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How close are Reading to making a play-off push this season?

How close are Reading to making a play-off push this season?

Since the arrival of Jaap Stam in the summer to replace the outgoing Brian McDermott following a poor finish to the season; things have definitely improved and the feeling around the Madejski Stadium is a lot more positive than it was just a few short months ago. It was a return to forget for Brian McDermott, but Stam has quickly put in place his own philosophy and the players are just as quickly buying into it.

It has been a steady start to the season for Reading and they find themselves 8th in the Championship –  having collected 14 points from their opening 8 fixtures. This is a welcome sight, following a tough previous two seasons, in which the club have failed to live up to expectations. However, feet are remaining firmly on the ground, with the supporting faithful refusing to allow themselves to get carried away this time. This is important, as it means that the majority are prepared to see a long transition, allowing Jaap Stam to mould the team capable of finding its way back into the Premier League.

 

This new system, implemented by Jaap Stam and his staff, has allowed Reading to hold onto the ball well against their opposition. It is becoming a far more familiar sight to see the Royals completing fixtures with around 70% possession. However, this has not come without frustrations on the behalf of the fans. Indeed, the players are still struggling to create as many clear cut chances as they would like, while the squad is looking short in the striker role at this present moment. If a real play-off push is to be made, Reading need to find themselves a reliable centre forward, capable of finding the net on a regular basis.

The style of play that the Royals are looking to implement has been labelled as ‘boring’ and ‘negative’ by some fans across social media. This is an opinion that the players, the manager, and the majority of the Reading faithful are quick to dismiss – and for what it is worth, I think they are right to do so. It is important to remember that the system that Stam is trying to implement is still in its infancy and that it is likely to become much more effective as time goes on and the players gel. Football is a cut-throat business and the new board at Reading have shown that they are not scared to remove managers, if need be. However, many Reading fans will be hoping that those at the top give Stam time, in order to see how far this team could go.

 

It is important that Reading learn the lessons from Brendan Rodgers’ time in charge at the Madejski. The now-Celtic manager was also looking to put in a philosophy, which involved passing the ball well and often, but he was given just six months in the job before the board decided enough was enough. However, Stam appears to have mastered the perfect combination of picking up good results, as well as putting his new system into place – so doesn’t look in any immediate danger of suffering the same fate as the aforementioned Northern Irishman.

There is also a new togetherness about the squad in Berkshire this season. Last term saw Paul McShane and Danny Williams exchanging heated words and needing to be separated, but this time round there has been a noticeable change, for the better. Garath McCleary found himself sent-off for a shove, whilst standing up for Williams after a poor challenge left the midfielder in a heap. While it was a poor decision in the heat of the moment by McCleary; the silver lining is that it shows a togetherness and a spirit in this Reading side as they closed out the game and left Barnsley with their first home defeat of the season.

 

When you also consider that the Royals have recently picked up wins with late goals against Ipswich and Cardiff, you can start to appreciate that Stam’s side really do have a whole different feel about them this season. This resolve has been missing at times over the last couple of seasons and could prove to be massive factor if the Dutch manager’s men are to make a push for the play-offs this year.

It is difficult to tell whether Reading will be in contention for promotion come the end of the season, but if the squad are able to keep themselves within touching distance of the pack, then there is no reason why they couldn’t be in with a shout. While there is a long way to go, the Royals have already made big strides this season, picking up some good wins in the process.

The Berkshire outfit are still a fair distance away from a few teams in the Championship, in terms of quality, but are making themselves a tough side to play against due to their possession game and have the potential to become a real force, if they can improve the number of chances they create each game.

Jaap Stam has already stressed that returning to the Premier League is a long-term project for Reading  – there are definitely a few creases to iron out and pieces of the puzzle that need to be fixed into place, but it is coming together. At the moment though, Reading fans have a lot to be optimistic about and will be excited to see whether the good form can continue.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by cowcornerman1

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