Friday 30 September 2016

Paul Hyland: Steven Reid retires after an inspiring career blighted by endless rehab

Published 18/05/2015 | 13:31

The Republic of Ireland's Stephen Reid (21) celebrates with team-mates Clinton Morrison (19) and Mark Kinsella (12) after scoring a goal against Nigeria before the 2002 World Cup
The Republic of Ireland's Stephen Reid (21) celebrates with team-mates Clinton Morrison (19) and Mark Kinsella (12) after scoring a goal against Nigeria before the 2002 World Cup

WHEN you run your finger down the long list of Irish footballers bracketed in the category which deals with unfulfilled potential, Stephen Reid occupies a particularly poignant place.

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Most of the players who showed when they were young but ultimately failed to deliver on exaggerated promise faded gently into the background, a footnote in the archives and a career in the lowers outposts of English league football if they were lucky.

Anthony Stokes briefly promised great things at Arsenal but his career stuttered, stopped and picked up some pace again at Parkhead. It looks like he’s off to America now at a time when he should be in his prime.

But Reid was different. In an era marked by the contributions of midfield giants like Roy Keane and Patrick Vieria, Reid was on the cusp of similar recognition when his knees took control of his life.

Anyone who watched him play against Montenegro in Podgorica on a sultry Mediterranean evening back in October 2009 knew that he was the real deal; a box to box midfielder with a tackle, a pass and if not exactly an eye for goal, certainly the ability to wallop one in from improbable distances.

Giovanni Trapattoni spoke about building a team around him after that, a great irony given what was to follow.

We now know that Reid was playing on one leg in that World Cup 2010 qualifier and that the rest of his career would be blighted by endless rehab. Hamstring, back, cruciate injuries; you name it, Reid had it.

He showed enormous courage to keep going. Trapattoni, infamously, wrote him off as a professional footballer in a ruthless and ill-judged outburst which told us more about the Italian than anything else but he dug in, did the hard work and bounced back more than once.

Watching him wind down his career as a full-back at Burnley was as sad as it was inspiring. He dug as much out of his career as his body would allow but he could have been so much more, maybe one of the greats.

He went to Turf Moor as a coach but Sean Dyche dragged another half dozen games out of him before he made his retirement announcement.

Reid is smart, articulate and in an age when young is hot in management, he looks like an ideal candidate to move smoothly into that role.

But he must have huge regrets, like Ireland fans do, that his body couldn't cope with the talent it contained.

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