Andy Reid exclusive

Andy Reid exclusive: Spurs can push Chelsea all the way

2017-01-18
In July of last year Andy Reid drew a veil on a sixteen year career that took in six different clubs where his work-rate, wand of a left foot, and eye for the spectacular made him a firm fan favourite at each. Here the Irish midfielder discusses the varying fortunes of three of his former employers from the title chasing Spurs and whether they can end Manchester City’s league hopes this Saturday; to perennially struggling Sunderland and their over-reliance on Jermain Defoe; and finally we hear Reid’s thoughts on the latest events at Nottingham Forest, where he made 290 appearances over two spells at the club.

Spurs are on fire

We begin at White Hart Lane where optimism abounds and the chance to win a first league title for over half a century grows more plausible with every passing week. 

“I definitely think they’ll push Chelsea close. It’s going to be very difficult for anyone to catch Chelsea at the moment but if anyone can it looks like it could be Tottenham. I watched the game at the weekend and they were absolutely fantastic: they just brushed West Brom aside. They played good, attacking, Tottenham-like football and that’s what the fans like to see. Harry Kane is on fire and Dembele and Eriksen are playing really well while they look tight at the back.”

Pochettino’s men travel to Manchester this Saturday with an opportunity to put further distance between themselves and a fellow challenger that is struggling to find consistency. Would an away win spell the end of City’s title hopes?

“I was at Goodison Park the other day and saw how well Everton did and how poor Man City were. The way Tottenham are playing at the minute there’s no reason why they can’t get a great result and beat them. If they do it’s definitely over for City. You can take them out of the title race completely.” 

The north London giants have been in sublime form for much of the season making it hard to pick out individual contributions. Yet Reid has little hesitation in choosing three who have particularly impressed.

“I love watching Dembele play. He is excellent and just slides across the surface and is very difficult to get the ball off. I’ve heard he is terrific in training too. He is really starting to show his class at the moment.”

“Harry Kane is just lethal at the moment. His finishes at the weekend show he’s in a rich vein of form and when he has confidence he puts them in the top corner and doesn’t give keepers a chance. In my opinion he can get thirty plus goals this season.”

Reid’s final favourite is a midfielder who regularly gets fans on the edge of their seats. It takes one to know one. 

“You would imagine the England team of the future will be built around Dele Alli. He’s got everything you need from a midfielder and really is a special player. He can go up and down the pitch and score goals and has an absolutely fantastic temperament. He has everything it takes to be a really, really top player and I hope he stays at Tottenham and develops even more. It’s a good place to be and Pochettino is the perfect manager to help him develop as a player and as a person.” 

Sunderland are running out of options

Switching nearly 300 miles north to Wearside and the picture is considerably less rosy. Reid spent three happy seasons at Sunderland, all in the top flight, and is saddened by the prospect of the Mackems losing their Premier League status. The 34 year old insists their immediate future rests on a veteran striker and a successful fortnight ahead in the transfer market.

“To have any chance of staying up they have to keep hold of Defoe.

He’s a natural-born goal-scorer and the only natural goal-scorer there and with them being so hard to come by it is vital to keep hold of him. He’s got the firepower to keep them up.”

“This transfer window is make or break. They need more quality and it will be interesting to see if the owner is willing to put his hand in his pocket because he wants to get rid of the club. They lack creativity and need a couple more creative players. I thought Januzaj would have made more of an impact but he hasn’t so they’re short of someone to chip in with a few goals and create a few more for Defoe.” 

As for the man in the hot-seat Reid dismisses the option of bringing in a ‘fire-fighter’ to galvanize morale, an admittedly desperate measure that has worked for the club in times past.

“Sunderland should stick with David Moyes because the club needs stability now. There are not too many ‘Big Sams’ about and that’s why he got a job so soon after what happened with England. If that had happened to someone else clubs would have stayed away from them for a bit.”

Reid knows all about larger-than-life gaffers having spent his first year in the north-east playing under Roy Keane but insists his fellow Irishman’s reputation wrongly precedes him.

“There were times like any manager when he would lose it – and to be a good manager you have to - but most of the time he was a really calming influence. It was exaggerated how volatile Roy was.” 

“I probably had more arguments with him – well, not arguments because you daren’t argue with him – for Ireland. I had more dressing downs off him when playing with him than when he was a manager. I got on well with him and he was a good manager. I’m sure he’d admit himself that he made mistakes as it was his first job but overall he did a good job at Sunderland.” 

That season the club narrowly avoided the drop beginning a pattern of near-misses that continues to this day. Surely the legendary supporters are getting fed up with it by now?

“They deserve better but this situation has been going on for a few years now, just staying up at the last minute. So this won’t be a surprise to them. They have magnificent supporters and this is a real tough time for them but it won’t be a surprise where they are.” 

Keane of course is now the assistant to another former Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill as the duo look to guide the Republic of Ireland to successive major tournaments. Having played under both the 29-cap international Reid is pleased with how things are shaping up.

“Martin is doing a fantastic job and showing what a top class manager he is. I was in a couple of the squads with him before I got injured so I know how fantastic he is with the players. He knows when someone needs an arm around the shoulder or when they deserve a dressing down. He’s a very clever man and knows the right time to do those things.” 

“I’m not surprised in any way with how they qualified and now they’re getting off to a great start to this group. Obviously being an Irishman I just hope he keeps it up.”

Forest can’t see the wood for the trees

The upbeat mood ends when talk turns to Nottingham Forest, perhaps the club Reid is most associated with after two long spells at the City Ground. The two-time European Cup winners are presently mired in crisis with a recent failed takeover, minus a manager, and a series of poor results on the pitch. Now, to add insult to injury, it seems they may lose their captain to, of all places, Derby County. 

“He is one of Forest’s best players – if not the best player – so losing Henri Lansbury would be a big blow and if it was to Derby it would be even worse.

I don’t think he would go there and I’m not too sure the club would sell him to their local rivals.”

“Forest definitely have enough quality in the dressing room and there are some good players there so I’m pretty sure they’ll be okay. Having said that they need to pick up a few results sooner rather than later. It will be interesting to see who is still there in January and they have to hold on to their quality players. If they do that they’ll be okay.”

First and foremost they must look to fill their vacant manager’s position after sacking Philippe Montanier this week, a task that might be easier said than done. 

“Who would want to take on the job? With the takeover fallen through the club is in limbo so who could they convince to come there? At the moment the team is in good hands with Gary Brazil looking after them. I know that Jack Lester has been mentioned for the job from within the club and that wouldn’t be a bad idea for the time being.” 

What of Reid himself? Having moved from Dublin to Nottingham as a raw 17 year old the midfielder clearly cares deeply for the ailing club and a brief spell coaching there last season offers up the possibility of getting involved again. 

“I’m finishing off my coaching badges at the moment. I would definitely like to go into it at some stage and if that was at Forest it would be brilliant. I have a big affinity with the club and the fans and a lot of the players there.”