FORMER Royals player Mark Bowen has returned to Reading FC as technical consultant for the rest of the season.

He will assist manager Jose Gomes and his coaching staff in their tactical preparation by analysing and assessing the eight clubs Royals still have to play as they battle to escape relegation from the Championship.

That challenge begins with the visit of Preston North End at Madejski Stadium this coming Saturday before a hectic April which will see them playing six games within the space of 21 days.

A Reading statement said: "Mark will be a valuable additional resource in helping the club approach each game and tackle that busy schedule head on."

The Wales full-back ended a long and distinguished career with a short spell at the club in December 1999.

Born in Neath, the left-back played top-flight football for Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich City, West Ham United and Charlton, during a career which also included short spells with Wigan and Japanese side Shimizu S-Pulse.

Bowen, capped 41 times, totted up more than 500 appearances as a player. His most successful spell came at Norwich, where he won their Player of the Year award in 1990 and famously scored an away goal against Bayern Munich in the Canaries’ UEFA Cup win over the Bundesliga giants a few years later, having helped City qualify for European competition with a third-placed Premier League finish.

His move into coaching began as his playing days drew to a close at Reading, initially working as a coach with the Welsh national team. On the club scene, Bowen earned early coaching experience alongside Steve Bruce at Crystal Palace and then Birmingham City, with whom he won promotion in 2002.

He went on to coach at Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, Fulham, QPR, Stoke and most recently Southampton until late last year.