Why the love?
Peter was one of the best English midfielders of his generation. A hard-as-nails workhorse, he was a hybrid of an old-school destroyer and a modern creative holding midfielder, for the likes of Bolton, Everton (with whom he won the league twice, the FA Cup and the Cup Winner’s Cup), Manchester City and others. He was the PFA Player of the Year in 1985. Won 13 England caps too, one of which was famously against Argentina in the Hand of God game which, to be fair to the fella, he’s dined off for many long year and worked it into a very funny and sweary After Dinner routine.
Had a very decent managerial career at Manchester City which included a fifth-place finish and especially at Sunderland where he guided them to successive seventh-place finishes. During that tenure he took part in the legendary documentary called Premier Passions. Now over 20 years old, it really does look like a world connected to the ’70s more than to the 21st century. World-class swearing again, of course.
Rather exotically, he managed Thailand for a year and more latterly, had a year at the financially-struggling Plymouth Argyle where he sold his medals so the players could be paid, which is just a very typically generous Reidy thing to do.
He also has a lot of love and affection from the public for his politics and because he said this to the bloviating twatocratic Boris Johnson’s face, as documented in his autobiography ‘Cheer Up, Peter Reid’.
‘”I’ve been meaning to have a word with you, you t**t; having a go at Scousers, who the f**k do you think you are?” You could hear a pin drop and the likes of John Barnes, Richard Ashcroft, Nigel Benn and Sean Bean were all open-mouthed. I could tell he couldn’t work out whether I was pulling his leg because he was half-smirking and half-shocked but I wasn’t messing. “You are a f**king disgrace,” I said, and the tirade continued. He s**t himself.”‘
What a hero.
And this is pure poetry on Twitter. “Boris Billy Liar, jog on you balloon.” You balloon! Brilliant.
He once tweeted Donald Trump to inform him that: “Sir, you are a knobhead.” Which says it all, really. I’d pay anything to see Reidy raging at the Donald..
He is also happy to retweet avowedly socialist principles from Red Nev Southall, such as:
‘I joined Unison to stop the shit the Tories are inflicting on everyone apart from the elite. They r killing people by blatant underfunding and savage cuts. We need to care for all. People before profits.’
Anyone who also believes in people before profits – and why would anyone not? – finds comfort in public figures putting their shoulder to this particular wheel, especially in these desperate days. We love that he’s prepared to speak up for his political beliefs and not hide his left-wing persuasion, nor his down to earth belief in people. When managing Plymouth he once said:
“Life is about people, and the people here are fantastic. The people in this room, it’s their club. I don’t think the Glazers own Manchester United and I don’t believe the Americans own Liverpool, the fans own these clubs and whatever happens, if they don’t go through the door, there is no business.”
This isn’t just idle chatter, this speaks of a soul who sees the world through a well-focused humanitarian lens. He follows these principles through in his everyday life.
Recently, and to the amusement of everyone, he intervened in the tunnel bust-up between Pep Guardiola and Paul Cook. Did he have a quip ready about it? Of course he did.
“I have been called many things in my life but never a peacemaker!”
When Reidy is in the studio for a spot of punditry, we all sit up and rub our hands together in anticipation of detailed analysis of the action and a quip, a story, an outrageous pre-season tale.
His Huyton accent is magnificently hardcore and when deployed in service to the f-word, it really comes into its own. In that Premier Passions programme he broke the record for the most f-based expletives broadcast in one minute.
When in full raconteur mode, he has a great habit of starting sentences with ‘eh, let me tell yer…’ while patting a co-pundit on the sofa.
But he’s also capable of performing live to a big audience, even in solemn circumstances. Someone who can do this, to such a high standard, has a special talent.
Clearly, in another life he could’ve been a club comic. He has timing, pacing and a dry wit with character to burn.
Then there’s the whole ‘Cheer up Peter Reid’ song which always struck me as ironic; if there was anyone who didn’t need to cheer up, it was Reidy. And yet, along with the monkey’s heed thing, he always took it in good humour.
There’s a mischief about him. It’s easy to imagine him just out of shot in any TV studio, causing havoc with the aid of some of the strongest Amarano known to humanity, dispensing sweary bon mots and recalling pre-season tours which ended in chaotic circumstances, on fire, in a shopping trolley, sans trousers in the company of Miss Jumbo Blood Sausage Retailer of the Year 1978, leaving a trail of wanton destruction behind him all the way from the casino to the canal, saying “c’mon, we’ve all ‘ad a drink” whilst breaking up a fight between two ex-pros who have hated each other for 30 years.
Though 61, he looks like he’s in tremendous nick with an enviable low body fat percentage.
His is a face from a different age. You don’t see men who look like him anymore. Tans very well, which gives him the look of being carved from fine mahogany. He is from that post-war generation that made up the working class of the ’50s, who has, through his own graft and talent, made a life that simply wasn’t down for him. When he was a lad there’s no way he could ever have imagined managing the Thailand national football team. He has traveled so far and achieved so much and yet remained so down to earth. We should all take inspiration from that journey. Anyone with any soul loves to see a working-class lad made good.
Has occasionally dallied with the pointy sideburns thing which gave him the look of an Edwardian gangster or maybe a Peaky Blinder. Can be found on some occasions in super smart wedding day-style three-piece fashion suits, or even in some rather tight fitting, fashionable young man’s jeans. Perhaps he’s an ageless chameleon, drifting through time like a kind of Scouse Zelig, always present in the background at any great moment of football. How else do you explain his presence in the Wigan tunnel in this year’s FA Cup game with City?
What the people say
His background and his playing career really is Another Country now. He was raised in a culture which is very different to the modern world. And when you’re from that kind of background, sometimes that modern world must look like a weird place. The lexicon of life has changed, the things you can and can’t say have changed. And you have to change with them or get left behind. He’s managed to do that and not succumb to old mannishness. There is something clever, thoughtful and progressive about him. He is self aware and knowing, but realises that even though we live in a changed world, there are still timeless values worth holding onto. I doubt his politics go down well with some in football but he holds them dear nonetheless. In the truest sense of the expression, he is a working-class hero. When I asked for comments, some of the warmest I’ve ever had came in.
‘Passionate and principled, he also has some amazing stories from his time in the game – most of which involve pre-season tours! I have often admired his ability to involve everyone in a joke and – if I was ever in a scrape – I’d love to have Reidy in my corner. I’ve also watched him spend an inordinate amount of time talking to a stranger who has just popped over for a chat. He loves football and loves talking about it. To top it all off, his ‘king prawn’ tribute to Laurie Cunningham is one of the best bits of TV ever. I love him’ – Dan Walker, BBC.
‘A man of fierce passion, principle and great humour. When I was a naive, young reporter covering Sunderland he took exception to something I wrote. Cue explosive argument (I still have flashbacks) followed by immediate forgiveness: “We’re best mates now.” He stood up for his team. He was a warrior as a player and manager – it lit a spark under the club, his players “hunting in packs,” and talented with it. By God, they could do with some of that now. But he was always great company, helpful and wise. He’s a fantastic fella’ – George Caulkin, The Times.
‘He gained the respect of every player and changed the whole culture of the club within two minutes of walking into the dressing room to greet all the players at Sunderland. I’ve never seen a new manager have the same effect since’ – David Preece, that bloke off Twitter.
‘A genuinely good fella. Has the right politics, the right beliefs and the right outlook on life. One of those rare people who has the ability to make anyone in his company feel special’ – Tony Barrett, Head of Club and Supporter Liaison at Liverpool FC.
And now for the rest…
‘Having met a fair few in the game, I can honestly say that he’s one of the good guys. Wonderful love for football and even greater love for an audience. You’re often judged by your peers, and I’m yet to meet one who doesn’t speak with a reverent fondness.’
‘His eulogy for Howard Kendall was the perfect blend of humour and admiration. I’m not even an Evertonian but I still watch it every so often.’
‘He gave me the happiest times as a Sunderland supporter. A genuine man who identified with the club and brought passion, enjoyment….and a lot of swearing.’
‘Seeing him run on to the pitch after a cheeky John Dreyer penalty stays with me, absolutely apoplectic. Great penalty though.’
‘Looks like gravel, sounds like gravel and possibly is gravel. That’s good enough for me.’
‘His last bleary-eyed appearance on Goals on Sunday was brilliant. All the cackling and knee-grabbing you could hope for. Love the way he always says “The Arsenal.”‘
‘May be an urban myth but I hear he was nearly scalped by a ceiling fan while celebrating Sunderland’s promotion in Idols sitting on someone’s shoulders.’
‘Perhaps a cliche, but Reidy is an old-school football gent. When Plymouth Argyle manager, during the dark days of our descent through administration, he led with terrific dignity, including paying a heating bill out of his own pocket. Hats off sir.’
‘Out in Yarm for my stag night at a restaurant, Reidy (at an adjoining table) was subjected to a few choruses of ‘Peter Reid bears an uncanny resemblance to one of our forebears’ or an approximation thereto. Apologising for my mates later at a club up the road he just laughed and said forget it. Five minutes later a bottle of fizz arrived with his compliments. Nice fella Reidy.’
‘Great socialist. Wonderful and rare knack of speaking coherently and eloquently, with passion and in the common tongue.’
‘Never met him but gives the impression if you struck up a conversation with him in the pub you’d still be talking to him three hours later and he’d have given you a nickname.’
‘Peter Reid once got a question wrong on Question of Sport purely because Sue Barker couldn’t understand his accent. For that alone he deserves our love!’
‘Not connected to football but his teatime interview on TMS during an Old Trafford test was radio gold. Clearly refreshments had been taken and he was hilarious.’
‘Powerhouse of enthusiasm. Would cheer up any situation.’
‘Unashamedly Scouse, and I say that as a positive. Also unashamedly patriotic, not in a sickening way, but in a genuinely caring way. His enthusiasm is boundless and he’s also slightly weird looking, which makes me feel better about myself when I look in the mirror.’
I’d like to hear him on the radio more often. In fact, although he will crop up on a sofa every now and then, he’s rarely done any live co-commentator game work, or at least not for a while. That seems a shame as I’m sure he’d be great value. Maybe producers would be worried that the odd swear might happen, but I’m sure we’d cope if it did. There is far too much sensitivity about these things in some circles. You can say ‘piss’ and ‘shit’ on Radio 4 at 6.30pm now, so why you can’t occasionally do so in a football discussion, I don’t know.
This week, with the passing of Ray Wilkins, we were reminded of the fragility of this thing we call life and the mortality of all flesh, even the most legendary. It impressed on me the need to appreciate people properly and publicly acknowledge their talents properly whilst they are with us, not merely as a eulogy.
Reidy has given and continues to give the football world so much pleasure, so many good times, so many laughs and his generosity of spirit is clear for all to see. Now that’s worth raising a glass to. After all, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. Cheers, Reidy!