Put simply, Jaap Stam is outperforming the majority of expectations held by Royals fans coming into the season. With the owners seemingly pushing the reset button at the start of this campaign, Stam has come in, brought in a swathe of new players... and Reading sit eighth in the Championship table after 11 games. Of course it's too early to say what the final position will be, but after the dismal, controversial end to the Steve Clarke era and the equally divisive, ultimately doomed appointment of Brian McDermott, the Royals seem to finally be heading in the right direction, and a large majority of the Royals fanbase are on board.
An eight match unbeaten run in the League and Cup showed that this team has the mettle to survive in the second tier, and more - especially winning despite being down to ten men in a 2-1 Championship win at Barnsley and in the EFL Cup against Brighton. Whilst the new slow build is taking time to fully ingratiate itself with some Royals fans, it's a style which has garnered positive results to this point. With more time to develop the system, there's no reason Stam can't push on and continue exceeding expectations come the new year and the end of the season.
With such a sea change of personnel, many wondered just what Stam could achieve in his first full season in management. Well he's shown (along with his scouting team of course) that he has a serious eye for talent, according to our Player of the Month polls. John Swift is already a cult hero of sorts with his impressive contributions in the final third of the pitch, whilst Liam Moore has come in and strengthened the heart of the defence despite not playing senior football since January. Add in another cult figure in Joey van den Berg, and the pace and trickery of Roy Beerens, and you've got the makings of a side which has shown it can hold its own in the Championship - and more.
Whilst Reading do sit eighth in the Championship table, there's one glaring problem... goals. The Royals currently hold a goal difference of -3 after 11 matches, and have found the net just 12 times in the league. Add in that four of those strikes came from the penalty spot (plus Garath McCleary netting from a saved spotkick against Barnsley), and you can see that there's a real struggle to score from open play. It's also worth noting that Reading haven't yet won a league game by more than one goal, but all three defeats have been by at least two.
Stam is, of course, a rookie manager entering his first real job at the helm of a football club. He can be forgiven for a few errors, but the Dutchman seems to still be learning the art of tactical substitutions. Against ten-man Huddersfield,two switches before the hour mark seemed to shift momentum towards the Terriers, and the Royals were on the back foot for the rest of the match, admittedly against the table toppers. It was the opposite story in the last two games against Brentford and Derby, as new strikers only entered the pitch after the 80th minute despite Reading being behind in both matches. One to watch, and I'm sure it'll improve as the Dutchman continues to earn his stripes.
And then there's the question of how much luck has played a part in Stam's good start as Reading manager. Three last minute goals against Ipswich, Cardiff and Derby have salvaged five points, whilst wins against Barnsley and Huddersfield could certainly have gone the other way on another day. It's a credit to Stam and the team that they've continued to fight until the very end of matches, but will we start to see results get away from us, if the luck starts to swing the other way?
So how do you feel about Stam's first month in the Championship? Let us know below - 5 is highest, 1 is lowest. And leave any thoughts about how you're feeling under Jaap, expectations for the season etc.