News and Views

Jaap Stam appointment looks to be paying off

07 February 2017
By Sponsored Editorial

Reading are currently sitting third in the Championship, looking to book their return to the Premier League for the first time since 2012-13. Looking to improve on their anonymous 2015-16 season, which saw them finish 17th, John Madejski and the club's Thai owners brought in former Man United defender Jaap Stam as manager. His debut as a manager, the Dutchman joins an ever growing list of men who played under Alex Ferguson plying their trade as managers.

It came out recently that Ferguson considers allowing Stam to leave for Italy as one of the biggest mistakes during his tenure at United, and it's hard to disagree with him. With his combination speed, strength, guile and organisation Stam was the complete defender, a terrifying prospect to play against. Now, pundits across the country are looking to see whether he will be able to transfer his quality from the pitch to the dressing room. Early indications suggests he is doing just that, with Reading sitting pretty in 3rd, 5 points behind automatic promotion.

Reading have improved massively in the 7 months since Stam took over in June, after a dismal finish to the 2016 season that saw the end of Brian McDermott's time as manager. A raft of summer signings saw the squad refreshed, and even more quality added during the recent January transfer window, with Lewis Gabbban, Jordan Mutch and Reece Oxford, a bright young defensive prospect from West Ham, all joining on loan until the end of the season. But Stam has certainly been getting the most out of his existing squad, with Gareth McCleary and Yann Kermorgant both on 8 goals for the season so far, and John Swift and Roy Beerens with 7 and 6 respectively.

No shortage of goals, Reading's problem is more in their leakiness at the back, surprising considering Stam's own defensive pedigree; they have only managed 9 clean sheets out of 30 Championship games. Indeed, in the last two months, Reading have been involved with three 3:2 results, winning two and losing one, as well as losing 5:0 to Fulham. Closing ranks will be a priority for Stam, as will reaffirming their solid record at the Madejski; their loss to QPR on the 12th of Jan was the first loss there since mid October, and only their second home defeat of the season.

Looking at Reading's fixtures for the last thirds of the season, the last game of February leading into April is crunch time, with games against Brighton, Newcastle, Preston, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds. Results against Brighton and Newcastle really could be what makes the difference between automatic promotion and a deadly playoff campaign. Should Reading put together a serious run of form, take 3 points against both Brighton and Newcastle, then anything could happen.

Reading have some crazy outsider value right now, at 125/1 for the title outright, longer odds than Leeds, Derby and Huddersfield, and they are at 9/2 for promotion. Definitely worth a long shot. Enjoy Championship betting!

Author bio:
Writer, journalist, amateur gambler and long suffering Charlton supporter with a background in Politics and academic research. Specialising in European and English football league analysis and predictions.

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