(Photo: Action Images)
By Ross Lawson
UNDER the tutelage of a man he both feared and admired watching the game as a child, it is little wonder Dominic Samuel is making his long-awaited Reading breakthrough.
Samuel has had to bide his time since graduating from the youth set-up more than four years ago. Now, with Jaap Stam in charge at the Madejski Stadium, the 22-year-old was rewarded for his persistence with a goal 22 minutes into his full Championship debut.
That close-range effort against Burton Albion a fortnight ago has seemingly paved the way for the striker. He also started against Bristol City last weekend – the Royals’ fifth consecutive league victory.
Having spent time on loan at Colchester, Dagenham & Redbridge, Coventry and Gillingham, Samuel is finally making his mark in the second tier and claims there is one man to credit for his progression.
“The gaffer played at such a high level and that experience rubs off on you, day in, day out,” he said of Stam, the former Holland, Manchester United and AC Milan centre-back.
“He’s always giving good advice. As a former defender, he knows what they do and don’t like and that information is perfect for a striker at this stage of my career.
“What he tells you is on a different level and that’s shown in our games.
“He gives you time individually and puts the ball in your court, asking how you rate your own performances, which gives you a chance to think.
“Jaap was someone I kept an eye out for growing up, so seeing him come to Reading was a blessing. He’s the sort of defender you fear, but he knows my strengths to be able to cope.”
The Reading camp have been in good spirits in recent times, a factor which should help them bounce back from their shock 5-0 reverse at Fulham yesterday .
The Royals – linked with a Chinese takeover – have propelled themselves into promotion contention, with their disappointing start, just four points from their opening four games, firmly behind them.
And, for Samuel, team harmony has been at the forefront of the success.
He added: “Team morale is sky-high. Everyone’s in a positive mood and there’s a lot of confidence, with people stepping up to the plate.
“The group is tight on and off the pitch and you need that with so many fixtures over the year.
“We go out for meals and Garath McCleary organised a paintballing session just before our winning run, so he’s taking the credit for that!
“Things like that are so important. We’ve gelled so much as a team and the relationship with everyone has been fantastic.
“There’s not one person who’s isolated and the gaffer and coaches deserve a lot of credit.”
Having scored seven goals in 25 games for Gillingham in League One last season, following six in 13 for Coventry the year before, Samuel might have hoped for an immediate starting berth on his return to Berkshire.
But the young forward claims he always expected to wait for his chance and is focused on producing a string of impressive performances now his patience has been rewarded.
“As a young player, you know it’s going to be a waiting game, especially with experienced heads in the team, but you just have to bide your time and keep working hard,” Samuel explained.
“I had the confidence in my ability that the moment would come and I’m a big believer in that faith. What I had to do was make the most of my chance and scoring a goal early on is certainly not a bad way of doing that, so long as I can keep it going.”