On the first day of the 2010 Premier League season, I watched a young defender make his West Ham bow at Villa Park. We lost the game 3-0 and the defender in question; playing right back on the day, looked frighteningly out of his depth. He appeared weak, his positional awareness looked non-existent and after his first 90 minutes for the club, the majority of Hammers fans were thinking he probably won’t last five minutes. 2-and-a-half years on, that same player, has been an ever present in the Premier league this season, arguably the club’s player of the year and a potential future skipper. That man is Winston Reid.
Already a West Ham hero following his winner against Millwall at Upton Park last season, Reid has now become the club’s key centre back and always one of the first names on Allardyce’s team sheet. Not only exceptional and consistently solid defensively, Reid is a leader on the pitch, with many fans, myself included, seeing him as an ideal future captain. And at just 24, the New Zealander still has his best years ahead of him.
When Gianfranco Zola (or perhaps it was more a signing of Gianluca Nani) brought in Reid for a reported 4 million in the summer of 2010 there were concerns that he was purchased solely on three impressive World Cup performances. Reid scored a last minute equaliser against Slovakia in a World Cup campaign where minnows New Zealand drew all three games including a memorable point against the Italians. What was particularly impressive about their tournament was their organised and solid defence, which conceded just 2 goals in the three games. Reid received particularly high praise and earnt a move to East London.
In terms of club football, Reid plied his trade at FC Midtjylland of Denmark before moving to the East End. The Danish league has never been known for producing the greatest quality of footballers so the signing of Reid was always going to be a big gamble and one that was predominantly based on potential.
Initially it looked to be an error of judgement by the scouting team as Reid managed just three Premier League starts, looking shaky in all of them, in his first season which eventually saw West Ham relegated to the Championship. Despite such a tough first year where many fans expected the defender to not feature again for the club, Reid got his head down to prove the doubters wrong. From that point, he didn’t look back.
Allardyce clearly liked the look of the Kiwi and threw him straight into the starting eleven for the Championship opener against Cardiff. Okay we lost the game 1-0 but immediately you could see that Reid had grown as player, both physically and mentally. His performances went from strength to strength and it was only injury around the Christmas period which prevented him from playing more than the 28 Championship appearances he managed. And no one will ever forget the piledriver he hit against Millwall to give us a crucial 3 points in our promotion push.Upon gaining promotion back to the Premier League, Reid had proved he had what it takes to perform in this country. There were of course still doubts from some as to whether he could replicate his Championship form and cope with the much sterner defensive test in the Premiership. Six months on he has passed with flying colours.
Reid has been truly magnificent this year and our most reliable player, let alone defender. Whereas there have been a mistake or two from the likes of James Tomkins and James Collins, you would be very hard pushed to solely blame Reid for any of the 36 goals we have conceded this season.
The number two reads the game excellently, is immensely strong and loses very few aerial battles. He is very much a no nonsense defender, an old fashioned one if you like and in addition he always offers a threat going forward from set pieces. The game away at West Brom in December remains in the mind where Reid and Collins withstood a barrage of West Brom attacks to earn a valuable point and a clean sheet. Reid deservedly earned the Man of the Match award at the Hawthorns.
As I alluded to earlier, it is not just his footballing ability that has impressed, it’s his temperament and his influence on the pitch. Reid really does care and will always give absolutely everything to the cause. You can see the passion when a decision goes against him which he feels shouldn’t have or if the team concede a soft goal. He is vocal and a born leader. All these attributes are what, in my opinion, would make Reid an ideal West Ham captain.
Don’t get me wrong; despite opinion being divided on Kevin Nolan as a player, he is a very good captain. Like Reid he is vocal, tries to lead from the front and is well respected by his team mates. However Nolan is not get any younger and I feel we will be lucky to get any more than two good years out of him.
Other than Reid, all that is potential captain material in the current squad is Mark Noble. There is no doubting Noble’s heart and passion for the club and to be fair he has been one of the outstanding performers for us this campaign. But is he a leader, for me the answer is no.
The captain must be one of the key players in the side and one of the first names on the team sheet. He must be a leader and someone who is passionate and fully committed to the West Ham cause. For me Winston Reid is that man and would make an exceptional Hammers skipper.
Let’s just hope the January speculation as regards to Reid moving to a big club, which is hardly surprising given his performances this season, fade away and he remains a West Ham defender for years to come.