It was one of the best transfer deadline days The Royals have had — in terms of names and quality — and was the cherry on top of the cake that was a seemingly brilliant January.
Ilori, Popa, Oxf*rd, Mutch and Grabban coming in offer Stam even more quality throughout the team and an even bigger headache in terms of selecting a starting XI for the promotion push Reading find themselves in.
So, I thought I'd step into big Jaap's shoes for a moment and come up with my ideal Starting XI, providing everyone is match fit.
Trigger warning: some of these might annoy you.
I don't think it's any coincidence that some of Reading's best performances this season have come when Stam puts out a back three. It gives the attackers more freedom to roam and take risks, while offering enough protection at the back to not be caught out every time there's a counter attack. Also, the defence is the area of the pitch where The Royals have the most quality.
Ali Al Habsi
I mean, there was never going to be anyone else mentioned here, was there? Al Flapsi still has the occasional blunder in him, but he's got the number one shirt for good reason and none of Jaakkola, Bond or Moore will be displacing him any time soon.
Paul McShane (C)
Our captain, our leader, our passionate defender. What McShane lacks in guile and soft touches, he makes up for with aggression, a never-say-die attitude and some quality social media banter to boot.
I made such an impact in that 30seconds that Fulham got the game called off. Clever.— Paul McShane (@pmacca15) December 30, 2016
He's had a bit of a wobbly January, but as they say: form is temporary, class is permanent. And boy, is Moore class. Pacy, strong, and good on the ball, Moore's going to be one of the first names on the team sheet every week in the closing stages of the season.
We haven't seen much of the former Liverpool defender after he injured himself during the game against Fulham, but we know he's fast and has quality on the ball that Stam likes. I reckon he'll be our Alderweireld — a defender that can instigate attacks with his quality from the back.
Woah, woah, woah, put the pitchforks down. Hear me out.
I know he's our top scorer. I know he's a threat to the opposition goal. I know he's one of our players of the season. But I also know he's got the workrate to get up and down that touchline and still provide the side with everything we know he's got. Besides, with the quality of Moore behind him and one of the midfielders protecting him, he'll have plenty of opportunity to get forward.
There wasn't much other choice for this role once I'd decided to go for the five back. Blackett doesn't have the attacking quality the role requires, while the likes of Beerens and Popa probably don't have the defensive attributes needed. And I wasn't going to shift Gunter over to the wrong side of the pitch. So, here's Obita with the licence to get forward and make use of his decent crossing ability.
There are so many options in midfield at the moment, this was a tough one; but I like George Evans. I don't particularly like Danny Williams or Joey van den Berg, haven't seen Weiser play, don't know much about Oxf*rd, and this is my article, so there.
Evans provides the side with some balance, sitting back and breaking up play but also having enough about him to move the ball upfield and dictate play when the more attacking midfielders are out of space.
This young man broke into the first team in the autumn and hasn't looked back. Tenacious, intelligent and technically brilliant, you can't keep Kelly out of the side at the moment. And his ability on set pieces is always an added bonus.
I don't need to say much here. It's John Swift. Of course he features.
The big man came in for some stick at the start of the season, but fans quickly realised how important he was to the side during his period out injured. He wins aerial balls the majority of the time, puts in a fabulous shift defensively, and ruffles the feathers of opposition defenders every game.
You can't sign Grabban on loan and not reunite him with Kermorgant. That former Bournemouth strikeforce was brilliant and I expect they'll quickly pick up where they left off for the Royals. Grabban will provide the pace and finishing ability to complement Kermorgant's strength and aerial prowess, meaning we could see the season close with The Royals improving on their goal difference considerably.
The Starting XI
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So, what do you think? Have I got it right or am I the epitome of n00b? Let me know in the comments below.