The second installment of “The Championship Corner” column by Adam Gray.
Arriving with a big profile, Jaap Stam remained humble and reticent over Reading’s chances in his first managerial opportunity.
“Of course, when you play football yourself you can think you want to become a manager but it does not make you a good manager”, he said, as the Dutchman became the 31st player of the Sir Alex Ferguson era at Manchester United to enter into management.
“Nobody can expect Reading for next season to get promotion or get into the play-offs”, said the 44 year old, citing the competition of Aston Villa, Newcastle and Norwich, “it would be nice to get into the top 10 but even that is going to be a hard job.”
Stam has started life in Berkshire well, guiding his new side to a 1-0 victory over Preston North End on the opening day before securing safe passage into the second round of the EFL Cup with a win over Plymouth Argyle.
Since taking on an assistant coach role at PEC Zwolle in 2011, Stam has been gradually learning his coaching badges in the Netherlands, spending the last two years as an assistant and defensive coach with Ajax.
Dutch pair Andries Ulderink and Said Bakkati have followed Stam to the Madejski Stadium after working with him at Reading but after Brian McDermott was acrimoniously sacked after just six months into his second spell in charge, the new boss made the careful decision to keep Steven Reid and Dave Beasant within his first team coaching staff.
It has aided stability and Stam has aimed to do the same with his playing staff.
14 players remain from last season’s squad and only 8 have departed with Anton Ferdinand and Hal Robson-Kanu two of those deemed surplus to requirements.
Talented teenager Aaron Tshibola emerged last season but was sold to Aston Villa for just over £5 million while Stam is urging the club’s owners to reinvest some of the money raised by the surprise sale of Oliver Norwood to Brighton.
Norwood has been a consistent performer in the centre of the midfield for the past two seasons and Stam is right to seek a replacement, though George Evans filled in impressively on Saturday and with Danny Williams and John Swift playing alongside him, plus Joey van den Berg, a tough-tackling summer signing from Heerenveen who Stam has likened to Roy Keane, and Liam Kelly as cover, the Dutchman has options in midfield.
Van Den Berg, who scored the opener in the win over Plymouth, forms part of a solid summer of recruitment for Stam who also went back to Heerenveen for Roy Beerens, the right-winger who marked an energetic display on Tuesday evening with the second goal.
England under-21 midfielder Swift scored the winner against Preston and posed a threat throughout with a series of dangerous attacking runs into the box.
Signed from Chelsea in the summer, Swift’s bright start at his new club continued with a man of the match display against Plymouth.
Only Nick Blackman, who left for Derby in January, scored more than 5 goals for the Royals last term as they found goals hard to come by and Stam has sought to solve that problem by signing strikers Joseph Mendes from Le Havre and Yakou Meite from PSG.
Meite was excellent in PSG’s run to the final of last season’s UEFA Youth League, scoring 8 goals and making a further 6.
Stam, outspoken as ever, turned his focus to the imparity of the parachute payment system shortly after watching his first win as a senior coach but his resourceful qualities may see Reading cope just as well without the same financial aides given to the three clubs coming down from the Premier League.
The ex-Manchester United defender is still an attraction too, Reading have reportedly pulled ahead of Bristol City and Leeds United in the race to sign Liam Moore due to the Leicester City defender’s willingness to work under Stam.
Of those already there Chris Gunter, Yann Kermogant, Paul McShane, retained as captain despite receiving a FA charge for a confrontation with teammate Danny Williams in April, and Garath McCleary will provide the invaluable experience on which any success will be built.
Stam may be treading slowly into his managerial career, but his journey with Reading is already gathering speed.
Written by Adam Gray
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