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Les Reed An Overview
Friday, 9th Nov 2018 09:57

The departure of Les Reed has brought widespread joy to a seemingly large section of our support, but is their view of his time at St Mary's accurate and fair on Reed himself !

This article does not seek to praise Les Reed nor does it look to condemn him either, it is intended to try and give a balanced overview of his time at St Mary's and perhaps make some give him credit for the things he has done well and in contrast the things he hasn't done so well.

The main problem for Les Reed in footballing circles is that he was never a player at any great level, inside the game their is this tendency to ridicule those who never reached the heights of a player that some did, however the greatest International footballers do not often make the best managers and judges.

Reed never played League football although he was good enough to be on the books of Cambridge United , Watford and Wycombe at early stages of his career and that is perhaps a better level of footballing skill and achievment than most who claim he knows nothing about the game.

He didn't see his career as a player though but as a coach and his problem here was that his persona was as a headmaster rather than the personable ex pro that back in the 1980's was the blueprint for a manager, he was certainly not the most likeable of people by all accounts and was an early exponent of footballing science, now seen as the norm but back then and indeed as recently as 2004 when Clive Woodward arrived at St Mary's it was ridiculed by the old school such as Harry Redknapp.

But he did have his successes, in 1985 he took Wealdstone to the Football Conference title and the FA Trophy a season about as good as you can get in non league football, but back then there was no automatic promotion to the Football league and Reed joined the FA and worked for 9 years in various roles including setting up the National School of excellence.

He left in 1995 to become assistant to Alan Curbishley at Charlton and in three years there he helped the club gain promotion to the Premier League after which he rejoined the FA as Technical Director, he was seen by the hierarchy as forward thinking, but the players and managers in the game didn't share that view as mentioned earlier, they remained stuck in a culture that still saw nothing wrong in heavy drinking after games etc.

Certainly Reed was more about statistics than being a people person and back then he didn't see the human factors in the game, the need to put an arm round a player at certain times, he saw them more as machines than people.

Reed returned to Charlton in 2006 and this spell seems to be held up by his detractors as a time when Reed destroyed Charlton and got them relegated, he arrived in the summer of 2006 as assistant to the then manager Iain Dowie who arrived with a good reputation and was sacked in the November.

Reed took over as manager and lasted six weeks, he was hounded by the media perhaps prompted by those within the game who disliked him and in a six game spell in which he won only one game he left by mutual consent to be replaced by Alan Pardew.

This has led to many Saints supporters to wrongly claim that Reed and Pardew had history and this lead to Reed getting rid of Pardew from Saints, the truth is that up to this time although their careers almost crossed at Charlton twice, Pardew leaving the club as a player as Reed arrived in 1995 and in 2006, Pardew was manager of West Ham United during Reed's spell as manager at the Valley, they had never worked together, given the nature of the game although Reed would have been unhappy at being sacked, he would not blame Pardew for being his successor.

On 16 April 2010 Reed was appointed Head of Football Development and Support at Southampton, overseeing four main areas: the Youth Academy, Scouting and Recruitment, Sports medicine and Science, and Kit and Equipment Management.

The truth of the matter was that footballing wise Reed was now really calling the shots, if Reed is decried for knowing nothing about the game, then it is unlikely that his direct boss back then who six months earlier had been a financial advisor in Switzerland would have learn't enough about the game to be not only able to build a training ground complex, but oversee a scouting network and recruit the right players to firstly get Saints promoted and then stay in the Premier League, likewise Mauricio Pochettino was not a household name, it is not hard to see who had identified him.

Reed's reputation began to suffer in the summer of 2014 when suddenly things startd to fall apart, players were tapped up and offered salaries far higher than we could offer and opportunities to win trophies that we realistically could not match, some fans were duped by Cortese's claims of being in the Champions League within four years, but there truly weren't any players that believed that was possible, they knew how the game worked and that money talked.

Reed wasn't helped by his personality, but the likes of Lallana, Lovren, Shaw and even Rickie Lambert were leaving for money and bigger clubs, they would have gone whatever the Chairman or manager just as Oxlade Chamberlain had a few years earlier.

But Reed and new Chairman Ralph Krueger got down to it, they not only found a new manager, better than the last for the club but oversaw more upheaval and constant change, continually bringing in players, four successive top 8 finishes was the most consistent period the club had ever had in the top flight, no other manager including Lawrie McMenemy had managed that and add a cup final to the mix and Reed's record was good.

Every summer Reed was decried, now it is popular to claim the club has been in disarray for two years, the truth is Claude Puel was not a disastrous appointment, he had around about the 5th/6th most successful season in the club's history, yes the football was not exciting but there were mitigating circumstances, future generations will look at the record books and be puzzled why the fans were up in arms.

The fans will say we became a selling club, history will show that we were no more than any other club, the only difference between us and the rest of the clubs outside of the Big Six is that we had payers that other clubs wanted and as I said money talks.

The Southampton Way since Ted Bates has always been about producing, buying and developing players and financing it by a big sale or two, in truth we just got better at it than before, I would say that if we aren't selling players we are not being successful and failing somewhere.

So Reed will leave Saints with a CV that can be held up with most, however that is the case for the defence let's look at why he is no longer at the club.

As successful as Saints had been in the first seven years of Reed's tenure, all things were not rosy, somewhere along the line we have lost the plot a little, I have always said that you never find out how good your academy is till ten years later and this is the case now, the foundations of our youth set up were signed ten years ago at a time when heading into administration the 8-10 year olds were snapped up by other clubs, indeed in 2009 we couldn't sign any during the summer due to the future of the club being in doubt let alone being able to attract them.

So now it is kicking on, but it is not just about that, our scouting network seems to be failing us as well, not as much as some would claim, after all Hojbjerg and McCarthy who came under Puel were our two best players last season and Hojbjerg in particular is blossoming.

But the foot had gone off the ball and I think Reed started to panic a little with Claude Puel.

At that point the club bowed to pressure from the fans and sacked Puel when I think they really wanted to keep him, they certainly waited a long whle before doing so, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but there were mitigating circumstances as to why Puel had to go defensive, he perhaps dd not deserve the sack.

If Reed had stuck to his beliefs then perhaps last season would not have seen the wrong appointment in Pellegrino and in truth perhaps Mark Hughes, Saints stayed up last year not because we stormed to a great escape, but because Swansea collapsed, but the euphoria afterwards meant that Hughes role was seen as more important than perhaps it was, his record was no better than Pellegrino's.

This is where Reed truly went wrong in appointing Hughes permanently, he perhaps betrayed his own instincts, he went for the easy option, he again like in the sacking of Puel followed the fans polls rather than his own instincts and beliefs, he had become afraid of opinion, something that he could not be accused of in the past few decades.

Once you do that you are on a slippery slope and although Reed was still doing good things at the club in terms of running the football set up as a whole, he was not doing it in the most public area, player & managerial recruitment.

Something had to change at St Mary's there was blame to be attached and right at the epicentre of the problem was Les Reed, there is no doubt that it was his department failing, the buck stopped with him.

But as much as he leaves under a cloud, that should not obscure his achievments, some lasting like Staplewood and some less such as the four years in the top 10, a cup final and European campaigns, yes he had to go, but that doesn't mean that all he did was bad.

Saints now have to go on, the truth is not all is rotten withing the club, calling for the whole board to be sacked is not only wrong but harks back to the days when football clubs including Saints were run by local small businessmen with only around 10 non playing full time employees, now we are multi million pound companis.

Saints have done the right thing, they have highlighted the root cause of the troubles and dealt with it, it will not solve things on the pitch as easily as some will claim, but it will placate the supporters in that they can see changes being made and action taken.

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ChristchurchSaint added 12:07 - Nov 9
I would agree that Les Reed did some good things in his early days at the club, but I don’t think that it went wrong over the last 2 and a half years. Whilst Cortese was here, Les seemed “under control”, it was after that that the rot seemed to set in. When we lost the first group of players, we were lucky that the replacements were as good, if not better than those that they replaced. It seemed to be, that at this point, Les (or maybe somebody else) saw the potential to develop players and cash in, year after year. They were greedy, and thought that it was an easy way to provide funds, and certainly, for the last year or so, the level of recruitment has been sadly lacking.
The other problem that I saw, is Les seeming to take total control for football/team issues. It was always his smug face we saw when new players were announced, why did certain players always seem to be dropped after one good game, why was it that certain players were kept in the team, when they had several poor games, not only this season, but also for the previous two seasons.
My belief is that he thought he was “bomb proof” and treat it as his own club, and now Gao and his family have seen the imminent danger of his £210 million investment rapidly disappearing and have took the resulting action. Hopefully Les’s replacement will not want to be so much at the centre of things and have less control.

SanMarco added 12:18 - Nov 9
A fair as well as very long appraisal !! We can, and undoubtedly will, quarrel about praise and blame and talk about turning points/vital mistakes. For me it is easiest to judge his 8 yrs as you would those of a manager. He was given a longer period to turn things round than any manager would have been given and, whatever his previous achievements, he should have gone sooner. Probably ladt autumn when the scale of the problem under MP was becoming clear to all of us.

underweststand added 15:30 - Nov 9
Much of Les' previous history seems unknown, as the only thing I read was his disasterous spell at Charlton (as indeed it was) but that is often the lot of many "British managers". Most of those in the Prem. today have managed around half a dozen sides EACH - and with no great success for any of them, and it has been mainly the foreign managers who have brought home the trophies. (exception being Alex Ferguson).

I might dispute " Christchurch's" comment about Cortese keeping Reed "under control"
but it was Marcus Liebherr asked Cortese to run the club, after which he used his dubious European contacts to source players and must have borrowed around £30 - odd million to buy the likes of Mayuka, Ramirez and Osvaldo , (not to mention their large salaries on long contracts), and they were all catastrophic deals, whilst the majority of the squads that won two promotions for Nigel Adkins - were UK based players bought for barely a quarter of that, and those deals must surely have had Les' fingerprints on their contracts.

After Cortese's departure, it was Les who made the deal to bring in Koeman & Bro. and brought success by buying in 7-8 players for quite "reasonable fees" in comparison.
Remember the £4 million record fee for Rory Delap (2001) stood for over 10 years till we bought Jay Rod for £7 million in 2012....and fans complained that was a lot of money.(!)

Saints' successes were the key to our collapse. The mass player exodus to Liverpool and Man.U (used us as their feeder club) by offering huge salaries that we could never match although even after the likes of Pelle and Mane were excellent buys, but who sadly have never been replaced. With the departure of VvD , we saw the last of "big names " disappear and only by signing promising young foreign players could we begin to re-build.
lacking experience at the Prem.level we see the results.

I'd go along with Nick (and others comments) about the the subsequent managers after Koeman jumped ship. Puel may have been a boring manger, but he was not a bad one. and I believe the fans who forced the Board's arm to sack him.
Pellegrino's appointment was a mistake, but like Pochettino he'd "made a silk purse out a sow's ear" (with small clubs in Spain) but to be fair we don't know the quality of others who were interviewed for the job. PG may have been the best candidate on the day (?)

By next week, this will (hopefully) all be forgotten on the back of a good win .v. Watford.
If not , we will have fans screming for Hughes' dismissal ..and if Ralph can't choose a good team for the next game ...maybe Nick can go out with a poll for fans to choose a starting line-up.(sic)

One thing for sure, we'll be hard put to it to find a DOF with Les' background knowledge.


BoondockSaint added 15:45 - Nov 9
If any of you are having trouble falling asleep tonight, might I suggest reading the DE interview with Small Club Ralph?

Although, this quote might cause you nightmares: "January is not a month that in November you set a clear strategy for. "...??.....Uh, doesn't every professional team have a list of players they are watching and are ready to move quickly on if the need arises? This probably explains why Saints have stood by an watched good players (and managers) snapped up by other teams early on in transfer windows.

SanMarco added 17:33 - Nov 9
He sounds like a First World War general Boondock...

SaintBrock added 18:39 - Nov 9
You're only a good as your last mistake in any business. Reed failed more often than he succeeded and his self-conceit alienated most. He got what he deserved but walks away with a shed load of dosh. I doubt he gives a Cluck.

worksopsaint added 18:52 - Nov 9
What worries me Nic about your summary is that it misses out Les’s career after the second failure at Charlton. He was first team coach at Fulham where he had mixed fortunes but then bizarrely turns up as managing Bishops Stortford after being sacked by Fulham. That bit of hisc CV raises questions about his competence.

Is Les one of these folk who does ok when there are very competent others around him ? You say things slipped after the summer of 2014. Ok by then Paul Mitchell and pottchechio had gone and Cortese went before the end of 2014: all strong, capable people. Truth is he couldn’t shine without them and Les couldn’t really adapt to a replacement chairman ( new to football) , couldn’t identify the really good undervalued transfers - in , keepthe Academy scouting the very best rising stars or preparing the squad for the vigour of the Europa League .

Such a view is supported by our gentle slide downwards. So I think he’s right to be gone though I would credit him with some of our recent success but place the contributions of Leibher, Pottechio , Koeman, Cortese, Mitchell as being higher.

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