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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