I WAS always firmly part of the ‘Stam In’ brigade.

Here was one of the world’s greatest defenders in a generation in charge of the Royals.

A likeable man who has been there, done that and played with and against some of the best players on the planet.

He sprinkled stardust over a squad in transition and finished third in the Championship in first proper season in management.

Players were desperate to play for him, to learn from him and would run through brick walls for him.

We were lucky to have him. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, this season, pretty much everything.

Eight wins from 38 Championship games and just one in the last 18 is pretty damning stuff.

Stam had lost the fans. Attendances took a hammering and yet he continued to play his Dutch brand of boring football that worked last season but had clearly run its course.

I do, however, have some sympathy.

Before this season had started, Stam was the first to point out that a top-10 finish would be a decent achievement.

That may have been kidology aimed at lowering expectations – but chief executive Ron Gourlay same exactly the same thing.

Reading Chronicle:

Jaap Stam and chief executive, Ron Gourlay.

The departure last summer of Danny Williams and Ali Al-Habsi left bigger holes in the squad than many could have foreseen.

Injuries to last season’s top scorer Yann Kermorgant and left-back Jordan Obita for most of this season also robbed Royals of a steady flow of goals and a specialist defender.

But Reading are nowhere near the top 10 – in fact they are 22 points off and only three points above the relegation zone.

Stam also had mixed success in the transfer market.

The likes of John Swift, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Liam Moore and Mo Barrow have been quality acquisitions.

But others including Sone Aluko, Tiago Ilori, Sandro Weiser, Yakou Meite and Joseph Mendes to name but a few have hardly set the world alight.

Stam’s insistence on playing the ball out from the back had also worn thin.

There was no penetration, no urgency and no end product. There was no entertainment either and fans stayed away in their thousands.

Even so, I was one of the dwindling number of those who felt Stam should stay until the end of the season.

I did not want to see all the hard work put in over the last 18 months come to nothing.

I felt last season was no fluke and the play-offs at least were within Reading’s reach – maybe not this season, but perhaps the next.

And I still feel Stam will turn out to be a successful manager elsewhere. He has all the right attributes, though like anyone learning the trade, he also has problems to iron out.

But I felt sacking him was wrong and that Royals would – and still may – come to regret it down the line.

I felt the same about Brendan Rodgers when he was axed back in 2009.

He was given just 23 league games – half a season - before Royals pulled the trigger. That was nowhere near long enough and Rodgers has gone on to achieve success with Swansea City, Liverpool and now Celtic.

Reading Chronicle:

Ex-Reading boss and current Celtic manager, Brendan Rodgers.

Sadly, you cannot say Stam was axed prematurely.

If anything, the club took too long over the decision in the face of growing criticism from supporters, many of whom have been demanding a change since December if not earlier.

But, for reasons we will never know, Reading’s anonymous Chinese owners backed him in the January transfer market.

That, too, also went predictably wrong as Tommy Elphick got injured on his debut and has not been seen since, while Chris Martin has also suffered knocks and has made little impact.

The new manager – presumably Paul Clement – now has eight games in which to steer Royals to safety.

Eight games to work with a new squad, new players and find a new system.

That will not be easy, but the feeling is Stam had forgotten how to get the best out of his players and was too stubborn to abandon a system that had less and less success as the weeks went on.

Reading Chronicle:

Former Swansea City manager Paul Clement is the clear favourite to replace Jaap Stam. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire.

Having said that, I think Stam would have kept Reading up.

I made no secret of that fact and took plenty of stick from it from the keyboard warriors on social media.

Royals have a very tough run-in, but there are enough winnable points there to finish above the bottom three.

Sadly, that was not enough to convince Reading to stick with him. His departure was inevitable.

Despite my pro-Stam stance, even I found it impossible to put up a reasonable defence in recent weeks as to why Reading should stick by him.

All that is history now. Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at Norwich City was the final straw and he left Reading ‘by mutual consent’ yesterday morning.

I just hope they don’t regret that decision in the weeks and months to come.