ROY­ALS NEARLY THERE – BUT FOR A STRIKER

The Football League Paper - - ADAM VIRGO -

WHEN I was do­ing my coach­ing badges at Brighton, we watched a DVD of Barcelona v Ajax Un­der-12s.

We didn’t know the score, or any of the play­ers. We were all go­ing ‘Ah, Barcelona will ab­so­lutely play them off the park’, but Ajax wiped the floor with them.

Some of the foot­ball was fright­en­ing. You’d hon­estly have thought they were 16 or 17 and push­ing for the first team.

So, no­body should be sur­prised to see Read­ing play­ing with such style un­der Jaap Stam, who spent three years coach­ing Ajax’s youth di­vi­sion.

Stam’s im­pact on Read­ing re­minds me of when Gus Poyet came into Brighton, both in terms of their back­ground and the way they want the game to be played.

With Gus, it was the first time we’d ever had a man­ager the play­ers had watched at his peak.

You im­me­di­ately felt he was go­ing to teach you how to be a foot­baller. If you get a man­ager who comes in and says ‘Right, we’re just go­ing to f***ing launch it, lads’, you’re think­ing ‘Are you ac­tu­ally go­ing to bring any new ideas at all?’

Gus ba­si­cally said ‘OK, none of our goal-kicks go over the half­way line. We play out from the back. If you don’t do that, you aren’t in my team’.

It gal­vanised every­body and prob­a­bly raised us ten per cent. You just need to look at Read­ing’s suc­cess to see Stam has done the same.

They’re play­ing bril­liantly. The way they de­fend, pass and move. They rarely have the lion’s share of pos­ses­sion but they cre­ate chances.

This pro­mo­tion push is no flash in the pan but, if they want to main­tain it, strik­ing re­in­force­ments are es­sen­tial.

Yann Ker­mor­gant will strug­gle for dou­ble fig­ures. Garath McCleary, top scorer with seven, is a mid­fielder.

As things stand, I’d back the Roy­als to make the play-offs. A gen­uine 15-goal a sea­son man in Jan­uary would en­sure it.

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