You were appointed as Reading manager in the summer of 2023. Times are difficult off the field for the club as has been well documented. How would you reflect on your time in charge so far?
“The situation off the field has been challenging for everyone at the club since I arrived in the summer. There is no denying that.
“We have been through it all with a very young squad due to the limitations that the club faces in the transfer market.
“Despite those vast challenges, it is my job to prioritise footballing matters and make the most of what we have at the club.
“We worked hard with the squad during preseason, and I would say that by the end of October, we had developed our game as a team to have a full understanding of what I want to do.
“We have been able to win football matches and compete against any team in the league and that is the most pleasing thing for me.
“It would be easy to make excuses and talk ourselves down but that is not the way that I am as a manager and the players are not that way inclined either.
“Everyone of us is working as hard as we can to progress Reading forward as much as we possibly can.”
Your journey in coaching has been unique as you have experience working around Europe. You also got your UEFA pro license qualification in your mid-20s. With that in mind, how would you describe your ideal philosophy of football as a manager?
“My methodology is defined by my teams having high levels of energy across every aspect of the game.
“I want my teams to play attacking football backed up with a strong work ethic and defensive strength.
“Our organisation has to be strong, and we need to be aggressive to utilise the counter press to hurt our opponents in transitional situations.
“I want to see quick transitions where possible because I want my teams to have the ball in the final third as much as possible.
“This is how I feel [about] football personally and this is what I strive to bring to every team that I work with.
“Being proactive and stamping your way of playing on the game is important because being reactive to others will only take you so far.”
How would you reflect on your experiences coaching in different European countries?
“I have learned a lot from my experiences as a coach and as an assistant manager in countries such as Greece, Russia, Azerbaijan, Denmark and Spain at clubs such as Qarabag and FC Copenhagen.
“Having the opportunity to experience football in different leagues and immerse myself in different cultures has been a huge learning experience for me and I am grateful for those opportunities because they helped shape my career before I arrived in the U.K.
“I am very adaptable as a result of those experiences, and I have called upon that experience this season during the difficult moments.
“Working in different roles across the back room before becoming a manager has also helped me manage my staff effectively because I know what it is like to be in various roles, and I treat people the way that I like to be treated.
“You need to challenge everyone at a football club in the right way and respect the cultures, different roles and experiences that staff and players from across the globe bring to each football club.”
You were assistant manager at FC Copenhagen before moving to Southampton in 2022. How much did you learn from your time at such a big club?
“My time in Copenhagen was fantastic in so many ways.
“From the moment that I arrived, I was welcomed with open arms and tasked along with the manager to change the approach at the club because they wanted to prioritise younger players such as Rasmus Hojlund – now of Manchester United – and create a unique brand of football.
“Our first season was a transitional season, and it took time to make the changes that we wanted to, but it stood us in good stead to take things forward in our second season when we had got through to the players about what we expected and by making new signings.
“We won the Danish title with the club and qualified for the Champions League which was a massive achievement.
“I loved my time living in Denmark with my family too and I only have positive memories of FC Copenhagen.”
You moved to Southampton in the Premier League in the summer of 2022. You had an eventful time at the club by originally going in as assistant manager under Ralph Hassenhuttl before ending the season as interim manager of the club. Looking back, how would you sum up your experience at Southampton as a whole?
“I learned so much at Southampton because there was a lot going on at the club over my year there.
“Working in the Premier League for the first time was also an incredible experience because it is the most competitive league in Europe and tactically very good too.
“I learned a lot from Ralph Hassenhuttl while I worked with him, and I learned even more when I was interim manager because I was then the person speaking to the media and in charge of instilling our expectations as the leader of the group.
“I had clear ideas when I was working with Ralph and when I took the team until the end of the season.
“I did my best while in charge and I only have good memories of the club despite the challenges that we faced over the course of the season.
“Winning at Stamford Bridge in my first game as interim manager was a special moment for me because it was important to get a big result for the club and for the fans.
“Going into that game, I had belief that we could achieve something, but it is easier said than done.
“We set out to press Chelsea high and play to our strengths and on the day; everything that we did connected together and we more than deserved our win.
“It was a wonderful feeling at full time that day for everyone at the club including myself but that was only the start of the hard work.
“We also drew with Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur during my time in charge and beat Leicester who were around the same position as us too so we had some really good moments.
“Unfortunately, we had a few injuries after the last international break and things turned against us after that, but it was a life-changing opportunity for me that helped set me up to take on the role at Reading in the summer.”
Finally, Ruben, as a young up-and-coming manager, what do you hope to achieve in the future?
“My sole focus is on Reading and making sure that we can do as much as possible at the football club from now until the end of the season.
“Due to the difficulties at the club, I have learned to take things one day at a time and sometimes even one hour at a time.
“Of course, my ultimate aim would be to manage at Premier League level again in the future because that is where every manager in world football wants to be.
“However, this League 1 campaign with Reading is my priority and I will continue to do everything that I can to drive the club forward.”