Mark Robins is the latest in a long line of Sky Blue Supremos, the men who have tried to bring success to City. In this series first published in matchday programme PUSB, writer Rob Mason reflects on the highs and lows on those who have occupied the hot-seat.
In this edition, Rob Mason profiles Peter Reid...
Just as sometimes Coventry sign players who have done well elsewhere but don’t produce their best in Sky Blue, the same can apply to managers. This isn’t just the case at Coventry. It happens across the game. Sometimes managers have a track record of success with several clubs and then have a spell where nothing they do seems to work.
This appeared to be the case for Peter Reid at Coventry. Previously this series has looked at Eric Black and the unpopular decision to remove a manager who had done well and was developing an attractive, attacking team. Peter Reid was Black’s high-profile replacement.
A former England international and a colourful character, Scouser Reid was and is as good as anyone in the game at fostering a spirit in the camp. His biggest influences were Ian Greaves at his first club Bolton and Howard Kendall during his halcyon years as a player at Everton. Very much old-school in his management, Reid was not a disciplinarian in the traditional sense but without doubt there was a strong sense of discipline under the laugh a minute exterior because at Reid’s clubs it was Peter’s way or the highway.
Stick to Reid’s requirements – and there was no reason not to because training would be enjoyable and the banter unsurpassable – but go against what the manager wanted and there were no second chances. In that respect Reidy could be as hard as one of his own tackles.
As a player Peter was a very talented craftsman, able to both win the ball and use it exquisitely. A fantastic player who would have won more than 13 caps if not for a combination of Bryan Robson being in his prime in the same position and a litany of injuries that would have finished many a player. Showing the resilience and strength of character that was part of his very soul, Reid battled back from potentially career ending injuries as a young player and became the fulcrum of the great Everton side of the mid-eighties that twice won the top flight as well as the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Indeed, the first of his full caps didn’t arrive until he was almost 29 when he had just been crowned PFA Player of the Year in 1984-85.
Unsurprisingly Peter expected his players to show a similar attitude. He liked players who would give their all, players who would play through the pain barrier and players who liked a night out as it forged team spirit. He isn’t one for the kind of player who only wants to play when 100% fit and he isn’t one for players who would run down their contracts and not sign a new one if it was offered. Reid had a record of side-lining players in the last 12 months of their deals even if they were good players, happy to play.
Prior to coming to Coventry, Peter had excelled with Manchester City. Finishing fifth would be catastrophic for Man City now but when Reid was in charge between 15 November 1990 and 26 August 1993 their fifth places in 1990-91 and 1991-92 represented the club’s best positions since 1978 but he was summarily sacked by chairman Peter Swales in early into the 1993-94 campaign after he had finished ninth in 1992-93.
Just over a year and a half later; and having had a brief renaissance as a player with Southampton, Notts County and Bury in between, Reid re-surfaced as manager of Sunderland. Given seven games to save them from relegation from what is now the Championship he did so with a game to spare. With only modest spending - and then seeing his main purchase (David Kelly) get injured – Reid took his new club to the Division One title in his first full season. It was a promotion built on a tight defence, his top scorer having just 13 goals. It earned Reid the League Managers’ Association Manager of the Year award and a chant that has stuck with him although Peter Reid never really needed cheering up, a smile and a laugh are never far away when Reidy is on the scene.
While relegation came straight away it was with 40 points and went down to the wire, Sunderland losing on the final day against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park and then waiting for the Coventry result from White Hart Lane to come in a few minutes later. It was a tumultuous time for the north-east club as the drop coincided with the closure of Roker Park and the move to the Stadium of Light. With an initial capacity of 42,000 it was the biggest stadium built in England in the second half of the twentieth century. Reid did so well that after three seasons it had to be extended with another seven thousand seats. During this spell he again won a Manager of the Year award after his team responded to Play-off final penalty defeat by smashing a record 105 points – giving them 195 points in two seasons - before Reid achieved Sunderland’s highest top flight finish in over half a century.
Probably this success in revitalising a club as they commence a new chapter of their history at a new home was something that inspired and encouraged Coventry to turn to Reid a year ahead of the move from Highfield Road to the Ricoh Arena – despite a brief spell as manager of Leeds, who lost twice as many games as they won under his tenure at what was a particularly difficult time for the club financially.
Fixture list fate so often throws up coincidences and so it was that after starting with a win over Crystal Palace on the last day of the 2003-04 campaign, Reid’s opening game of what was meant to be his first full season brought his old club Sunderland to Highfield Road. A Patrick Suffo penalty six minutes from time and a last minute Eddie Johnson goal got Peter off to a good start with a 2-0 win, but one point from two away games followed by a 1-0 home defeat to Millwall provided an indication of the struggles to come.
The Carling Cup provided an opportunity to win and boost confidence, a 4-1 home victory doing just that. Reid’s first Premier League win as manager of Sunderland had been a 4-1 win at Nottingham Forest and an identical victory on the same ground a few days later suddenly meant things were on the up. When Michael Doyle opened the scoring in a 2-1 home win over West Ham three days later, the sky looked even bluer as City rose to fifth as August drew to a close.
Another Doyle goal provided September’s solitary victory in another Carling Cup game at home to Sheffield Wednesday, who had Glenn Whelan sent off. In the league though three draws in between two defeats saw the side slide. By the time second placed Reading arrived on the day before Halloween the season was approaching nightmarish proportions, as a ninth game without a win had seen a second half collapse at Wigan result in a 4-1 defeat that dropped City to 19th. Three days after the loss at the Latics the glimmer of hope offered by the Carling Cup was also extinguished with another three-goal losing margin, this time at Middlesbrough.
Falling behind early on at home to Reading things looked bleak, but on a rare good day Reid’s side showed the resilience required to fight back and win well. Despite the disappointment of then being well beaten at mid-table Leicester narrow wins at home to Plymouth and away to Wolves lifted the side to 16th. There would only be one more win and a draw in the six games that remained of the calendar year as 2004 drew to a close with Coventry back in 19th position and hopes of a promotion assault long since extinguished. The prospect of a top-flight future for the forthcoming new stadium remained a pipe-dream rather than a reality.
New Year’s Day brought some respite in the shape of a fightback that brought victory after trailing at half time at Rotherham. On the same day Leeds lost at home to Crewe Alexandra but two days later when they came up against their old boss, a United team in 14th place were too good for Coventry. After inflicting a 2-1 defeat on the Sky Blues Reid left three days later, officially by mutual consent. His assistant Adrian Heath initially took over on a caretaker basis but ‘Inchy’ was swiftly replaced by Micky Adams.
Peter Reid had won 10 and lost 13 of his 31 games in charge of Coventry, a win ratio of 32.26%. 20th when he left, the Sky Blues went on to finish 19th, two points above the drop zone.
Chastened by his experiences at Highfield and Elland Road, it was almost four years until Peter returned to management and then in the unlikely setting of being national team manager of Thailand. He won a three team tournament involving Vietnam and North Korea in his year in charge when as at Coventry he left the role by mutual consent. Since then Reidy has worked overseas again in the Indian Super League in charge of Mumbai City having in between assisted Tony Pulis at Stoke City and had just over a year managing Plymouth Argyle.
Becoming something of a specialist at managing clubs with limited funds, Peter and Plymouth bonded. Reid relished the challenge and the club liked a guy who wore his heart on his sleeve and gave everything to the cause. Clubs are meant to pay managers but Reid found himself paying the club’s heating bill and auctioning off one of the medals from his illustrious career to try and help keep the Pilgrims afloat.
With Reid in his first season in charge at Home Park, Plymouth were served with winding up petitions from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs. Ten points were deducted and any saleable players sold. Hardly surprisingly, Argyle slid straight through the division and were relegated again but the aim was to survive and come back stronger when they were able to.
Wholesale changes in staff preceded Peter’s second season in charge on the south west but a point taken on the opening day remained the club’s solitary one after another eight games, at which point Reid was dispensed with as the club propped up the table in September 2011.
Indefatigable as ever, Reid remains undeterred and committed to the sport he has always retained immense passion for. Following his sojourn to India he returned to his roots when he joined his first club Bolton as coach in March of 2016. He joined Wigan Athletic firstly on a voluntary basis, adding his experience and enthusiasm to Paul Cook’s side as they went on to win League One and then their spell in the Championship, and continued on the coaching staff at Wigan until recently.
Now 64, Peter still lives and drinks football. Despite horrendous injuries he played over 500 league games, over 200 for Bolton, over 200 in all competitions for Everton and over 100 for Manchester City as well as representing QPR, Southampton, Notts County and Bury. As manager, in addition to his club sides and the Thailand national team Reid also had a spell looking after England Under 21s.
I understand Coventry is not a club with many happy memories of Peter Reid so I have to declare an interest. I was his guest in the manager’s room at Coventry on the opening day of what was meant to be his first full season in charge of the Sky Blues. It was unfortunate for both Peter and Coventry that his time with the Sky Blues didn’t go well for either, but Reidy has been one of the game’s great characters from the day he made his debut for Bolton 46 years ago and he is still young enough and passionate enough to offer so much more to the game he loves.