Peter Reid part two: Into management

Peter Reid Manchester City

Last week we looked at Peter Reid’s rise from injury-prone journeyman and avid Liverpool supporter, to influential midfield king-pin and two-time league title winner with Everton. Along the way, we chronicled Reid’s transformation to England international and his first dip into coaching at Everton as player-coach under Colin Harvey whilst also examining in part the relationship Reid enjoyed with his Goodison Park mentor, Howard Kendall.

This week we will look in further detail at Reid’s reunion with Kendall in the twilight of his playing career along with his first steps into management.

Friends reunited

In 1989, Peter Reid had finally left his beloved Everton and was happily playing his way towards retirement in the hoops of Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road. Managed firstly by his old England team-mate, Trevor Francis, and then ex-England coach, Don Howe, who took over from Francis, Reid had no intention of moving on until retirement in a year or two.

Howard Kendall had left Everton in 1987, frustrated with being unable to lead the Toffees into the European Cup due to the Heysel ban, and had moved to Spain to manage Athletic Bilbao. Now, in November 1989, he left the Basque club and the following month was offered and accepted the manager’s post at Manchester City.

One of the first calls Kendall made on moving into the Maine Road hot-seat was to tap-up Reid. Swayed by the chance to rejoin the man he had shared so much success with the first time around, Reid didn’t have to be asked twice. Although he needed little persuading anyway, an extra carrot dangled by Kendall was the promise to involve Reid in coaching and groom him to take over when he finally called it a day.

When the two ex-Evertonians joined City the club was sitting near the foot of the old First Division and relegation was a real possibility. The two men put their heads together and came up with a plan. They would turn Maine Road into Goodison Park Mark II.

Over the next few months, Goodison alumni such as Alan Harper, Neil Pointon, Wayne Clarke and Adrian Heath joined Kendall and Reid at City and the club was labelled ‘Everton Reserves’ in some quarters. Initially, fans had their doubts with regards to Kendall and Reid, especially when fans’ favourites, Ian Bishop and Trevor Morley, were sold, but as results started to pick up and the club moved away from the drop zone, Kendall quickly achieved cult status among the Maine Road faithful.

Then it all changed again.

Relegation was comfortably avoided in the spring of 1990, and although there was a fear that Kendall would be offered the England manager’s job in place of the departing Bobby Robson, those worries came to nought when Graham Taylor was appointed instead.

Into autumn 1990 and City were going well in the top six when Everton decided to sack Colin Harvey after a poor start to the 1990-91 season. In what was seen as a major shock at the time, Kendall was offered his old job back at Goodison Park and, declaring that his time at City ‘had been a love affair, but Everton is a marriage’, he quit his Maine Road post and moved ‘back home’.

Buy an iconic Howard Kendall t-shirt from the Football Bloody Hell shop
Buy an iconic Howard Kendall t-shirt from the Football Bloody Hell shop

Initially, Kendall wished to take Reid back to Goodison Park with him and offered him a similar role to the one he was fulfilling at Maine Road, but Reid declined. He felt that City had potential and there was still a job to be done there. When Kendall saw that Reid could not be swayed, he recommended him as his successor to City chairman, Peter Swales. Kendall then promptly installed the sacked Colin Harvey as his assistant manager at Everton.

The Maine Man

Reid wanted the City job and knew that he was in a relative position of strength, so he informed Swales that he would accept the caretaker position offered for only one game. After that, Reid declared, Swales and the City board would have to make up their minds whether to give it to him full-time, appoint someone else, or install another caretaker boss.

Reid had the board over a barrel and they knew it. After one game Reid was duly installed at the age of 35 as the player-manager of Manchester City.

In 1990 the ‘designer player-manager’ was very much in vogue. This was a time when it was relatively common for big-name players to step straight into management at the highest levels whilst continuing to play. Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness had started the trend at Liverpool and Glasgow Rangers and had enjoyed immense success.

They had been followed by a host of others who had met with varying degrees of success, including, Trevor Francis, Ossie Ardiles, and Glenn Hoddle.

Taking his cue from the success of Dalglish at Liverpool, who had the famed ‘Boot Room Boys’ assisting him, Reid knew he would need experienced help, especially if he was going to continue playing.

Reid’s first choice as right-hand-man was his old Bolton boss, Ian Greaves. Greaves, however, felt unable to commit to such a demanding role due to health concerns, and so recommended ex-Blackpool and Bury boss, Sam Ellis instead.

This was not a popular move with large swathes of the Maine Road faithful as even at that relatively low-level Ellis had a reputation as a long-ball merchant. This was Reid’s first insight into management and how every decision made can be scrutinised and picked apart.

To be fair to the out-going Howard Kendall, Reid had inherited a side that was on the up and looking forward. The relegation woes of the season before were long behind, and Reid carried on the good work started and in that first season, the club remained on course and finished fifth in the 1990-91 league table.

While Reid carried on playing and building for the future, his relationship with the chairman, Peter Swales, was strained at times, as had predecessor Howard Kendall’s been. Swales had probably not forgiven Reid for the way he felt he had strong-armed his way into the manager’s chair and for his part, Reid felt Swales had too much power throughout the whole club and that Swales was loathe to back him in the transfer market.

The two men seemed to be on a collision course from early on in their working relationship.

Into the 1991-92 season and one transfer Reid did make happen was that of his old sparring partner, Steve McMahon, from Liverpool. The two had clashed in many a Merseyside derby, but now joined forces in an unlikely employer-employee relationship.

Although by then into his 30s himself, McMahon was signed as a successor to Reid the player. The signing was not really a success, though, as McMahon hadn’t really wanted to leave Liverpool and had had his bluff called by Souness when he’d gone in to see the Liverpool manager demanding either an improved contract or a move. In the end, McMahon stayed at City throughout the remainder of Reid’s tenure, but with no discernible success.

However, it was another of the Liverpool players Graeme Souness deemed surplus to requirements that Peter Reid really wanted. Having got wind of a rumour that Liverpool were willing to offload John Barnes, Reid wanted to move for him only to be blocked by Swales who said the million pounds being asked was too much.

Other players Reid wanted to sign but was unable to do so for one reason or another included Paul Stewart, Andy Townsend and Geoff Thomas.

Meanwhile, Henrik Larsson and Andy Cole were reputedly scouted at this time, but Reid, going on advice from his backroom team, failed to make concrete offers for either.

Terry Phelan and Keith Curle were signed from Wimbledon and proved to be hits, but a self-confessed mistake of Reid’s was to let Colin Hendry leave for Blackburn Rovers in order to facilitate the Curle deal.

The 1991-92 season brought about another fifth-placed finish and in 1992-93 the club finished ninth. By now, however, the tide was beginning to turn in Manchester. When Reid had taken over as manager, City had been ahead of neighbours Manchester United and had gone onto finish higher in both of Reid’s first two seasons in charge.

Order of the boot

In 1993, though, Manchester United finally came good and won their first league title for 26 years. This, naturally, cranked up the pressure on City and on Peter Reid in particular, and when City got off to a bad start in the 1993-94 season, taking only a solitary point from their opening four games, Swales couldn’t wait to pull the trigger and Peter Reid was out of a job.

By now, aged 37 and an unemployed ex-player manager, the future looked uncertain for Peter Reid. He had been harshly treated at City where he had done a good job in trying circumstances but was now in a position of having to decide what to do in the immediate future.

An answer of sorts came courtesy of an offer to resume his playing career at Southampton. Under the management of Ian Branfoot, Southampton had started the season in a similarly perilous state to City and were struggling at the wrong end of the table.

Reid played a total of eight games for the Saints before Ian Branfoot was sacked. Reid looked to be an obvious choice for at least consideration to take over from Branfoot but moved quickly to rule himself out of the running for the job. He stated that as Branfoot had brought him to the club as a player it would not be right for him to take over and so he left the club as well.

Further short-lived playing spells at Notts County and Bury ensued before Reid finally retired as a player at the end of the 1993-94 season.

In the third and final part of this series, we will look at Peter Reid’s reemergence as a manager at Sunderland together with examining some of his later posts in the game.