23 September ~ Many years ago WSC featured a cartoon with a line drawn from the Mersey to the Humber, the Peter Reid equivalent of the Mason-Dixon Line, with the implication that he would never work in the south. Even after Reid had been as far south as Coventry and abroad to Thailand it was still something of a shock to find that he was to leave the comfort of assistant manager and relative northernness at Stoke to take charge at Plymouth in the summer of 2010.
It is fair to say that the appointment did not meet with universal approval. Some wags suggested that the club were looking for another ex-England international to front up as a figurehead for the soon-to-be-doomed 2018 World Cup bid. The general consensus was that we needed an up and coming manager in the mould of the various Pauls (Tisdale, Buckle, Trollope) scattered around the West Country rather than an old lag coming down to sort out his pension fund and work for the advertising bid.
But it started off so well. Having retained the majority of the Championship squad the team were solidly mid-table after a couple of months. Then the financial meltdown began. The first inkling of Reid's commitment to the club was the story that the gas board were about to turn off the winter heating and were thwarted only when he wrote them a cheque on the spot. However Reid was never in a position to write all the cheques and the club sank into administration.The ten-point deduction and the selling of any player who had an immediate cash value saw the team drop to the bottom of the league.
Amazingly Reid didn't walk away. Further rumour suggested that he was yet to see a penny in wages and here he was offering to sell his FA Cup loser's medal from 1986. There was a concerted internet effort by Argyle fans to buy it back for him, but faced with the overriding need to channel donations towards the staff wages, it was won instead by an Everton fan for £2,200. But while his dignity off the pitch galvanised the fans behind him it seemed he couldn't quite motivate the players in the same manner. Despite a brief spurt around Easter, Argyle were relegated.
The takeover dragged throughout the summer and yet still Reid stayed. The bulk of the squad was sold or released. He tried hard to bring in strikers but they either came and left almost immediately when the state of the club began apparent (Liam Dickinson) or never even turned up at all (Trésor Kandol). Reid publicly asked where the money from season-tickets and the August gate receipts had gone which led to the averted players strike before the recent game at Burton. The state of what he had to work with is best summed up by fact that in his last match, at Southend, the home side had more Argyle appearances among them than their opponents.
Where the previous season had seen a semblance of spark and fight, it now seemed that Reid was unable to organise the young team to do anything other than try to retain possession and avoid conceding. As is the way nowadays, fans argued online over his continued employment but when the best alternative put forward was another Paul (this time Hart) it seemed like change for its own sake.
There is barely an Argyle fan who agrees with the decision to sack Reid – even those who were calling for his removal are angry at the manner of it all. What it has done is harden the resolve and unite the fanbase against the chairman Peter Ridsdale. With the upcoming Fans Reunited day tomorrow and the prospective buyer James Brent expected to attend, it may be that this has become the defining moment and the start of the resurrection of Plymouth Argyle.
There is no doubt Peter Reid leaves the south-west with an enhanced reputation and a huge national groundswell of sympathy. Alongside senior players, Romain Larrieu and Carl Fletcher, he showed massive fortitude in the face of the continued humiliation lumped upon them by those controlling the administration process. He could have walked away at many points over the past year and it is probable that many lesser managers may well have done so. He certainly didn't need the hassle or the money, which he is still yet to receive. Maybe the truth is that, for Peter Reid, football is still about pride. Steven East