It’s a Rebuilding Year - Reading Pre-Season Report
Tuesday, 2nd Aug 2016 16:00 by HarryFromBath
In the 18th of a series of pre-season reports, HarryfromBath assesses the Royals’ mood after their pre-season with new boss Jaap Stam by delving into their forums. Reports on QPR, Fulham and Brentford will be on the site tomorrow with the rest of the teams in the division covered between now and the start of the season.
“Once burned, twice shy”, “I’m reserving judgement. I can remember being excited last year. I would be happy with good football, young players coming through and a mid-table finish”, “Anything above last season’s depressing end will be good. I’m getting good vibrations”, “Top half will be progress.”
“There is no doubt that it’s going to be a very difficult next season, whoever is in charge.” The Royals endured a dismal run-in last season which saw them take just one point from their last seven games. It left them finally languishing in 17th place and led to the dismissal of manager Brian McDermott.
“If last season has taught me anything, it’s not to build too much hope and expectation based on signings with apparent reputations”, “We haven’t signed mercenary loanees that don’t care, but young hungry players signed on three-year contracts who will be hungry to prove their worth.”
“Stam seems to have a style he wants to play. He has identified players who can fit into that system and, in some cases, has been able to convince them to come to Reading”, “He seems to be signing physical players with technical skills. I think that we will be a massive hit this season.”
“He seems to want to play a viable and entertaining system.” The 43-year-old former Lazio defender was confirmed in his first managerial appointment in mid-June. His lack of experience has unnerved some fans, but others have been impressed with signs of his clear philosophy of playing the game.
“All hail our newest bald overlord”, “Stam could build a better, stronger and more aggressive style of play than we have been used to recently. It would be like watching Reading of 10 years ago, but on steroids”, “It looks like he will make us a more physical side, something that has been lacking.”
Building to a Plan
“Stam is starting from a position of having no settled team so there are bound to be ups and downs. It will take time to bed the new signings in and for him to get his ideas around the pitch.” Royals agree that carrying six regular first XI loanees last season has left the legacy of an unbalanced squad.
“Working out Reading’s best starting XI seems like the hardest job in the world”, “We have about 15 realistic midfield choices, one proven centre-back and no strikers who have scored more than a few goals for us. We could quite easily make a team up entirely out of midfielders and goalkeepers.”
Seven players have been signed permanently. Finnish goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola, 29, has arrived from Ajax Cape Town, 22-year-old Dutch defender Danzell Gravenberch from Dordrecht, 21-year-old John Swift, a midfielder from Chelsea, and winger Roy Beerens, 28, from Hertha Berlin.
Midfielder or defender and one-time Town trialist Joey van den Berg, 30, has been signed from Dutch side Heerenveen and two strikers have also arrived at the Madejski this summer from French football, 25-year-old Joseph Mendes from Le Havre and Yacou Meite, a 20-year-old signed this week from Paris St-Germain.
The most recent arrival has generated the most excitement. “Meite is very promising, especially if we have beaten Premier League teams to get him”, “It looks like he has the potential to become a great signing, a young, hungry kid who could quite easily have taken the money at PSG.”
An Exodus of Loanees
“The team was littered with loanees last year. We are left with a very capable squad without them.” Defenders Michael Hector (Chelsea), Andrew Taylor (Wigan), midfielders Alex Fernandez (Espanyol), Ola John (Benfica), Lucas Piazon (Chelsea) and striker Matej Vydra (Watford) have left the Madejski.
Three departing Royals who were on permanent contracts have found new clubs, strikers Simon Cox (Southend), Rowan Liburd (Stevenage) and midfielder Aaron Tshibola (Aston Villa). Two players are also free agents at the time of writing, defender Anton Ferdinand and striker Hal Robson-Kanu.
“Hal Robson-Kanu is leading the chase for his own signature”, “I’m glad we are no longer responsible for his wages because he was never value for money”, “My overriding memory of him is an away game at Bradford where he spent ponced about for 70 minutes trying his best to avoid the ball.”
“It looks like some proper thought is going on for a change. A shape is coming together and you feel the new players could have something to offer”, “We still don’t have a proven striker at this level to score goals, although there do seem to be more goals elsewhere throughout the side.”
Al HabsiGunterMcShaneVan Den BergObitaWilliamsNorwoodEvansBeerensRakelsSwift
“Stam favours the 4-3-3 formation”, “We played out from the back tonight, but if the keeper can’t bypass the back four we’ll get caught out time and again.” The starting XI (above) for the 1-1 draw at home to Bournemouth gave fans an idea as to their side for the season opener at home to Preston.
They had mixed thoughts on the new arrivals. “Swift showed good awareness but not everything came off for him”, “I liked the looks of Beerens, not blessed with pace but he can beat a player with a trick or a drop of the shoulder”, “Van den Berg is a one-man fouling machine and not a defender.”
Al HabsiWatsonMcShaneCooperObitaWilliamsVan Den BergNorwoodFosuMendezSwift
The starting XI (above) for the earlier 2-0 friendly defeat to Wimbledon included some players who did not feature against the Cherries. Most Royals would like to see Jake Cooper partner Paul McShane at the heart of defence.
Prospects for the Season
“Top half will be progress”, “Things have changed so much at the club since the end of last season that it’s hard to tell how we will fare. Stam’s inexperience at managing will mean we miss out on promotion. We should have enough quality to avoid relegation but it could all go horribly wrong.”
One poll has 49 per cent of Royals forecasting a top-half finish, but outside of the play-off places. This would represent progress for many fans. “Newcastle have bought the league already and Aston Villa I suspect will be right behind them. The play-offs are achievable but it’s going to be tough.”
“I think that Stam will start slowly but get a mid-table finish.” One often repeated plea is for the new manager to be given time. “This is a relatively new team and they both need and deserve time to gel”, “It’s going to take time to find a balance. Not all of the new signings are going to work.”
A stress-free campaign will happily suffice for some. “I think we will have a decent season this time around”, “Just knowing there is a plan has made me cautiously optimistic”, “I don’t give a monkey’s about promotion. I just want to win plenty of home games and be entertained in the process.”
The busiest Royal’ forum is the friendly and informative Hob Nob Anyone?.
Photo: Action Images
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