Tag Archives: Jaap Stam

Reading FC Expose Leeds’ Loss of Mojo & Jansson’s Missing Magic Hat – by Rob Atkinson

 

Rhinos

Super League Champions Leeds Rhinos on their Elland Road lap of honour

Without wishing to seem wise after the event (I like to think that my wisdom is pretty much a permanent fixture) I just knew that Leeds United’s last-gasp penalty would not go in. There would be no salvaging of a late point for the home side at Elland Road; Reading FC would depart with the three points yesterday’s script demanded. And so it came to pass as I looked on with a jaundiced eye. I just bloody knew it.

It was not a good Saturday. Leeds were sluggish and out of sorts, the referee was fussily horrible – at one point he allowed Reading to take a free kick for offside ten yards inside the Leeds half – and there was a general feeling of malaise. To say this was a bad day at the office for Leeds seems hopelessly inadequate – David Brent himself had a better day, that time he was sacked by Wernham Hogg. The only bright spot (and not even this applied to everybody in the 33,900 attendance) was the sight of the victorious Leeds Rhinos players parading the Super League champions trophy around the pitch at half time. It was good to see United saluting the achievements of another Leeds sporting institution.

It seemed to many of the Leeds persuasion, and to some impartial observers too, that Pablo Hernandez had been fouled in the build-up to Reading’s winning goal, scored with poetic injustice by last season’s United loanee failure Modou Barrow. Post-match opinions were polarised: Reading manager Jaap Stam felt it hadn’t been a foul (and also that there was no foul for the Leeds penalty); Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen disagreed, but noted that “foreign coaches should not complain”. Even so, he’d made his views clear from pitch-side at the time – afterwards though, he simply shrugged and remarked “Well, you saw it”.

For United, it was a day to forget as swiftly as possible and move sharply on. Reading, arrayed in a day-glo orange and looking like a set of highlighter pens, came to do a job; they did it, however irritatingly, and now it’s history. Leeds will have to concentrate on regaining their mislaid mojo over the next few fixtures; they’re still handily-placed, even after three successive defeats, courtesy of that scorching start to the season. But losing can become a nasty habit, and it’s something that Christiansen and his troops need to nip in the bud before an annoying blip becomes a genuine crisis.

The Leeds boss was philosophical after this latest setback, whilst hinting that a change of system is not out of the question if he judges that’s what is necessary to turn things around. One notable factor in Reading’s success was their tactic of pressing high to stop United playing out from the back as has been the preferred approach all season. On the day, the home side simply weren’t good or confident enough to deal with the way Stam’s men set out their stall to contain, frustrate and hit on the break. It was a bad, bad day; as simple as that.

And it could even have been worse, but therein lies the one positive aspect of yesterday. At long last there was a change of ‘keeper for a league game, with Andy Lonergan taking his chance to impress. Lonners pulled off a few really good saves and generally looked less error-prone than Felix Wiedwald has done on many of his appearances this term. Afterwards, when asked about the change, Christiansen said that it was something he’d been thinking about. Lonergan did his future prospects no harm at all, and we must hope that his relatively unflappable air of security might spread to a United back four that has looked shaky of late. Pontus Jansson in particular looked tentative and even clumsy at times in the Reading game; part of United’s reduced effectiveness is probably down to Jansson’s magic hat being worn slightly askew as compared to last season. 

It’s still early days, and the situation as it stands is far from dire. But Leeds must do more than hope for better days ahead; they must be proactive, and take steps to ensure that a sharp improvement comes about – sooner rather than later.

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Reading Hoping to Repeat Their Dominant Defeat at Leeds Utd? – by Rob Atkinson

Monk laugh

Garry Monk, reacting with good humour to the suggestion that Reading and Leeds are “rivals”

Reading FC seem intent on showing that they talk a good game ahead of Saturday evening’s return clash against Leeds United at the Madejski Stadium. Royals manager Jaap Stam as well as striker Yann Kermorgant have both had their say in the run up to this fixture, and the general message from the Berks. area is that they’re none too impressed with what many are saying is the finest Leeds team for at least a decade.

It’s always interesting to hear what opposition players have to say about your team as they’re preparing for 90 minutes combat, but Kermorgant’s view is especially intriguing – given that his experience at Elland Road, during the Royals’ 0-2 defeat in December, consisted largely of an hour sat on the Reading bench, during which time he watched his team-mates dominate possession by playing a side-to-side passing game mainly inside their own defensive third. Leeds, a goal to the good after 19 minutes courtesy of Chris Wood, then faced a final twenty minutes when their opponents finally discovered a route across the halfway line, but – despite Kermorgant’s introduction after 62 minutes, they failed to pierce the United defence. Souleymane Doukara then settled matters with an injury time penalty, as if to emphasise that Leeds do have other goalscorers apart from the prolific Wood.

Reading’s tactics that night were more than a little baffling, though manager Stam was well pleased with his side’s display. Perhaps he and the Reading team, together with their fans, would be happy with a similar showing on Saturday. I know I would, and I suspect United manager Garry Monk might be fairly content as well. If both the display and the result are replicated, Reading can crow about two masterclass displays of possession football, with consummate lateral passing and all the offensive threat of a sickly lamb – and Leeds can retire back to their northern fortress, tight-lipped and grim of face, with six points and a seasonal double in the bag.

I’m not qualified to talk about the psychology of pre-match posturing, but I do feel that perhaps Mijnheer Stam, aided and abetted by the boy Kermorgant, has contributed a great deal towards Mr. Monk’s motivational team-talk. Let us hope so, and let us hope and trust that our boys will be heading out onto the park determined to shove certain words down certain throats. It may be, of course, that Reading will get an actual result this time, instead of just boring everybody half-way to sleep and letting the opposition do the business of scoring goals. If so, all credit due to them – you have to be grown-up about these things. Still, given this daft little war of words, sparked off by the losers of that Elland Road match in December – I can’t help hoping that we stuff them again, big time.

The subtext to all of this is an apparent desire on the part of Stam’s players, fans, the Reading FC club itself, to be perceived as having some sort of peer rivalry with our own favourite Yorkshire giants. And, really, that’s almost too ridiculous for words. Are we honestly expected to accept that Dirty Leeds, that northern powerhouse, should be viewed in terms of an actual rivalry with – I don’t know, what’s an appropriate prefix for Reading? Plucky? Upstarts? Little? Plucky little upstarts just about sums it up. However you describe them, it’s a laughable idea, as our Garry demonstrates above. 

Still, it’s got the Twitterati section of their fan-base all a-froth with excitement, and they’ll be hoping and praying for a home win, prior to bigging it up on social media. Those are the kind of aspirations you have, I guess, when you’re a Reading fan. We all know that the idea of a “rivalry” between our respective clubs is marginally more ridiculous than one between Sheffield Wednesday and, say, Barcelona. And we’ll just have to bear that in mind, whatever the result on Saturday, and whatever the provocation on Twitter and elsewhere.

Let’s just look forward to Saturday’s result possibly shutting up a few virtual loudmouths, good and proper. Wishing good luck and a fair ref to Garry and the lads; the White Army expects – now, do your duty.