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Stats Corner: New Managers’ First Signings (Part Two)

Including one of Steve Clarke’s Chelsea loanees and the start of Jaap Stam’s ‘Dutch Revolution’

Reading v Barnsley - Sky Bet Championship
READING, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Joey van den Berg of Reading scores his side’s second goal during the Sky Bet Championship match between Reading and Barnsley at Madejski Stadium on November 28, 2017 in Reading, England. (Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images)
Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images

With Jose Gomes’ in his first transfer window as Reading manager, this morning we looked at how the inaugural signings under Steve Coppell, Brendan Rodgers and Brian McDermott defined their each manager’s time in charge. Now it’s time for part two...

Nigel Adkins – Wayne Bridge (7th June 2014)

Hands up how many of you had completely forgotten that Wayne Bridge used to play for Reading? If you had, it’s hardly surprising considering he suffered a career ending injury just 12 appearances in. It was a shame really, but I suppose Bridge’s most enduring legacy was paving the way for Jordan Obita to be forced into converting into an unfamiliar left-back role.

Adkins’ first transfer window reads as a who’s who of Reading flops. Adding to Bridge from that window is Royston Drenthe, Chris Baird and Billy Sharp. Whilst Baird actually looked quite assured in the holding midfield role, his jumping of ship to Burnley the following January all felt a bit bizarre considering he’d been performing well for Reading at the time and had just been playing a run of games. Despite the success of Danny Williams, Adkins’ first transfer window seemed influenced by the Zingaravich hangover – free transfers for has beens on overpriced wages. They probably weren’t really his choices (with the exception of Sharp) and it showed. Adkins’ era, just like the end of McDermott’s first, was negatively impacted by our Russian owner to a greater extent than we realised at the time due to the volume of unwanted signings being pumped into the squad. It could have worked out a lot differently for Adkins at the club otherwise.

Steve Clarke – Nathaniel Chalobah (22nd January 2015)

Another manager whose first window was in January and another manager whose first signings were greatly linked with players he’d previously coach at Chelsea. Enter Nathaniel Chalobah on loan until the rest of the season, who started off with a goal on his home debut versus Sheffield Wednesday. Much like Clarke, he had an instant impact but didn’t stay long enough, sadly. If you’re interested in knowing Clarke’s first permanent transfer, it was Jure Travner – yeah I don’t know either. I just remember him as our first signing from an Azerbaijani club.

Jaap Stam – Joey van den Berg (28th June 2016)

You couldn’t get a transfer to sum up the Jaap Stam revolution more than this one. Van den Berg arrived as an unknown quality, but with a well known reputation as being a bit of a ‘hard man’ / S***house.

JVDB was just the start of the ‘Stam Revolution’, a summer of transfers which included two other Dutch players who are no longer at the club in Roy Beerens and Danzell Gravenberch (although the latter is on loan and was actually signed before Stam’s appointment). That summer’s business dealing shows the hit/miss impact of Stam’s time in charge. Liam Moore – hit. Roy Beerens and John Swift – hit in their first seasons, then misses in the second – a bit like Stam?

The sheer number of ‘ins’ that summer was testament to the fact Stam was trying to overhaul Reading’s style of play. But it also showed his inexperience as a first team manager, choosing to overload the squad with as many players as possible (Sandro Wieser anyone?) in the hope that some would pay off, but knowing full well some just wouldn’t. It’s a policy that is only now just beginning to be rectified by Jose Gomes, and a policy that probably left poor Paul Clement with his hands tied behind his back and doomed to fail – more on him next.

Paul Clement – Andy Yiadom (17th May 2018)

The promptness of Yiadom being signed by Clement was probably indicative of how little he thought of the Reading players he inherited in March 2018. Clement never really gelled with the players that were already there and they never really gelled with him. Clement’s speedy business was followed up by two more free signings in David Meyler and John O’Shea. It was also a sign that he clearly wanted some strong characters and leaders in the dressing room – something which he had bemoaned the lack of in the seven games he took charge of at the end of the previous season, where the Royals almost sleepwalked into relegation.

You could probably say that after Yiadom, who has become a comfortable fan favourite since he signed, that Clement’s subsequent transfers went downhill. The fact that at least two of his signings in Meyler and Marc McNulty have reportedly already been transfer listed by the new man in charge says it all really. The fairly underwhelming signings either for free, nominal fees or loans was probably a sign that Clement wasn’t given much leeway to open the wallet. A hangover of the overcrowding policy of the Stam era? Probably? That transfer window helped seal his fate as someone who was always doomed to fail at Reading. Partly because of events out of his control and partly due to his own shortcomings.