McCleary hails 'new lease on life'
LONDON, England (CMC):
Jamaica international footballer Garath McCleary has credited new manager, former Manchester United Jaap Stam, for the turnaround in his form for Reading FC in the ongoing English Championship season.
The 29-year-old forward struggled last season with form and fitness under managers Steve Clarke and Brian McDermott and failed to make an impact for the Royals, as they finished down the table in 17th.
This season, under Stam who was appointed last June, McCleary has flourished, scoring eight goals in 25 appearances, and said the Dutchman had played a pivotal role in his resurgence.
"I think you can ask any of the boys. We are all thriving under him. He has been fantastic since he came in. It's a new lease on life, and I'm really happy," said McCleary, who signed a new 31/2-year contract this week.
"He's a big factor in why we have been so good this season, and I'm just really happy to have committed [to the club]."
McCleary arrived at the Madejski Stadium from Nottingham Forest five years ago, and has gone on to become a settled member of the roster.
An intelligent player with a fair turn of pace, he has so far scored 25 goals in 170 appearances for Reading.
Stam, who spent three trophy-laden seasons at United, praised McCleary's impact during a season which has seen Reading contending for a play-off spot.
"He has been a very important player for us this season, not only in the goals that he has scored, but also in the assists he has provided to others in the squad," Stam said.
"A lot of clubs nowadays are looking for players with the qualities he has - his pace, his ability on the ball and the threat he poses in and around the opposition penalty box."