‘I’m not sure this Everton can scrap’
Football has changed since Peter Reid played and coached, but he says the basics are the same ‘I would ask them to roll their sleeves up. You have to make it hard for them when they have the ball’
Asked to define what football means on Merseyside, Peter Reid’s eyes sparkle. The proud Evertonian, who played 159 times for his boyhood favourites, the dynamic heart of the most successful side in the club’s history, chuckles as he recalls a derby at Anfield in the mideighties, when the two Liverpool clubs were vying for the title.
“We haven’t had a kick for 20 minutes and the ball goes out to Barnesy [John Barnes] and I absolutely smash him,” he remembers.
Such was the vigour of his assault the home crowd were immediately yelling their fury. Above the shouts, however, Reid could hear one particularly enraged Liverpool follower.
“I hear: ‘you blue-nosed ----, you big-eared -------’. He’s absolutely giving it to me. I looked in the crowd and went: ‘Uncle Arthur, sit down’. On my life. My own uncle. And I’d got him players’ lounge tickets. That is what [Merseyside] football is about. He was the nicest man in the world and he was giving it to me.” Watching from the Goodison stands this season, however, the once-ablue-always-a-blue Reid reckons Uncle Arthur can rest easy. “I think this Everton team is in a scrap,” he says of the wretched form which has seen them tumble down the Premier League. “The team I was in could scrap. I am not sure this team can.” As he sits in a Liverpool hotel, where he is promoting his autobiography, his passion for the club is obvious.
“The owner [Farhad Moshiri] comes out and says the fans’ expectations are too high. No, you’re wrong, mate. We should have expectations higher than what we are seeing. So that is wrong from the top in my opinion.” The issue, he suggests, can be traced to a lack of planning.
“I think it was a mistake not getting a striker. They are the most difficult to get, but you know you need one so you have to put all your resources into getting one. It was common knowledge that [Romelu] Lukaku was going last January. I know it is hard. But when you are Everton go and get one.” And instead of buying a finisher, his worry is that the manager Ronald Koeman spent the Lukaku money on players whose roles overlap.
“Without being too critical of Mr Koeman, if I am buying a player for £45million, I want to play him in his position,” he says, with reference to Gylfi Sigurdsson being used as a wide man. “But he has brought in a few players who play in the same position, so it is always going to be a problem.”
So what would Reid do if he were in charge? He had a very successful time managing Manchester City to fifth, then Sunderland to two successive seventh-place finishes in the Premier League.
“I would ask them to roll their sleeves up,” he says. “You get back to basics. You have to say: ‘Lads we have to make it hard for them when they have the ball’. I’d love to be part of that. I am not saying I want to be the next Everton manager but this is what that club needs, it needs a depth of desire.”
Not that he anticipates an invitation to take over in the Goodison dugout. Happily working as a coach at Wigan Athletic, he believes his time as a Premier League manager has long gone. Not because, at 61, he is too old. But because the fashion is for what Moshiri describes as “Hollywood”. It is a fashion, Reid believes, that leads to outstanding local talent being overlooked.
“I think Sean Dyche has done a great job, Eddie Howe has done a great job. Why aren’t they getting linked when a big job comes up? I think there’s a lot of good British coaches: Michael O’neill at Northern Ireland, what a job. But they’re not Hollywood. Dyche isn’t Hollywood – he’s a deep, squeaky voice. Plus his dress sense isn’t as good as Jose [Mourinho] or Pep [Guardiola].”
As he goes about his duties at Wigan, Reid acknowledges that the methods he revealed on Premier Passions, a fly-on-the-wall documentary series that followed him through a season as Sunderland manager, no longer pass muster.
“You can’t do now what I did, effin’ and blindin’ at modern players, they’d just down tools,” he suggests. “At the time, that was the way. But I learned very quickly at Leeds. Mark Viduka’s reaction told me everything. I’ve laid into him and I could see in his eyes he’s thinking I’m a piece of ----. As they’re going out for the second half, I’ve pulled him over and said, ‘Hey, listen, I’ve only made you an example because you’re the best player’. I had to think on my feet. But that was the point I realised I couldn’t do that any more.” Though he suggests some of the old ways, albeit impossible now, were not wholly bad. Like the time Howard Kendall, his manager at Everton then at Manchester City, organised a table tennis tournament after City had lost a home game.
“He’d sent out for five crates of Budweiser. We set up at the table, half the team behind me, half the team behind him. You had to get the bat, hit the ball and do a little run. Someone knocks one into the net. Howard says to him, ‘Go over there, get a bottle of Bud and get it down you’. It’s half-10 in the morning. Five crates of Bud later, we are all in Mulligan’s, on the ----. What happens? We go on a run and only lose two of the next 12. I look back on things like that and you see that it changed the whole team spirit. That’s great man-management.” Though the sad truth is, he agrees, it is probably not an option available to Ronald Koeman. Cheer Up Peter Reid, his autobiography, is published by Trinity Mirror, RRP £18.99. e-book also available.
Everton enforcer: Peter Reid was the beating heart of the most successful side in the club’s history