It's one of the most interesting aspects of football: transfers. Seemingly during every part of the year, in any scenario that the club is going through, fans want to know which players will be joining the club in the near future. And, having been appointed as Reading manager a few days ago, Jaap Stam has already brought the topic up with the press.
As a student of the Ajax school of football, it had been generally assumed that Stam might look to his former employers for new recruits. However, he poured cold water on that idea.
"Just because I've been working at Ajax, it doesn't mean I will be buying players from Ajax."
Interestingly, the reason he gave for that relates to the type of players that Stam is now targeting. Rather than trying to lead some kind of Dutch totaalvoetbal revolution in Berkshire, the ex-Manchester United defender apparently would prefer to follow a much more traditionally English approach...
"I think you have to look at what's possible to get in the UK as well, looking at physical players who you need in this competition. Those sort of players are in the UK already."
However, he doesn't completely rule out raiding Ajax...
"Of course if we are looking at technically skilled players we could go back to Ajax and ask them for a couple. But if you look at the mentality and the physical nature of playing here then I don't think we need to be looking in Amsterdam at the moment."
For me, Stam's mentality appears to be reassuringly pragmatic. If he does want to adapt how Reading play, he's not going to try to do it overnight, especially considering that he doesn't have the cash to completely rejuvenate the squad in a single transfer window.
Plus, these comments run contrary to what I'd previously assumed: that Reading's recruitment would be largely from its foreign scouting network. I.e, rather than paying bigger money for domestic talent, the Royals would look to replicate the signings of the likes of Deniss Rakels and Paolo Hurtado - cheap gambles.
Putting all of that together, I'd imagine that the transfer strategy this summer will have several elements that we Reading fans already recognise. Apart from the odd signing from the continent (Danzell Gravenberch having already arrived), the Royals will still look for players in the English and Scottish leagues. However, I'd imagine that they'd be in the mould of Adam Le Fondre: cheap, hungry players from lower divisions who want to make their name at a higher level.
A measured approach to transfers
Apart from the above comments on where Reading's transfers are likely to come from this summer, Jaap Stam also provided some more general thoughts on incoming players.
"Of course I've spoken to the club and the owners about what we can do for next season. Everybody wants to improve as a team. Now I've signed we will be looking at what we need to do.
As a manager you want to create something in the team for yourself because you have your own style of playing. You have your own system which means you need certain players."
So far, so far generic - but I found this bit to be more interesting...
"That doesn't mean that I'll be buying five or six new straight away, you have to look at the team first to see what quality you have.
If it's not there then of course I need to go into talks with the club and owners about buying some new players."
A couple of things stand out for me there. First and foremost, Stam doesn't seem to be ruling out using existing players, rather than bringing in new signings. His default thinking at the moment appears to be: give the current crop a fair crack of the whip. If they're not up to scratch, replace them.
Secondly, "[he won't be] buying five or six new straight away." So, basically, don't feel disappointed if Reading get to the end of July without having added to the squad that much. Stam needs time with the squad before he has a good idea of how he'd like to improve it.
This links well to last season, when Reading left it pretty late before making several big signings. Despite having pretty mixed fortunes in Berkshire, Ola John, Lucas Piazon and Matej Vydra only arrived in the final few days of August.
Finally, I interpret these comments as showing that Stam seems confident of being able to get funds for transfers if he wants them. Naturally, the fact that he would have to 'go into talks with the club and owners' shows that money isn't necessarily on the table right now. Nonetheless, it could very well be... at some point.
Considering how ridiculously long it seemingly takes Reading's owners to make any kind of decision (parallels with the Entmoot in Lord of the Rings spring to mind, for any of you who get the reference), I wish Stam the very best of luck with trying to ask them for funds this summer.