ROYALS NEARLY THERE – BUT FOR A STRIKER
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.