Has Peter Reid’s departure from Coventry spelt the end of his managerial career? The real puzzle, Andy Dawson argues, is how he has been allowed to work so long

Peter Reid is not a criminal. He has never boiled a child, nor has he masterminded an elaborate bog­us pyramid selling scheme. But if he had, it is unlikely that the resulting hurt would be comparable to the distress and anger his decisions and actions in the past decade or so have caused people. Well, maybe apart from if he was a child-boiler. His recent miserable reign at Coventry City, mercifully brought to an end by Monkey Heed himself, should ensure that he will never manage a football club again. Like the existence of a global al-Qaida network, the idea that Reid is a competent football manager is a myth.

Managers live and die by their purchases and Reid’s record in the transfer market resembles that of a war-room general addled with alcohol, randomly picking targets without seeming to have any real con­trol over what is going on. Way back in 1991 at Man­chester City, he jettisoned Colin Hendry to Blackburn for a mere £750,000. His replacement? Keith Curle, bought for no fewer than two-and-a-half million pounds (Reid lashed out the same amount for Terry Phelan at about the same time).

At Sunderland, although he nabbed bargains such as Kevin Phillips, Jody Craddock and Nicky Summerbee as the club were in their ascendancy, once the time came to step up to the next level and spend some real money, he lost the plot spectacularly. £3.5m for Nicolas Medina anyone? £1.5m for Carsten Fredgaard? £1.6m for Milton “Tyson” Núñez? Zero league starts between the three of them. Were they even real? Some claimed that two players plied their trade under the name Milton Núñez and Sunderland had signed the wrong one. Don’t laugh, it’s easily done.

Reid also failed to realise that the market had collapsed when on August 31, 2002, merely hours be­fore the transfer window came into place for the first time, he spent a sizzling ten million quid on a sizzle-free strike force of Marcus Stewart and Tore Andre Flo. Nobody else was in the running for these has-beens and, after the window closed that evening, such dem­on­strations of financial profligacy were banished forever (today, £10m could probably get you a people-carrier filled with Pablo Aimars).

In his final nine months at the Stadium of Light, Reid spent £22m, assembling a side who played out what was probably the most pornographic relegation campaign ever seen. Reid missed out on the horror of it all, having been sacked and copping a hefty pay-off after just nine games, but the record low of 19 points the team chalked up couldn’t have been achieved without the fragile foundations he had laid. By the time they went down, he was at Elland Road.

At this point we could dwell on the seven disastrous loan signings he made during his short spell at Leeds, but their fans have suffered enough in the past couple of years. Oh, all right then, just the one – Brazil international and World Cup winner Roque Junior. In his first four games under Reid, they conceded 12 goals and Roque bagged himself a red card while he was about it. The Brazilian said: “Reid’s work methods are among the best I have ever seen. I just wish there were more coaches with vision and imagination like him.” Perhaps the most remarkable assessment yet made.

Although to impassioned observers Reid might seem like a garrulous and likable sort, those fans who have suffered at his hand know just how stubborn, pig-headed and often plain wrong his decisions can be. Upon taking over at Manchester City, one of his first tasks was to snub top scorer and fans’ favourite Clive Allen. Reid’s champions would argue that he went on to lead City to two fifth-place top-flight finishes, al­though this was in an era when Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace both went two places better.

At Sunderland, Reid signed former Germany defender Thomas Helmer on a free transfer which, although Helmer was at the pensionable end of his career, still seemed like a decent coup for the newly promoted club. But Helmer couldn’t force his way into the side and Black Cats fans assumed that he wasn't up to the job. His true level of ability was revealed when he was released and promptly joined Hertha Berlin, where he was deemed good enough to turn out for them in the Champions League. Another Sunderland player unwanted by Reid, Bernt Haas, also went out on loan and straight into a Champions League campaign, with Basel. Even during his short spell at Leeds, Reid managed to fall out with Danny Mills, one of the few internationals that remained at Elland Road, hurriedly shipping him out on loan to Middlesbrough for the whole of Leeds’ relegation season.

Presumably financially cosy after healthy pay-offs from Sunderland and Leeds and with regular media work to amuse himself and the nation, it was some­thing of a surprise to see Reid pitch up at Coventry a few months ago. As at Leeds, he took over at Highfield Road against the wishes of most fans, who in this case were shocked by the sacking of Eric Black straight after a 5-2 win at Gillingham. Coventry won ten out of 20 while Black was in charge and, with the club playing entertaining football and on the brink of the play-offs, what else could chairman Mike McGinnity dismiss the manager for other than “inconsistency”?

Maybe the task appealed to Reid’s vanity and he thought he could repeat what he achieved initially at Sunderland in the late Nineties. Back then, with his belief in motivation and hard work, coupled with Niall Quinn and Phillips, a strike force that defences couldn’t seem to handle, it appeared that Reid had lucked upon a winning formula. But he ran out of ideas a long time ago and Coventry fans were soon trotting out the familiar grumbles about unimaginative football, negative tactics, players deployed out of position and crowd favourites being sidelined. Reid saw which way the wind was blowing and quit, although there’s still a chance that, come May, he’ll have had a hand in three successive relegations with three different clubs.

Still, at least Mike McGinnity got the consistency he was looking for.

From WSC 217 March 2005. What was happening this month

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