PNE's opponents go Dutch in bid to revive fortunes
Preston were only visitors to the Madejski Stadium a little more than three months ago but it will be a much-changed Reading outfit which they find there this weekend.
It was a busy close season in Berkshire, ‘going Dutch’ in the manager’s office,and giving the playing squad an overhaul.
Jaap Stam is now at the helm, appointed to succeed Brian McDermott, who was shown the door after a rather disappointing second spell as Royals boss.
The former Manchester United centre-half has been active in the transfer market as he looks to improve on a 17th- place finish last term.
That represented quite a slide in fortunes for Reading, who had been among the division’s front runners for a spell earlier in the campaign.
Stam has shopped in France, Holland, Germany, Romania, South Africa and England for his new recruits.
There have been a number of departures too, academy Aaron Tshibola leaving in a reported £5m move to Aston Villa.
This week, Lancashire lad Oliver Norwood left to join Brighton in a big-money switch, Reading deciding to sell as he was in the last year of his contract.
Earlier in the summer, Hal Robson-Kanu, who starred for Wales in Euro 2016, and Anton Ferdinand departed at the end of their contracts.
There are survivors from the team which faced PNE on April 30, Chris Gunter, Ali Al Habsi, Paul McShane and Yann Kermorgant among them.
But the Royals side which takes to the field on Saturday will certainly have a fresher look about it.
On these shores anyway, John Swift is probably the best known of the summer buys.
A product of Chelsea’s youth academy, the striker made one sub appearance in the Blues’ first team and has been out on loan in a bid for regular football.
Last month, 21-year-old Swift cut his ties totally with Stamford Bridge to make the move along the M4 to the Royals, joining on a Bosman.
He has the potential to be one of the bargains of the summer at this level, performing well in the Championship last season with Brentford.
Stam, 44, had kept a level head since his appointment, in terms of talk of expectations for Reading this season.
A promotion push does not seen to be on the radar, the Dutchman looking for stability first and foremost.
Stam said: “We have to be honest with ourselves. Nobody can expect Reading to get promotion or get into the play-offs.
“Aston Villa are back and Newcastle, Norwich and many other big teams are in this league. It would be nice to get into the top 10 but even that is going to be a hard job.”
In terms of the group of players he is putting together, Stam said: “We need to have a big squad this season with quality, experience and young talent.
“We have to look at everyone, we need to know the strongest XI, but also those who are going to give us depth in the squad.
“I’m not the type of manager who is going to pick 11 players and they will be the team for the season.
“I look at the opponent too and their qualities and what qualities we need on the pitch at the time.
“I’ve been impressed with the squad.
“I think it depends on what the manager is asking from his players.”