, it would not be a surprise if a Premier League team were to be interested in snapping up the 26-year-old.

The skilful playmaker is more than good enough to make the step up and Reading need to move quickly to secure his services for the future, but this may rely on who they appoint as manager.

However, as soon as the Royals seemed to have killed Preston, Daniel Johnson reduced the deficit almost immediately after the restart when he was sent through on goal by Ched Evans and shot past Hein with the aid of a deflection off Michael Morrison.

Cameron Archer was the shining light in an average display by Lowe’s side. The Aston Villa loanee displayed a phenomenal work rate throughout the match to track back into his own half whilst also providing the sole spark upfront.

He got his first goal at Deepdale and his fourth goal of the season after a melee in the Royals’ penalty area, however, it would be too little too late for North End.

Reading did not look like a side that had failed to win since November and are just above the Championship drop zone, but another managerial change may mean that any momentum which could come from the victory will be lost.

Sometimes it is easy to forget that football is a business and results cost jobs, however, the incredibly suspect timing of Paunovic’s departure may hinder the Royals more than help.

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Aberdonian Cumbrian following football in the North West

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