When Winston Reid left his native New Zealand at the age of 10 years old, few would have thought that he would have become the player he is today, to be held in such high regard by players and fans alike.
When he moved to Denmark and began to make waves within the Danish footballing system, it became apparent that this lad had the potential for great things and a brilliant footballing career. He joined FC Midtjylland in 2005 in a professional capacity having come through the Danish youth system and within a couple of years became a regular in the starting eleven before attracting the attentions of West Ham.
When we signed Reid, my initial thoughts were that we had signed potential, we have signed a solid Scandinavian product that would do good things but not great. A player to be relied upon at the back but whom we would probably move on within a couple of years. We are all prone to gross errors of judgement…and there was mine.
His first season with us saw limited first team appearances and he was usually a bystander in a relegation battle that saw us drop to the second tier. The next season he was part of the promotion winning team, even bagging a winning goal against Millwall…which is nice in any language.
His first season returning to the Premier League saw West Ham finish in 10th position, he got Hammer of the Year and also was saluted with a two year contract extension. The Kiwi imported from Denmark had become a firm favourite with the fans and he had certainly won me over with his performances and his footballing ability.
Over the next few seasons, he performed well, he suffered from injuries but always returned to fuel our fires and even netted crucial goals along the way…probably most notably the last goal at Upton Park against Manchester United at the end of the 2015-2016 season. He left our former home on a high…as did the rest of the players and the fans rejoiced in their names. It had been a great season, the players have pulled off some stunning performances and results and the final league position of 7th was a vindication of the trust placed in Bilic to bring us quality, attacking and entertaining football.
However all was about to be turned upside down as West Ham moved to the London Stadium and the performances of individuals and the collective team suffered along the way. I still held Reid in high regard even though there were gross errors all over the pitch and it became evident that he was struggling in a team that had hit rock bottom in terms of confidence and application.
Many times I would gaze down upon his game and be thankful that at least there was someone on the pitch who could assemble any kind of performance and still have the fight to hold off unwanted attentions. We all know that West Ham’s problems went beyond the field of play, beyond the stadium blues and the dissension amongst the embittered fanbase. However the mediocrity of the team displays did nothing to quell the fears and raise hopes of man, woman or child from seated perspectives.
There was so much wrong with the first season at the London Stadium and all were suffering…even Reid had become a shadow of his former self although he was into a second year of a six and a half year new deal…he increasingly could not warrant that reward. This is not a slight on the man whom I had grown to admire and rest my hopes upon, but it was merely a reflection of a floundering team and a player who was struggling to keep the bow from breaking.
Perhaps it was inappropriate to burden Reid with such mass and gravity of our predicament…but when the better players find little or inconsistent reward in battle, then closer scrutiny is usually the unwelcome drunken friend who knocks at the door at 3a.m. demanding answers to the mysteries of the universe.
Reid and the team managed to survive the rest of the season and finished a creditable 11th in the league but it was hardly a confident season long display nor was it anywhere near where the fans thought the team should be. The expectations had been raised and many aspirations had failed, promises and misplaced comments had duped the fanbase into thinking that European places would be realistic and the squad would be reinforced with notable quality…the fans suffered…the club suffered…the manager was in pain and the players were shell shocked from a season long trial that won very few hearts and minds.
At this season’s beginning I had higher hopes, that the manager and team could shed their first night nerves and could go again with 20/20 clarity, noble purpose and steely sprite…but that did not materialise…in fact the infection had taken hold and the sepsis had become life threatening.
Reid continued, as others did, to make errors and shed confidence but he was one of the few whom I thought still had the will and quality to make the final stand with any claim of pride. I began to wonder whether it was time to rest Reid due to the mistakes and the floundering defence…even when Moyes took over, I thought his performances were erratic and falling short of the required grade.
However, I had to remind myself as others would too, that he was the player who had spared our blushes on more than a couple of occasions. He was one of the few players who chased back from corners we had won and failed to capitalise upon, but translated into a counter attack that saw us beaten and bruised…black and blue…purple all over!
I had to remind myself that Moyes took over during the international break, where Reid was away fighting for New Zealand to take a spot in this year’s World Cup. He Travelled to New Zealand, then onto Peru before finally returning to us just in time for the next club game. He would not be given any rest period, no saving graces and no chance to recover from jet lag. The ailments within the squad and performances could not afford such luxuries…so Reid championed on, doing his level best but obviously the man whom we had put all of our faith in for so long could not hold out forever.
Since his rest period with injury, West Ham have had some decent results but rarely convincing performances. The competing defenders have raised their games but overall there is a spot in the back line that needs to be filled and the only man to do it is Reid which would free up Cresswell to resume his left wing-back role.
We need his quality, we need his quiet determination and footballing brain to sure up the penalty area and give us the platform to drive forward. He has returned to training and has progressed steadily over recent weeks. Hopefully he can return with fervour and consistency that will give us the springboard to end the season on a high if only to survive in the middle pile.