JAAP Stam says he is well aware of the tough task facing his Reading FC side when they go to high-flying Sheffield United tomorrow (3pm ko).

The sharp-shooting Blades have had a storming start and are riding high in third place in their first season back in the Championship.

Last season’s League One champions have won eight of their opening 12 games – the joint highest in the division along with leaders Wolves – including five victories from six matches at Bramall Lane.

However, Royals will return to the north full of confidence having beaten Leeds United 1-0 at Elland Road last weekend for their first win in six league games.

Stam said: “It’s nicer to play home games rather than sit on a coach four or five hours, but I think it’s better to play these games earlier in the season when the weather and pitches are quite good.

“Sheffield are a very good side and a team in form. It won’t be easy to get a result up there.

“Our confidence has always been there and after a win like Leeds on Saturday people are happier.

“The spirit and confidence in the team is very good but we’re all well aware we’re facing a very good Sheffield team and we’ll have to be focussed and very sharp.”

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Royals keeper Vito Mannone saluted the travelling fans after his penalty save in the 1-0 win at Leeds. Picture: Jason Dawson/jasonpix.

Few would have expected Sheffield United to do so well on their return to the Championship.

But Chris Wilder has turned the Blades into a successful outfit built on a rock-solid defence, well-drilled midfield and strong attack.

However, Stam says he is not surprised Wilder’s men are performing so well after Royals also defied their critics last season to finish third in the table.

“Nobody expected us to do exceptionally well last season, so it shows what can happen,” he added.

“Every team wants a start like Sheffield’s but the most important thing is where you end up at the end of the season.

“But how they have performed and played is a big compliment for them. I’ve seen several games and they deserve to be doing well.

“The confidence within the Sheffield team is probably very high, especially after last season, and they’ve made it very difficult for all the teams they have played against. We know what we’re up against on Saturday.”

Stam recently admitted Reading fans were right to question his tactics and team selection after a run of five league games without a win including back-to-back defeats to Millwall and Norwich City.

But Royals bounced back in style last Saturday with a 1-0 win at Leeds United thanks to a Mo Barrow late goal and injury-time penalty save by Vito Mannone.

However, Stam knows there is more to come from his side.

“A result like that certainly makes the trip home better,” declared the Dutchman. “But because we won it doesn’t mean that was our best game this season, we have played well in other games.

“We should have beaten Fulham, we created opportunities against Bristol City but couldn’t score then conceded from a set piece. I think we could have also beaten Hull City at home.

“So while we did play well against Leeds, it doesn’t make it our best game.”

Stam is set to add fit-again midfielder John Swift to his squad following a month out with a double hamstring problem.

Royals will also hand Yann Kermorgant and Paul McShane a fitness test today before deciding whether to include them on the flight to Sheffield this afternoon.

Kermorgant, last season’s 19-goal top scorer, is yet to feature for Royals this season following hip and groin surgery in the summer.