PAUL Clement and the Reading FC players had no inkling about his impending sacking when they turned up for work this morning.

Clement’s departure was confirmed around 10am as the squad prepared for training.

The 46-year-old delivered the message in person before wishing his players luck for the rest of the season.

And striker Marc McNulty admitted nobody was prepared for the news.

“It was a shock” he said. “The boys were getting changed and ready for training as normal when a meeting was called.

“We thought it was going to be something to do with the Sheffield United game on Saturday, but the manager had a brief chat like I say, it was a surprise.”

Referring to Clement’s departing speech, he revealed: “It wasn’t too long if I’m honest, it was short and sharp. The manager was surprised, as were the players.

“We didn’t see it coming.

“He wished us luck. He thought performances were getting better and beginning to turn a little bit.

“But obviously he’s not here any longer so he wished us luck for the future.”

Former Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce is the current bookies' 9/2 favourite to replace Clement ahead of ex-skipper Phil Parkinson (5/1) and Carlos Carvalhal (6/1).

Ex-Reading captain, Graeme Murty, is next at 15/2 ahead of Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth and former Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic (both 10/1), then Francesco Guidolin (14/1), Alan Pardew (14/1), Nigel Pearson (16/1) and Chris Coleman (20/1).

Local Berkshire: steve bruce

Steve Bruce is the bookies' favourite.

Clement replaced Jaap Stam in March and kept Reading in the Championship over the last eight games of the season.

But he was relieved of his duties this morning after a worrying start to the current campaign.

Royals have won just four league games in 20, are 21st in the table and only out of the relegation zone on goal difference.

His win ratio with Royals (23.3%) was the lowest of the lot compared to 42.4% with the Derby and 34.1% with Swansea, the two other clubs he has managed.

And McNulty – who bagged is first Royals goal in the 2-2 draw with Stoke last weekend – accepts results have been poor.

“We know results haven’t been good enough and we will never shy away from it because it is fact,” said the 26-year-old Scot. “It’s up to us to change that on the pitch and get more wins.

“The team is capable of doing well in the Championship, and we’ve shown that against some opponents, but then with that inconsistency we don’t play great the next game. But I’m more than confident we will be okay.”

Clement had started to prepare his team for this weekend’s clash against the Blades before Reading decided enough was enough.

Confirmation of his sacking came only hours after Nigel Howe had been reinstalled as CEO to replace Ron Gourlay.

Local Berkshire:

Paul Clement was axed this morning after 30 games as Reading manager.

But McNulty insists the players will keep a level head and remain focussed on pitch affairs.

“We’ve been in the game long enough to have been through it before, so you don’t let it affect you personally,” he said.

“You know a new guy will come in so you have to be at it to stay in the team.

“Obviously it’s disappointing, it’s not nice to see anyone lose their job. But you concentrate on yourself and make sure you are in the team.”

“We’ve been too inconsistent but I definitely think we have the players to be a consistent team.”

Royals confirmed Scott Marshall, whose Under 23s are unbeaten in 14 games and top of the table, will assume the role of caretaker boss alongside assistant manager, Nigel Gibbs.

Both will be in charge for the visit of Sheffield United this Saturday.

McNulty continued: “The manager normally does his analysis the day before the game so we didn’t get that done.

“But we were working towards Sheffield United with the manager on the training field early in the week.

“Scott has taken over now and I guess he will carry on the manager’s work.

“Gibbo (Nigel Gibbs) and Gilkesy (Michael Gilkes, first-team coach) will work with the manager and know his ideas for the weekend and how to approach it.

“I guess they’ll be helping Scott with team selection and tactics.”