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USA international Andrija Novakovich deserves a call-back to Reading

The 21-year-old has been in fine scoring form over in Holland.

Max Cohen



Photo: Getty Images

Reading supporters will be forgiven for blank stares when one mentions the name Andrija Novakovich to them. After all, the young American striker has only made two appearances for the Royals.

Nonetheless, Novakovich was rewarded with his first appearance for the United States National Team on Tuesday night, due to his prolific form on-loan in Holland.

The 21-year-old striker deserves a call-back to the Reading first team at the end of the season, as he could provide an answer to their scoring woes.

Novakovich was signed in June 2014, as an 18-year-old US under 20 international, but struggled to find opportunities in Berkshire.

An unsuccessful loan spell to Cheltenham Town followed in 2015/16, until the striker finally found joy at Dutch second-division side Telstar.

The American has netted an incredible 18 goals in 29 appearances this season for Telstar, a remarkable goal tally for a player of his age.

Novakovich stands at an intimidating 6 feet 4 four inches, yet has a deft finishing touch and intelligent skills; a skill set that makes the forward a handful for oppositions defences.

After spells in the Reading academy set-up, next season may finally prove the perfect time for Novakovich to break through into the Royals’ first XI.

The Royals are currently mired in 20th in the Championship, sport the division’s ninth worst scoring record, and recently parted ways with manager Jaap Staam.

This summer will surely lead to a clearing out of the squad, providing opportunities for young talents like Novakovich to emerge.

After his fruitful spell in Holland, the striker should be ready to make the transition to the Football League, and present Reading with a much-needed attacking boost.

Max is a journalist studying at the University of Pennsylvania. Max specialises in English football and co-hosts a weekly podcast. He is also a politics reporter and deputy news editor for The Daily Pennsylvanian.


Reading should target ambitious Fernando Llorente and Paul Clement reunion

The Spanish striker worked with the Reading manager at Swansea City.

Mathew Nash



It is looking fairly likely that Fernando Llorente will be on his way out of Tottenham Hotspur this summer. The Spaniard, who joined from Swansea City in the summer, has not lived up to the billing of being Harry Kane’s back-up option and it seems he could be on his way.

Llorente has settled nicely into life in the UK however, after a brilliant two-season stint at Swansea City preceding his disappointing Tottenham spell.

One team that should make an ambitious move to keep Llorente in the area is Championship side Reading.

(Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

The Royals were in the Championship play-off final last season under the guidance of Jaap Stam. However, this season has been a struggle. It cost Stam his job and the new manager is Paul Clement. The 46-year-old has won two and drawn one of his five games in charge so far, which has helped them stay clear of the drop-zone so far.

If Reading do stay up, they must address their main problem area, which is scoring goals. The Berkshire club did not do enough to replace the injured Yann Kermogant, who scored 19 goals last season and they have been made to pay.

Llorente, who has 24 caps for the Spanish national team, would certainly bring them that.

But how could Reading lure a former Spain star to the Madejski Stadium?

Firstly, he would not have to up roots considering the location being so close to London.

Then there is the main reason Reading would be an ideal place for him … the manager.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Clement was the man who got the best out Llorente when the manager at Swansea City. Under his guidance, Llorente scored nine goals in 17 games and helped Swansea survive the drop. It included a run of four goals in his final five games for the club.

Reading would love to have Llorente and, at 33-years-old and out of form, Spurs would struggle to fetch a big fee for the player.

The best move for them would be to send him out on loan, which would suit Reading. If they could negotiate some sort of wage-share then Llorente suddenly enters their price range.

It is a long shot, but if Reading stay up something drastic needs to change if they are to get back to promotion hunting. Bringing in Clement’s former star striker would be a start.

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Jaap Stam dismissal could be too little too late for Reading

Jaap Stam was dismissed by the Royals earlier this week.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

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.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

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.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

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.

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What’s in store for Reading in the Championship run-in?

Calum Pettitt



Photo: Reuters

After a brief period of optimism following Reading’s victory over Burton Albion last month, the Royals have slumped back into poor form and have failed to gain a single point since their visit to the Pirelli Stadium.

As a result, the negativity and frustration among the Reading fanbase has not subsided.

Back-to-back defeats, including yet another home defeat under Jaap Stam, who only a season ago had turned the Madejski Stadium into a fortress, have only served to increase the hostile atmosphere around the club.

The grievance was clear on both sides after the Millwall defeat. The Dutchman remarked that he doesn’t pay any notice to the fans and that even during the success of last season, negativity ruled over positivity.

The former Manchester United man’s comments were partly truthful and, while they don’t go as far as blaming the fans entirely, the actions of certain members of the Reading faithful have not been helping the on-pitch situation.

Indeed, there were sections of the support that were not best pleased with the possession driven style that Stam implemented. However, painting the fans in even a slightly negative light is not going to end well.

Despite the fact it is felt by many that booing and jeering your own team is the worst possible way to show your displeasure, the form currently on display is always going to encourage a negative presence from the stands, and it is up to the management and playing staff to figure out how to stop the unfavourable behaviours.

Too often this season Reading have looked slow, lifeless and disorganised.

New signings have flopped and even with record transfer investments, no overwhelming impact has been made on the field.

The Madejski currently has the scent of tactical staleness and a manager reluctant to stray too far from his template, leading to a stagnated club that seems willing to repeat the same mistakes time and time again.

However, there is hope, Reading have not conceded more than two goals in a single Championship game this season, indicating, at least on paper, that the club may not be too far from turning things around.

Due to the ongoing participation of Sheffield United in the FA Cup, ten days will have passed since the previous Royals match when Tuesday comes.

This provides opportune time for the slate to be wiped clean and a trip to Spain for five days of intense training in a bid to turn around their woeful form, with a third of the season remaining.

Tuesday night offered an opportunity for Reading to showcase their new and refreshed mindset as they travelled to fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest, where they picked up a 1-1 draw.

A win could have given new life to Jaap Stam’s men before the visit of high-flying Derby County on the weekend, but it was not to be.

While it seems somewhat inevitable that Matej Vydra, the Championship’s top scorer – who thoroughly underwhelmed during his time in Berkshire – will find the net, it would be a pleasant surprise if the Royals could buck the trend of home defeats and collect their first win on a Saturday at the Madejski Stadium this season.

The traditional benchmark for Championship survival is 50 points and Reading currently sit on 33 points with 14 games to go.

If that points total is to be taken as gospel, the Royals are just six wins away from ensuring their Championship status for another season.

However, when you have only won a single game in the previous 12, those 18 crucial points seem like a huge hurdle.

The hope for Jaap Stam will be that the time spent in Spain will enable the squad to bond and refresh their minds before, what is surely going to be, a busy end to the season.

The relationship between the supporters and the players is at a significantly low point.

It is more important now, than ever, that the management, playing staff and most crucially the fans, remember that everyone is fighting for the same thing – Championship survival and the continued success of Reading Football Club.

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