Peter Reid: the Soccerlens Interview

Peter Reid talks to Soccerlens about who should take the England captaincy, why Rooney is the best player in the Premiership, and getting one over Graeme Souness.

Peter Reid was the kind of player you’d want to have in your team. Passionate, committed, full of drive and a never say-die-attitude that saw him gain thirteen England caps, as well as helping Everton to two league titles, the FA Cup and European Cup Winners Cup.

That style’s transferred off the pitch where he’s still full of passion and drive, both during his time as manager of Sunderland, Leeds, and Manchester City and now in his latest role — as England manager.

No, we’re not breaking a world exclusive here. Reid hasn’t taken over from Fabio Capello. But his task is no less daunting — he’ll be managing a team of England legends over three matches this summer, televised on ITV4, starting with a match up against Scotland legends managed by his old Merseyside adversary Graeme Souness at Southampton on Thursday and we caught up with him as he made his final preparations.

The England captaincy issue

Reid has at his disposal a team of players that will have made many fantasy teams over the years — Paul Merson, Lee Dixon, Les Ferdinand, Stand Collymore, Peter Beardsley, Des Walker and, of course, England’s Captain Marvel — Bryan Robson, who Reid feels could hold his own if he were playing today.

“Well I think it’s all very difficult to compare eras but Bryan Robson would be a great player in any era, you know he was just a fantastic player you know, and a lot of them lads could handle today’s game.

“But I’ve gotta say some of the players I see nowadays are absolutely fantastic. When you talk about Rooney and you talk about Ronaldo – great players. If you want to go back to earlier, I mean Gascoigne and Shearer they were great players.

“I do think it’s less physical nowadays — whether that’s good or bad, that’s the way it is — but certainly its like comparing oranges and apples, it’s very difficult but I think great players would handle any era.”

When Robson was playing there was no question about him taking the armband for both England and Manchester United, and Reid thinks there’s one player in the current game who can do the same for club and country.

“I think Steve Gerrard, when he has responsibility, is a better player. I’d give it [the England captaincy] to him. I think he’s one of those that likes to lead from example. He’s all action, he can get a goal, he can play from attack. If it was up to me it would Gerrard.

“I mean John Terry, he’s a tremendous influence, a tremendous character, strong, determined but just basically I think Gerrard because it makes him a better player when he’s got that responsibility, that captaincy.”

And Reid says there’s plenty of similarities between the Liverpool skipper and Robson because of their drive and the way they influence players around them:

“Bobby Moore was a captain who did it, the way he read the game, the way he passed it; Roy Keane was a driver from the middle of the park. I mean, there’s different types of captains but I think the inspirational ones in the middle of the park, like Robson, like Gerrard, galvanize the team when they need galvanizing.”

In memory of Alan Ball

This Thursday’s England v Scotland Legends game is also being played in memory of another midfield maestro. Whoever wins the battle of the Auld Enemy will take the second Alan Ball Memorial Cup.

As a young boy, Peter Reid remembers watching Alan Ball lifting the 1966 World Cup and later got to know him both on and off the pitch. “He was a great fellow and his memory will always be there and immortalised as he was one of the lads that won the world cup.”

Reid came up against Alan Ball when the latter was coming to end of his career at Southampton, but there was no doubting Ball’s quality even in his twilight years. Reid recalls spending the entire game trying to lay a tackle on the England legend and being unable to get anywhere near him.

Although the youngest member of England’s World Cup Winning team is no longer with us, Reid believes his spirit lives on in one of the current legends of today’s game — not just in style but in hair colour too.

“Paul Scholes reminds me of him and awful lot. I think Bally was a little better tackler but the way he finds space and the way he passes the ball and the way before he receives the ball he knows where any player on the pitch is, and Scholsey’s got that, Alan Ball certainly had that — a great engine too — and possibly there’s a bit of a ginger in there on the top of the head, so Scholsey don’t half remind me of him.”

Rooney: simply the best

Despite being an Everton boy, Reid is full of praise for this season’s Premier League Champions and the players they have at their disposal, especially Wayne Rooney, who he cites as the one player he’d love to have played with.

“We all know about Ronaldo but I think with Rooney in the side Manchester United this season have lost one game. I just think he’s got everything. He can score a goal, he can make a goal, I think his work rate’s fantastic, I think he’s got an enthusiasm about the game, I just love watching him.

“I’m not too sure about playing against him, though. I think I might have had to kick him and would have got a red card these days but he’s an exceptional player who I love watching.”

Reid was no exception to the football fans around the world who were glued to the final weeks of the closest Premiership in living memory — “It was terrific” — and describes some of Manchester United’s football this season as “breathtaking”, but is equally complementary about Chelsea’s ability to stay in touch, and isn’t ruling out Avram Grant’s men getting revenge in Moscow, especially with if John Terry and Didier Drogba are playing:

“I’ll bet you now that those two will play. They’ll play in the side. If they’re missing they’re very very influential players. It’s like Manchester United being without Ronaldo and Ferdinand or Rooney.

“They’re big players and big players invariably can turn games, so Avram Grant will be desperate for them to play in the final.”

Pressure on the top managers

But when talk turns to the other Manchester United club, and Thaksin Shinawatra’s treatment of Sven-Goran Eriksson, Reid’s tone gets angrier as he label’s the Thai’s actions “ridiculous”.

“I’m not being outspoken, I’m being sensible. I know Shinawatra’s put his money up there but at the end of the day these football clubs, these owners, they are owners but you know the real people who own football clubs are people who come through the gates, who pay their money and when Shinawatra’s gone they’ll still be watching football clubs and they know what’s going on down there isn’t right. It’s got to be sorted out because they have had a good season, it has been an improvement.”

Sven isn’t the only manager in mid-table who’s been under pressure this season — Steve Bruce jumped to Wigan, there have been constant whispers about Kevin Keegan and Alan Curbishley’s futures and even the occasional whisper about Martin O’Neill’s job security. For Reid, it’s symptomatic of a growing impatience in football.

“You know people are having a go at Alan Curbishley about West Ham’s season. I mean they nearly got relegated last year. What do people want? You’ve got to have a bit of reality and common sense in football.

“We know to get up is difficult, we know what the big four are like, to get that fifth is very difficult so you’ve got to be competitive. I’ll give you another scenario — you look at the clubs who are stable and fighting for them places. Invariably you’ve got a manager who’s been in there a long time and they’ve got a settled football club.

“You’ve got Alan Curbishley. He buys Dyer, he buys Bowyer, he buys a lot of players, he buys Bellamy —they’ve been injured all season. These are major major buys, they’re good players. Ashton was out for half the season you know, and he’s still managed to get them in a reasonable position and some people are questioning him.”

But at this current point in time, Reid is safe from such worries in his position as England Legends manager and is looking forward to locking horns with Liverpool legend Graeme Souness in the dug out.

The two met seven times in the Merseyside derby as players, where honours were even, with three draws and two wins apiece, and Redi says he’s full of respect for his opposite number: “It’s very hard to get one over Graeme Souness as I know from me playing days. I was in an England side that beat him but they’ve got some good players as well.

“Gough, Gallagher, Collins, it’s not going to be easy and any time any England team at whatever sport plays a Scotland team its all on. I know that and it’ll be competitive because that’s the nature of the beast as we don’t want to get beat and knowing Graeme Souness neither will he so it’ll be a really competitive game.”

Peter Reid was speaking ahead of the England Legends v Scotland Legends game at Southampton’s St. Mary’s Stadium, Thursday 15th May. The game is live on ITV4.

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