Reading boss Jaap Stam will struggle to replicate fine first seasonby Mike Holden / 07 August 2017, 14:32Tweet
Jaap Stam produced an incredible first season in management, guiding a fairly ordinary Reading side to within two spot-kicks of the Premier League. The Royals didn’t win many admirers along the way, playing a slow-tempo brand of possession football that was the antithesis of Championship traditions, while irritating analytics enthusiasts by confounding some miserable shot data. But there was certainly respect for the Dutchman come the end of it all. The squad looks weaker now, if only for the departure of midfielder Danny Williams.
Stam is the strong silent type, a private man who harbours no emotion and is ruthless when necessary. He doesn’t mince his words and his autobiography, released during his time at Manchester United, was unassumingly brutal in its assessment of other players, including his own colleagues. There’s a misconception that he’s a purist or a philosophy manager, owing much to the influence of Dutch football. He is a quick-fix pragmatist. A former electrician, his approach to tactics can be seen as a metaphor for re-wiring a faulty circuit.
"You always want to step up as a team and do better, if possible. But just because we have new owners, it doesn't mean we have a lot of money because that's not the case. Other teams now see us as competition, so they don't want to sell to us. We need to broaden our horizons and look for players elsewhere. Sometimes, though, you need to take a step back and decide if the quality of the player means you're going to improve the squad or not."
Everybody keeps banging on about last season’s shot data, but rightly so. We live in enlightened times and there’s no escaping the fact Reading, based on their numbers, were essentially a bottom-six outfit. So regression to the mean is bound to be a factor and while Stam is clearly no mug, he might struggle to energise his players once it becomes apparent there will be no repeat of those exploits. The shot data might well improve but the end result will almost certainly be worse.
Prediction: bottom half