Since 2015, The Biscuitmen have hired and fired five different managers. The club’s trigger-happy approach has not changed since José Gomes was relieved from his duties in October 2019. Following Gomes’ departure, Mark Bowen, previously the director of football at Reading, was announced as the club’s new manager. Although Bowen had previous success as an assistant manager across multiple tiers of English football, fans did not take well to the announcement. The fan base was frustrated by their club’s poor performances and positions in the league since their playoff final defeat in 2017. Many Royals didn’t think the appointment of a manager with no managerial promotion experience was a step in the right direction and criticised the decision, many suggesting that Bowen was ‘self-appointed’. With Reading having recently secured their place in the league for the coming season with an uneventful 1-0 away win over Charlton, it now seems an appropriate time to evaluate Bowen’s performance.
The graphic below shows a cumulative point analysis since Bowen took charge. The actual points (purple) shows cumulative points taken from each game and the expected points (red) shows the cumulative expected points calculated using the expected goals metric. For context, cumulative point lines for automatic promotion (green), playoffs (yellow) and safety (blue) lines have been included in the plot. Contextual lines are averages based on over thirty previous seasons. It is clear that under Bowen, Reading have significantly exceeded expected points: after 32 games Bowen’s men sit on 48 points, considerably higher than the predicted 39. Furthermore, Bowen’s points tally has kept Reading consistently between automatic promotion and playoff places. A good run of form towards the end of December where Reading had back-to-back wins against QPR, PNE and Fulham accounts for a substantial chunk of the better than expected performance.
Although this graph may be a simplified glance at Bowen’s success so far, the data strongly suggests he is overperforming. Furthermore, this suggests that had he been appointed at the beginning of the season, the Royals would be in touching distance of the playoffs, instead of down in 13th place. To conclude, this analysis indicates that if Bowen continues as he has begun, the Royals will be pushing for the playoffs this time next year. Perhaps the doubters in Berkshire may need a little more patience with this gaffer!