Former Ireland international, Steven Reid yesterday announced his retirement at the age of 34 following a 17-year career in professional football. It was a career that promised so much, but was curtailed through a series of injuries. We take a look back at his emergence as a young player at Millwall and those moments of class that were sprinkled throughout his career in the green jersey.
Millwall Football Club and their home ground, The Den, are not exactly synonymous with the travels of an Irish football fan. However, in early August 2001, this author was in London and took a trip there to watch Millwall’s first game of the 2001/02 season in the First Division (now the Championship). The attraction of visiting one of English football’s most partisan venues was to watch Millwall’s trio of Irish underage internationals take on an experienced Norwich team. Robbie Ryan had established himself as a fixture at left-back, whilst his fellow Dubliner Richie Sadlier was starting at centre-forward. The third Irish player was a 20-year old Steven Reid, who had helped Millwall win promotion from the Second Division and had impressed in Ireland’s Under-21 team earlier that summer.
The game certainly didn’t disappoint with Reid turning in a man-of-the-match performance and was simply on a different level to anyone else of the field. The young midfielder dominated proceedings, demonstrating his athleticism, range of passing, crisp tacking and an eye for goal. Just before half-time he struck a thunderbolt of a shot from 35 yards that beat the Norwich ‘keeper Rob Green. In the second half a well struck free kick from Reid was parried by Green into the path of Tim Cahill who sealed the win. That day Reid was the driving force in a 4-0 victory for his club and four days later Mick McCarthy handed him his first senior cap for his country in a friendly against Croatia. Reid was picked on the right side of midfield under the watchful eye of Roy Keane but was replaced at half-time after what was a solid but unspectacular performance. His introduction to international football was somewhat overshadowed by John O’Shea and Clinton Morrison who were both introduced as second half substitutes for their own respective debuts.
World Cup 2002
- In action v Russia 2002
Mick McCarthy’s Ireland would go on to beat Holland two weeks later and qualify for the World Cup via the play-offs against Iran. By early 2002 Reid was fully prepared for the step-up to international football. He won his second cap in the first of Ireland’s World Cup warm-up games at home to Russia and wasted no time in making an impact by opening the scoring in the third minute with a low, drilled shot from outside the penalty area. Reid’s rise continued unabated with some impressive performances in the build-up to the World Cup. In Ireland’s final warm-up game before departing for Saipan he came off the bench against Nigeria to score his second goal for Ireland. On this occasion, he unleashed a powerful shot to the roof of the net with his weaker left foot.
- Video: Steven Reid v Russia
At the World Cup Reid was introduced as a second half substitute in the first two games against Cameroon and Germany. He was unlucky not to score against Cameroon when one of his powerful trademark free kicks had to be tapped over the crossbar with only minutes remaining. Reid was perhaps unfortunate not to start one of the World Cup games given his impressive cameos and the fact that Jason McAteer was never fully fit during the course of the tournament. Unfortunately, the energetic performances at the 2002 World Cup were as good as it got for Steven Reid. A succession of injuries over the following years meant that he endured a stop-start career at both club and international level.
Huge Potential Undone By Injury
There is little doubt that each of the subsequent Irish managers appreciated Reid’s outstanding attributes as a footballer. In Brian Kerr’s first game away to Scotland in 2003 Reid was outstanding in midfield with his athleticism and delivery from set pieces central to an Irish win. He made a similarly impressive start in the early days of Steve Staunton’s reign. In Stan’s first competitive game away to Germany Reid was Ireland’s standout performer in central midfield. Unfortunately, a variety of niggling injuries prevented either Kerr or Staunton from building their teams around his talents. By the time Giovanni Trapattoni took over in 2008, the trend of Reid teasing us with a fleeting glimpse of his talent was set to strike once again. He started in central midfield in Trap’s first two competitive games against Georgia and Montenegro in September 2008. Once again he put in two very assured performances and it was notable how Ireland’s ability to pass through midfield improved with Reid in the side. However, a subsequent knee injury ruled him out for the rest of the 2008/09 season and he never got another opportunity to pull on the green jersey.
In July 2010, Steven Reid announced his retirement from international football, citing injuries and the need to prolong his club career:
It was a tough decision because I’ve had some terrific times with Ireland, but having weighed everything up, I know this is the right decision. The injuries I’ve had over the past couple of years have been well documented and I’ve taken this step to prolong my club career and to spend more time with my family.
He also hinted at what might have been if he had managed to stay injury-free:
I’ve had some unforgettable times with Ireland, the highlight being making two appearances at the World Cup Finals in Japan and South Korea in 2002 and it has always been a huge honour for me to wear the Irish jersey. It’s just a shame my injuries cut short the number of caps I possibly could have won over the past few years.
In the summer of 2010 Reid signed a permanent deal with West Bromwich Albion and went on to play 72 Premier League games over the following four seasons. He finished his career with a one-year contract at Burnley but his opportunities were limited over the past season. Nonetheless, it is testament to Reid’s professionalism that he has succeeded in carving out a long career in football in spite of the various injuries. One wonders what Ireland might have achieved if Steven Reid had reached his full potential. The lost opportunities were even more acutely felt when one considers that Colin Healy, who was a year older, also emerged as a central midfielder of real potential prior to the 2002 World Cup. If it were not for their respective injuries one ventures that they could have formed a formidable midfield partnership for the best part of a decade.
- Author: Alan Hannify