Reading Football Club lie 20th in the Championship table with a quarter of the season gone, with Stam’s side winning just three games.
Part of the problem for The Royals is that they just don’t have a reliable goalscorer. Yann Kermorgant has been out injured for ages. New signing Jon Dadi Bodvarsson has never been a goalscorer, he’s more of a foil for a more prolific partner. Sone Aluko, Garath McCleary, Pelle Clement, and any other play that’s been tried in the striking positions this season just aren’t actual strikers.
Which begs the question: why is Sam Smith stuck on the bench with splinters in his butt?
He’s clearly the academy product closest to being ready for the first team, pipping Danny Loader, who’s away and impressing at the U17 World Cup.
And Reading are clearly in need of a striker to be on the pitch. The perfect example of this was against Sheffield United. Reading were in desperate need of a goal to try and cut the deficit, but Stam didn’t look to the only striker he had available to change the game.
He’s played three games for the U21s in the Premier League 2, and scored 4 goals. He’s featured twice for The Royals in the EFL Cup, and scored against Millwall. In general, whenever the fans have seen him play, he’s looked lively and fairly threatening.
So, what’s going on?
Some will argue that Stam doesn’t want to put Smith under pressure by having the fans expect him to score the goals that ensure Reading survive - yes, it’s getting into that territory.
Some might argue that Stam sees Aluko as a striker and therefore doesn’t see the need to bring on Smith.
Plenty might suggest Stam simply doesn’t trust the youngster.
If the latter is the case, I have to have a little moan. Why put the youngster on the bench if you never intend to play him? Why fill him with confidence and excitement at being able to represent the senior side, if you refuse to entertain the idea that this kid might just be the player that scores the goal that nabs the team a point?
If it’s not the case, and Stam does trust him, why not play him? Let’s be honest, things can hardly get any worse. The team is uninspiring, fans are fed up, and there’s been little to no sign of progress or evolution since this time last year.
I can’t understand why, with no true strikers on the pitch and no goal threat, you wouldn’t put a player on the pitch who actually can score goals. Not only do you put some form of finisher on the pitch, but you also excite the fans: one of their own, breaking into the first team, excited at the prospect of a diamond emerging.
Surely it’s worth the punt? Take out those splinters, let us see what he can do.