Yesterday, Matthew Lees argued that the stats show Reading would be foolish to sack Jaap Stam and replace him mid-season. Today, Ashley Pearce makes the counter-argument - that replacing the manager is the right way forward for the club.
I read the Tilehurst End article on backing Jaap Stam and agreed with lots of it. Clubs should stick with managers longer and sacking Stam now will probably not lead to a surge to the play-offs this season. But this doesn't mean it's not the right time for him to go. If he's not the right fit now, he's not going to turn into the right fit in the next year. I'd rather get a manager in with a long-term idea and plan that fits the club and who wants to be here.
I also understand that this is far from all being Stam's fault. The club has been rudderless and purposeless since Anton Zingarevich was in charge. Since then it seems to me we've had no style, plan or hierarchy in place. Different owners, managers and directors have made it a very difficult job for any manager. Nigel Howe appears to be the only link left to the old "Reading way", but when Nicky Hammond left as Director of Football it was obvious this “Reading way” was dead.
But that's why I do want Stam out. He has no understanding or desire to fit to that Reading ethos. I'm in my mid-30s so I do get that as a Reading fan I've been spoilt. Mark McGee, Alan Pardew, Steve Coppell and Brian McDermott all to some degree bought into this Reading way as did Sir John Madejski. To me it's a playing style (quick, pacey, wingers, exciting), a transfer style (lower league, need another chance, young, hungry) and an underlying non-arrogant style off the pitch - not tapping players up, not criticising the fans, and being kind of pleasant. Little Reading it may be and I may have rose tinted glasses on but it's the club I love.
Brendan Rodgers and Nigel Adkins in particular did not get this, and to me Stam is just the next in line of these. Firstly, the playing style. It is so mind-numbingly tedious that fans are staying away. The obsession with holding the ball (but doing nothing with it) is outdated at a time where nearly every team in the world tries to play some form of counter-attacking or pressing game. I recall Adkins saying after we lost 6-1 at Birmingham that the possession stats were in our favour!
The current side doesn't take risks, doesn't excite and lacks passion. How are the fans meant to get excited when there is literally nothing all game to get us off our seats? The lack of spirit is clearly demonstrated by our record under Stam when we go behind. If we concede first we don't get any points from the game about 75% of the time. Concede first and we all may as well leave. No stirring comebacks, no excitement.
And then there are the transfers. As I've said before, the club has a system and Brian Tevreden as Director of Football so it's not all on Stam, but he must take some degree of culpability. We now buy players for a lot of money (in Reading terms) with long deals and no resale potential (Aluko, Edwards, Mannone), we have extended contracts for more money and for long periods of players with unsure futures (Obita with injury, VDB with age), and youth now gets sporadic chances (Richards in then out, Cooper sold, Barrett put back).
There are players like Adrian Popa and Tyler Blackett - it was Stam that got them in for a fee or high wages, and a year later has decided they are not for him. Reading simply can't afford this as a club. When we did it with a Brett Williams or Aaron Brown and it didn't work out it cost very little, but these wages we’re paying now will drain the club.
However, I think the biggest reason I want Stam out is because I don't think he wants to be here. When things were going well last season (well but still dull) he would flash his eye lashes at any club linked to him (‘every manager would love to manage in the Premier League’ - or ‘yes please Southampton I'd love to manage you’). On the other hand, when things are going badly he says "well do you think the club can do any better?" - as he did when he was asked about his job earlier this season.
And Jaap certainly doesn't like booing. I have to admit I’m not a fan of it myself, but if the football’s as poor as it has been this season then people are allowed to do so. Stam skulks off down the tunnel at away games when we lose without acknowledging the fans but is happy to milk it when we win. It can't be both ways.
The final straw was after the Burton game (not the dullness) but what he said:
"It can always happen that fans are booing. Now that the stadium is finally a sell-out, there's even more fans to boo.”
Arrogant, petulant and critical of those that pay his wages. Contrast this to what Brian McDermott said after a 4-3 win at Charlton in his second spell:
"I was amazed how many fans we had here today - that's why we play.
"We play for them - I didn't want to lose that game or draw it - I wanted to win it for those people behind that goal today. That's for them.”
I cannot imagine Stam ever saying anything of the sort, I'd like a manager in that maybe gets that a little more.