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THE INSIDE TRACK: READING

23 December 2016

Our guide to The Royals

NORWICH City travel to Reading on Boxing Day (3pm) in the Sky Bet Championship for their first of three fixtures in the space of a week. 

Here we take a look at what’s in store for City at the Madejski Stadium.

IN THE DUGOUT
Following a glittering playing career with the likes of PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United and AC Milan, 67-times capped Dutch icon Jaap Stam took his first steps into management with Reading in June this year.

Initially coming through the ranks at FC Zwolle in his homeland, Stam lifted the Dutch Cup with PSV in the 1995-96 campaign before forming part of the side which won the Eredivise title a year later.

A ball-playing centre-half with a quick turn of pace, Stam’s became the then most expensive defender in history when he agreed a £10.6million move to Manchester United in 1998.

He won the Premier League title in each of his three seasons at Old Trafford; the first of those including a historic treble alongside FA Cup success and a remarkable UEFA Champions League final victory over Bayern Munich.


Upon leaving United, Stam would go on to enjoy a five-year spell in Italy, helping Lazio to the Coppa Italia in 2004 ahead of reaching a second Champions League Final with AC Milan in 2005.

Returning to The Netherlands towards the end of his playing days, the cultured defender captained Ajax to the Dutch Cup during his penultimate season in professional football.

The former Dutch Player of the Year has built up a wealth of coaching experience since hanging up his boots in 2007, enjoying backroom roles at FC Zwolle and Ajax prior to taking the hot-seat at Reading.

IN THE PRESS
Reading skipper Paul McShane says the Royals cannot afford to underestimate Norwich City when the two sides meet on Boxing Day.

McShane's side currently sit third in the Sky Bet Championship having overcome Blackburn Rovers in their last outing, but the former Hull City man is wary of the possible threat posed by The Canaries.

"They’ve had a bit of a dip in form recently, but have the capability of hurting us, like so many teams in this division," McShane told the media following Reading's last-gasp victory over Rovers.


"It’s always a good atmosphere on Boxing Day and we’ve got a little break this week where we can get ourselves together and prepare for Norwich. They're a good team with good players. 

"So we’ll have loads of Christmas turkey, gravy and stuffing and be absolutely stuffed on Boxing Day… not really, only joking! We'll have to be careful over Christmas as footballers.

"It's the season to be indulgent for so many but it’s key that we have that discipline to not do that sort of stuff. We’ll get ourselves ready for another tough test, and let’s see what happens."

ONE TO WATCH
The Royals’ top-scorer this term with seven league goals is Oxford-born Jamaican international Gareth McCleary, with the winger flourishing under the guidance of manager Jaap Stam.

The 29-year-old, who began his career with Slough Town in 2005, moved to The Madejski Stadium in January 2008 following a four-year spell with Nottingham Forest.

A pacey wide-man with an eye for goal, McCleary has already surpassed his best ever goal tally for a single season; his most recent strike coming in Reading's 2-1 victory over Bristol City last month.


On the international scene he has featured regularly for Jamaica, racking up a number of appearances since his debut in 2013.

In 2015, the Reggae Boyz notably reached the final of the Gold Cup, with McCleary netting against Costa Rica and El Salvador en-route.

IN THE SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Ali Al Habsi, Jonathan Bond, Anssi Jaakkola, Stuart Moore.

Defenders: Tyler Blackett, Jake Cooper, Danzell Gravenberch, Chris Gunter, Zak Jules, Paul McShane, Liam Moore, Jordan Obita, Tennai Watson.

Midfielders:  Roy Beerens, George Evans, Callum Harriott, Liam Kelly, Garath McCleary, Stephen Quinn, John Swift, Craig Tanner, Sandro Wieser, Daniel Williams, Joey van den Berg.

Forwards: Yann Kermorgant, Yakou Meite, Joseph Mendes, Deniss Rakels, Dominic Samuel.




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