They say the proof is in the pudding. But what if the pudding has already gone off?
I can’t believe that whomever is making decisions at our football club has taken such a long time to finally come to the conclusion that the best move possible was to relieve Jaap Stam of his duties. This is a decision which you could argue could and should have been made a lot earlier in a disastrous season.
Thinking back to the end of September, we were absolutely abysmal against Norwich City and I remember thinking at the time that Stam had three games to save his job. This match was the fifth league game in which we hadn’t won - throw in a dank defeat to Swansea City in the League Cup midway through that run too - but the international break came at the right time, and a rejuvenated Reading plucked a 1-0 win away at Leeds United out of the bag.
Fast forward a few weeks, we had a decent spell which started with beating Nottingham Forest and Derby County, going down bravely to a Wolves side we’d have beaten on another day and then two draws and two wins later, we were in the lofty heights of 14th after winning 3-1 at Sunderland.
The next game, home to Cardiff City and totally cruising, is where the pudding started to go off. That first half performance was electric and it’s no exaggeration to say we should’ve been 4-0 up at HT.
However, Stam’s naivety and this squad’s mental fragility came to the surface. Cardiff nabbed us back to 2-1 and then, instead of seeing the game out and perhaps bringing on a defensive player, Stam swaps Sone Aluko for Adrian Popa… quelle surprise, Cardiff equalise late into injury time.
From there, it has been a complete and utter shambles of a run we’ve been on. We’ve seen two wingers leave, a replacement centre back be signed and go off injured fewer than 30 mins into his debut, a 17 year-old old centre back get his debut from nowhere & that’s before we even mention any of Stam’s dreadful man management of the likes of Tiago Ilori, Vito Mannone and Tyler Blackett.
I am so pleased that Stam has finally left, but my fear is that the damage runs too deep. We now have a squad even more unbalanced than the one Nigel Adkins left us, which is depleted of adequate cover and competition in key positions like left back and striker.
There is so much to be concerned about at our football club right now, but here’s the top three:
The mental state of the players
Hot off the heels of a disappointing end to last season, being mixed up by Stam’s muddling and the poor man management/tactical instructions, must surely be taking their toll.
We need a new manager, with new ideas, who can make the players feel loved again and get them motivated and singing from the same hymn sheet.
The academy has treated us well over the years and Stam reluctantly gave youngsters a chance as part of playing mind games with the owners, rather than having their best intentions at heart.
We’ve sold Dominic Samuel and Rob Dickie, who would be an improvement on our current options, for instance.
Perhaps most worrying of all is the lengths of the contracts these gutless players have been given. Aluko, Leandro Bacuna and Modou Barrow are all signed ’til 2021. Mannone, Ilori, Garath McCleary and Pelle Clement are all signed ‘til 2020.
These players need to very quickly fall into line with the new manager, or be shipped out of the club as they are the core of the playing squad who have vastly underachieved.
In summary, we are still in crisis. Stam simply had to go but the chefs have left this one too late - the pudding has already gone off and we now need to do something pretty special to avoid relegation.
I’m not so shoux if we’ll do it, but we’ve got eight huge games ahead of us and hopefully Stam’s sacking will mean the return of a lot of season ticket holders who’ve been absent from the ground for months, vowing never to return whilst Stam stays.
Now you’ve read this, crack on with the rest of our Stam-related content: