Reading were one penalty shootout away from the Premier League at the end of last season and it was hoped that they would go one step better to clinch promotion during this campaign.
However, it has been a disastrous season for the Royals and they currently find themselves three points above the relegation zone with eight matches to go.
Jaap Stam had retained faith from the board for his overachievement during his first year as manager, but with their position looking more and more precarious, it became untenable.
The club announced his dismissal on Wednesday in an online statement that featured the following:
“Jaap has not wavered in the time, effort and sheer determination he has put in to try to steer the team away from the position we find ourselves in. However, after careful consideration, the decision has been made that a change is now necessary.”
The Dutchman can’t complain that he wasn’t given a fair chance.
There are only eight matches remaining in the season and it has become obvious that he was no longer the right man for the job.
It was inconceivable at the start of the campaign that Reading would be battling relegation. They were a team with promotion ambitions, but 2018 has been terrible for them.
The Royals have won only one Championship match during this calendar year.
A number of draws have kept the club stuttering along, but now they are only three points above the bottom three, a decision had to be made.
Stam will look back at his time with Reading as a positive one.
He managed to surprise a lot of pundits by taking them to third position in his first season and was unlucky not to be promoted, but there are a lot of people still scratching their head at how the Royals managed to finish as high as they did.
The likes of Fulham, Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday were all seen as better teams, but something clicked for Reading and it is difficult to explain what.
Mark Taylor made an observation on Twitter using expected goals. Stam’s team massively overachieved based on that metric, which projected them as finishing 19th.
This season, the model projects them in 17th. In short, this decline in league position was predictable.
Although there are problems with expected goals, it does provide a good explanation for Reading’s decline this season.
Their results have simply returned to the mean and they are now getting the points to match their performance level.
It isn’t that they have got worse under Stam’s management, but rather that last season was the outlier.
If Reading, as a club, want to be competing for promotion, Stam wasn’t the right manager to deliver that. The underlying numbers throughout his tenure highlight that.
His side scored 112 goals and conceded 121 in the Championship during the Dutchman’s time as manager.
That isn’t a record that suggests he is good enough to lead the club back to the Premier League.
The time for dissecting Stam’s tenure and his failures isn’t now. Reading must concentrate on making the right appointment to secure their place in the Championship.
It would be a huge blow if they were to fall to the third tier for the first time since the 2001/2 season.
With only eight matches left, there is little room for error for any incoming manager. The club must hope that this decision wasn’t too little too late.