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Stam Happy For Reading FC To Be Given Underdogs Label In Championship Play-Offs

Before facing Fulham the Royals coach insisted that he does not care how others rate his side.

Reading v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Given odds as long as 5/1 in a four-horse race, few expect Reading to perform well in the play-offs this season although that hasn't phased manager Jaap Stam.

Many have tipped Fulham to succeed in the play-offs but Stam insisted that his side were concentrating on their own performance at Craven Cottage.

"I don't mind that we are [underdogs] I'm not reading the things people write about us, I'm not interested either and I focus on the team, what we can do and how we've been playing this season and how they've played against us and finding a way to make it difficult for them to get a good result to reach the final," the boss told reporters.

"It's not going to be easy, Fulham are a good side, they've been looking to reach the top six for several seasons. They've played in the Premier League and they have money to spend so it's logical they have that ambition. We have it as well and there's no pressure on us to get their straight away but now we have the chance, we want to take it.

"We've beaten them at home. In the play-offs it's about two games, not one or more so it's a different approach and a different level of stress for the managers and players."

Having been on the wrong end of a 5-0 thrashing in West London before the turn of the year, the Royals boss dismissed the importance of that result.

"No we haven't [discussed the loss], we've spoken about the 1-0 we won at home," said Stam. "As a club, as a player, as a group you want to play certain games at a certain level and here we are, so let's do it.

"If you want to get into the final, if you want to be in the Premier League then you get even better teams than Fulham so you need to match yourself with the best teams in the league.

"If you don't play them now, you might face them in the final. We want to prove ourselves against the best teams in the league and Fulham are one of those teams."

The Dutchman gave an update on the fitness state of Garath McCleary and Paul McShane, although Stephen Quinn is not expected to feature in the two legs.

"They've been training today so we need to have a look at them and the physios are deciding if they can join in on Friday again and be available for the game on Saturday," he continued.

Were Reading to fail in their bid to gain promotion, the manager was somewhat evasive in giving total commitment to the club for next season.

"I don't know, I've still got a contract for another season and there's nothing going on so if it's up to me for another season I'm still here," said Stam.

"I'm enjoying my team over here and we're working towards something. If not this season, then maybe next season but depending as well on what we can do and what the owners can do.

"I don't really want to think about it because it's not there, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Furthermore, Stam was clear that a third placed finish makes the season a success regardless of how the next couple of weeks pan out.

"Everybody needs to be very happy with where we've ended up [already]," he maintained. "Ending up third in the league is a great achievement from the players, although if you have the opportunity you want to take it.

"Everybody's given their everything and if we don't make it then it's not a shame because we've done very well. We've made a lot of progress and we need to take this experience into next season to hopefully do even better which is not going to be easy."

Much debate has rung around the Madejski Stadium about whether Reading are a lucky team and the former defender admitted that certain things have gone their way recently.

"Sometimes you need to have a bit of luck, sometimes this season we have had our fair share of luck, but as we always say if you work hard then you can get that bit of luck," he noted.

Stam also noted that there is no update on Danny Williams' contract talks with Brian Tevreden and that he's worried about players departing in the summer.

"If we don't make it and even if we do, then what can we do?" he pondered. "Can we invest? Do we need to make changes to the squad? Sometimes you want to make improvements to the squad but how many? Is it a possibility? If not, is it easy to stay in the Premier League?"

"If we stay in the Championship, what then? Do we keep the same squad and expect the same results? Are certain players going to be sold because they've done well? If you need to bring in players, do you have the chance to bring in players of the same level or even better? And if you can't, then it's about whether you make a couple of steps back or forward.

"It's going to be very difficult next season for the top 10, money-wise, for those without money."

Reading can seal promotion to the top-flight in three game's time, first facing Fulham at 17:30 this Saturday before a semi-final second leg on Tuesday for a place at Wembley.