Championship Play-Offs: Jaap Stam shocked by Reading's promotion challenge

Reading boss Jaap Stam has been surprised by his side's challenge this season
Reading boss Jaap Stam has been surprised by his side's challenge this season
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Jaap Stam admits Reading's success this season came as a surprise to him.

Stam led the unfancied Royals to third place in the Championship in his first campaign as a manager.

Reading beat Sheffield Wednesday twice this season

Reading beat Sheffield Wednesday twice this season

They are now potentially three matches from a return to the Premier League, with the first leg of their play-off semi-final against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday.

But former Manchester United defender Stam concedes they have exceeded all expectations - including his own.

"Throughout the season you notice how players are getting better, and that you can make that extra step to get higher in the table," said the Dutchman.

"Not that I said we had to do that this season. Being 10th would have been a good achievement from the team already. Ending up third in the league is a great achievement.

"But you still see progress with a lot of players in the squad and as a group they are learning a lot. We still need to do that.

"From this season, going into the play-offs, it's a new experience and we can learn from this as well."

Stam will lean on his experience of two-legged ties, having been part of the United side which knocked out Juventus in a monumental Champions League semi-final, on their way to the treble in 1999.

"You have to have a different mindset because when you go into a league game, you can be more open than these games," he added.

"The players need to know that we need to do it in two games. The choices in the two games they'll need to make means they have to be disciplined.

"If you play in a semi-final, you can reach the final and basically it's a the same.

"The rules are not like European rules but you need to think like that. The first game you play away from home, people are saying you need to not concede too many and get a good result and then finish it off at home.

"It doesn't always work like that because still you are playing against a very good side and it's not a guarantee that at home you can finish it off. Players need to have a certain approach in these two games."