The manager’s thoughts going into the Fulham fixturesWatch Jaap Stam’s press conference ahead of our play-off first leg against Fulham in the video above, and take a look at some of the key points below…
On being labelled as underdogs
I don’t mind that they are doing that. I’m not really reading the things that people are writing about us and Fulham, so I’m not really interested either.
I’m interested in the team and what we can do, and how we have been playing this season, how we’ve played against Fulham and how they have played against us. And in finding a way to make it difficult for them to get a good result, so we can go to the final.
I don’t really care about how people talk about us. We know what we can do. We’ve proven that to everybody in the league. We’re focusing on ourselves and hopefully to make it difficult for the opposition.
On the achievement of finishing third in his first season at Reading
Everybody needs to be very happy already with where we ended up, because nobody expected us to end up in the top six. We ended up third in the league. It’s a great achievement from the players. The only thing is, of course, when you’re in the top six and need to play the play-offs, if you have the opportunity and a chance to make it to the Premier League, you want to take that and go for it.
Everybody is working very hard. If they give it their everything and we don’t make it, it’s not a shame because we have done very well. The boys have worked very hard and made a lot of progress, and we need to take this experience to the next season to hopefully do even better.
You need to learn from certain experiences and that’s what we need to do in this occasion as well.
On Fulham’s qualities
We know it’s not going to be easy because Fulham have got a good team and quality players. They have been looking for the moment to end up in the top six for several seasons already to go to the Premier League.
They have been in the Premier League for years before and they have got money to spend. It’s logical that they have got that ambition. We have got that ambition as well. There’s no pressure on us to go there straight away, but if you’re there and have the chance to do it, then you want to do that. That’s what we want to do.
They have their own system of how they want to play, and so do we. We both like to have possession, and to create chances by having possession and then scoring goals. They have been doing it very well; we’ve been doing it well this season too. As you know, we are looking for a certain progress within the team and throughout the club over several seasons.
On the ‘occasion’ of being involved in big games
As a club, as a player and as a group you want to play certain games at a certain level. Here we are. And now we need to show it.
If you want to go into the final and into the Premier League, you get even better teams than Fulham. So you need to match yourself with every team, and the best teams in the league.
We want to prove ourselves with the best teams within the league; we play Fulham, and they’re one of the best. Now we just need to do it.
They beat us at their home, we’ve beaten them over here. They know that and we know that. In the play-offs it’s about two games. In the league if you lose a game, then you can think ‘there are a lot of games to go’, so you can set the record straight. Now you need to do it in two games – it’s a different approach and a different type of stress.
It’s about nerves and everything that comes into the game as well now; certain tactics maybe and the approach to the game. Coolness of players – do they still have the same ability under pressure and can they still deliver the same things. It is going to be interesting to see how this game is going to go for them and for us – we’ve got a mix of experience and younger players. For a lot of players, this is a new situation. It’s going to be good and a great learning experience for everybody.
On preparation for the play-off fixtures
We’re preparing in the same way. We’re looking at their games, at our own games, their last few games and how they played against us as well. We try to get as much information as we can and give that to the players as well. Of course you don’t want to make it too difficult because during a game things can change.
But there’s no reason for us to do things differently because how we have been working throughout the season everything went well. Why change things which are going well?
We’re not going to be changing a lot of things. I can only say that within two games what sort of things are at stake in a short period, you can maybe approach the game differently. You can maybe work together in a different way as well. Everybody knows what to do in these two games to get results; it’s about sticking together and working together, believing in each other and then hopefully with the abilities we have we can do well.
There’s still a chance to get tickets for the home leg on Tuesday 16th May (7.45pm) at Madejski Stadium, where the aim will be booking a place at Wembley. Click here for information about how to get tickets.