Former Reading boss Paul Ince has been reflecting on his time at the Madejski Stadium, admitting he didn’t know they would be the subject of a points deduction.
The 56-year-old made a surprise return to management after eight years absence in February 2022, firstly in a temporary spell and then as a permanent boss. His spell there was tough, and it came to an end in April this year, with the club staring down the relegation barrel. Ince left before the drop, but drop they did.
This season, Reading are fighting against another relegation, this time into League Two, and it looks like being a tough challenge for current boss Ruben Selles. They did pick up a point this weekend against Lincoln, but a talented range of attackers has often struggled to get a foothold in games due to youth elsewhere on the field. That squad problem is something that dogged Ince during his tenure at the club, as did a points deduction.
“When Alex Rae and I were at Reading, I used to tell people how tough it was because we had an embargo,” said Ince, speaking to DAZN Bet. “We had a good team, but we couldn’t sign new players and we had to stick to our budget. Some players were on £2,000-a-week in the Championship!
“It was tough. We managed to keep Reading up in 21/22, but we started to lose some key players, and we often had to field numerous youngsters on the bench. We stuck with it, and I often think if the club hadn’t had the points deduction in April, Reading would have stayed up. Things could have gone so differently.”
Ince admitted that neither he nor his players were aware a deduction was coming. In the end, they were docked six points, which would have been enough to secure Championship football.
“It’s a shame because the club always knew the points deductions could very well happen, and it was always hanging over our heads. Myself and the players didn’t know it, but we were slapped with docked points right at the end of the season. It wasn’t easy to deal with all the things that were going on.
“I look back on my spell at Reading, and I know it was such a shame. The fans deserve so much more. They were unbelievable towards me, and they were so supportive of me and the lads. I can’t see a bad word about them at all. They were terrific.
“It (getting sacked) still wrangles me. I’d probably still be there had it not been for the points deduction. Losing your job is one thing, but how you lose it is another. I don’t know why they’d sack a manager with four games to go only to bring in somebody who isn’t as experienced. It was hard for me to understand.”
Ince had an illustrious playing career with Manchester United, West Ham and England. He worked his way up the managerial ladder, taking over at Macclesfield in 2006. He later managed Mk Dons (twice), Blackburn Rovers, Notts County and Blackpool. His most successful spell came in Milton Keynes, where he guided his side to the League Two title and EFL Trophy double in 2008.
Reading are in dire straits right now, and whatever the football world thinks of Ince, their demise wasn’t solely down to him. Relegation would have been avoided had they not been deducted points, and perhaps the former England midfielder would still be in a job.
However, that doesn’t mean he was a popular figure at the Madejski, and one wonders if their supporters will be happy reading his thoughts on his tenure. He is another chapter in a rather long and complex situation that has fans worried for the future of their club.