The 2016/17 season began as period of transition for Reading who had parted ways with iconic two-time manager Brian McDermott at the start of the summer after a less than spectacular return to the Madejski Stadium.
Jaap Stam arrived nearly a year ago and what a year it has been to be a member of the Reading faithful. What started as a season of uncertainty under a novice manager became a memorable campaign, which ultimately fell short at the final hurdle – as the Royals lost on penalties at Wembley to Huddersfield Town.
Despite this play-off final loss, their 4th since 1995, and 6th failure in the play-offs overall, Stam’s men can now, once again, consider themselves to be real promotion contenders in the Championship after flirting with relegation for two seasons prior.
Failing to gain promotion to the Premier League has allowed a number of challenges to arise for Reading. One of which is whether the club will be able to hold on to Jaap Stam ahead of the 2017/18 Championship campaign.
The Dutchman arrived with a big reputation, but mostly for his exploits as a player – not as a manager. Despite only having one year of experience in English football as a head coach, it is likely that a few clubs will be looking at the possibility of bringing him into their set-ups.
While the former Manchester United man has committed his future to Reading, there is always the possibility that a Premier League club could try and poach him away from the Madejski Stadium.
If Stam was to depart, there is a chance that many of the players would follow. The playing staff at Reading have bought in to Stam’s ideas and his departure could leave many of the players looking elsewhere.
It would be a massive set-back for Reading and would most likely undo a great deal of the progress that has been made over the last year.
The Dutchman has brought in his own coaching staff, his own footballing philosophy and the players to match it. The club would have to try and rediscover their identity and there are no guarantees that it would be as successful next season as it was the last.
One of the other main issues that is facing Reading is the fact that there will be plenty of speculation surrounding their star players. The likes of Liam Moore and Liam Kelly have already started to attract some interest from Premier League clubs as they look to strengthen their sides.
Moore has rejuvenated his career in Berkshire and has become a solid and reliable centre half and a fan favourite for his passionate attitude. Meanwhile, youngster Liam Kelly has also really caught the eye of Jaap Stam and his coaching staff and has shone under the spotlight.
The midfielder may look small in stature, but plays a massive role in games as he sits in midfield and dictates play as he sees fit – it is a role that is often associated with much more experienced players but the 21-year-old looks more than comfortable in the Royals side.
One player, who perhaps could prove to be the biggest loss, if his performances throughout the play-offs are anything to go by, is Danny Williams. The American international has enjoyed a terrific season in the heart of the Reading midfield. His tireless and committed nature has won the hearts of many a Royals fan, but there are fears that he could move on since the club failed to reach the Premier League.
Losing any of these three players would be a blow to Reading and would spark the need to find replacements, which would of course call on the new Chinese owners to splash the cash and put some faith in Jaap Stam and Brian Tevreden to find some deals over the summer.
Reading have invested very wisely over the past couple of years, bringing in some high quality players for little to no money during the transfer periods. Ali Al-Habsi and Yann Kermorgant who were perhaps the stars of this season were signed for free and for a small fee, respectively.
The loans of Reece Oxford, Jordon Mutch and Lewis Grabban ending has left a number of holes waiting to be filled in the Reading squad and, with their pre-season starting in just six short weeks, there is no doubt that the Royals will be hoping to pick up a few new players, whilst keeping hold of their star men.
This summer could really go one of two ways for Reading. If they keep hold of Jaap Stam then they will finally have the stability that the club has been looking for, following relegation from the Premier League in 2013.
Even if a few players were to leave Reading, you have to feel that, with Stam at the helm, Reading would still be confident heading into the new campaign in August. However, if the Dutchman was to depart the Madejski Stadium, the uncertainty would start once again; much like at the start of the previous campaign.
While it turned out to be a really great year for the Royals, there is no guarantee that a new manager could repeat the same trick.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by hoholoksite