There is a certain kind of sigh that one emits when they have been disappointed beyond an expectation that they had already set to be rather low.
*Donald Trump tweets that clouds are secretly terrorists* Sigh... *Robbie Savage tips Leeds for promotion* Sigh... *Jaap Stam says he doesn’t care what the fans think* Sigh...
Yet it continues to be a regular occurrence in this day and age. Jaap Stam truly is proving to be the manager 2018 deserves. The post-truth manager. It’s not my fault, it’s you lot, in the stands.
In Wednesday’s press conference, here is what the Dutchman said.
“To be honest, I don’t pay any notice to the fans. Even last season when we were doing well, the fans were negative. There’s nothing new about that.
“Nobody is happy with the situation but the fans need to understand that if the players feel [more] comfortable playing outside of your own stadium than at home, then I think it’s the wrong signal that they’re giving.
“They can be negative to me, but I think you need to support your players.”
“Everybody knows how it goes if you’re not winning games then people are looking at me. I’m not the only one working here at the club but that’s how it goes. I don’t mind that. I’ve dealt with a lot of pressure in my career. I’m not really noticing it.”
There is some aspect of sanity here. ‘Be nice to the players’ is a fine line that I for one back. His resoluteness in the face of pressure, also commendable. The rest, not so much.
It is where he places the emphasis of that pressure, on the fans, where he is wrong. I’ve sat in the stands enough times this season to know that, when the team are doing well and playing entertaining football (or whatever incremental strain of entertainment we ever manage to reach), the crowd react in a wholeheartedly positive manner.
We have brushed off Nottingham Forest, Barnsley and Stevenage, for example, without any sense of discontent from the home supporters. They want Reading to succeed in any which way possible. When there is mass discontent, it tends to be of the far more justifiable nature.
Anyway, I don’t know why I’m defending the fans; Jaap won’t ever read this. So here’s why he’s wrong.
There is no doubt that a positive atmosphere will help the club out of its rut but this is clearly about style over form, hence Stam’s comments regarding last year. This is a bridge that cannot afford to be burned, as the manager will clearly never change in this regard.
So rather than target the fans for negativity and brush off their worries like they don’t matter, Stam would be far wiser to promise to the fans that he’s working on the dearth of entertainment and indicate areas of progress. He could go as far as to represent it in some form of evidence on the pitch itself.
Instead, when we need reassurance, we get bullishness.
Stam’s stubbornness has become a factor of his reign that is vivid to every fan of this football club. We can accept it, with success (in whatever form that may come), so when there is no success, there is less justification for it. It becomes arrogance.
There’s a good saying about arrogance: “Arrogance is trying to convince others you’re more than who they know you are.”
Reading fans have Stam sussed, and they will never be convinced that they are the problem. Small factions and Twitter kids aside, they will never turn on eachother and will never truly believe that one man’s failing vision supercedes the collective integrity of the fanbase. Stam would do well to learn that, and if he never does, he will never be missed when he’s gone - at which point we will still be here.