Peter Reid

01 Apr 2011


As he faces the toughest test of his managerial career, Peter Reid shares his thoughts on a subject that he knows a thing or two about... leadership

 Benjamin Disraeli once remarked, “There is no education like adversity.” If the great 19thcentury politician and statesman was correct, then the Plymouth Argyle manager, Peter Reid, is currently enjoying the finest education available.

 When Reid took over at the Devon club in June 2010, he had an idea that things might be difficult... he just didn’t know how difficult they would turn out to be. “I knew when I came into the job that, as we’d just been relegated, I would have to move some of the squad on,” says Reid. “But what I didn’t realise was that I was going to be spending as much time with the finance people as with the players.”

 The club’s financial problems escalated through the first months of Reid’s tenure, eventually reaching the point in March this year where it had to succumb to the inevitable and enter administration. Apart from the human cost in terms of jobs lost at the club and the knock-on effect on local businesses, this also had a serious effect on Reid’s team. Having somehow managed, against all the odds, to keep Argyle above the drop zone, Reid could only watch as the resulting 10-point deduction saw his team unceremoniously dumped to the foot of npower League One.

 Despite the fact that Reid has had to face this situation with a seriously depleted squad (a number of the leading players in the already threadbare squad were sold during the January transfer window to generate funds and lower the wage bill), he remains upbeat and determined to do everything possible to avoid relegation.

 “When a football club comes under this type of pressure then everything goes out the window and we’re all in it together,” he says. “You’ve got to face up to the situation you’re in and just get on with it; it’s a fact of life.”

 At one point, just after the transfer window closed, Reid found himself working with a squad of 18, some of whom are still in their teens. “These lads should be learning their trade in the youth team,” says Reid. “It’s a great education for them, but in an ideal world I’d like to be able to bring them into the team one at a time and drop them back out again to give them some rest, but the situation doesn’t allow for that.”

 To further complicate matters, those players who remain in the squad have gone for long periods without payment, which has meant that Reid, too, has had to be flexible. “A few of the lads were late for training,” he says, “so I told them to cough up their fine for the kitty as I would normally do. But when they pointed out that they hadn’t been paid, I had to cancel the fines. You’ve got to be flexible and you’ve got to read situations. It’s all well and good having a plan, but sometimes situations change those plans.”

 Reid believes that, where possible, he has to use the club’s current situation to his advantage. “I’ve had to sell some of my best players – the goalscorers – and this affects the team,” he says. “But I’ve explained to the remaining players that this opens up opportunities for them. You’ve got to use these things as a positive if you can, because negative thoughts are all around anyhow. Positivity, on the pitch or even just around the building, generates a better atmosphere.”

On the pitch, Reid was known as a leader. And leadership, he believes, is what’s going to get Plymouth through its current troubles. “You often have games in football where things are very evenly matched,” he says, “but there’s just one thing that makes one team the winner; it might be a bit of skill, but it also might just be the desire or the will to win.”

 Leadership, Reid believes, can be found in many guises. “You can find leaders anywhere,” he says, “they can be the assistant manager, or a coach or they can be on the pitch. Ian Greaves, my manager when I was at Bolton, was a terrific leader; Howard Kendall was a totally different type of person, but still a great leader. We had a lot of leaders on the pitch at Everton – Bracewell, Ratcliffe and Southall all took charge at times – but it’s not just about rolling your sleeves up and getting stuck in. Was George Best a leader? Of course he was. He led because he was usually the one with the ball.”

 Despite Plymouth’s plight, Reid insists that the club is still aiming high. “Of course, we have ambition,” he says.“Once you lose that you lose everything. The Barclays Premier League is always the dream. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Blackpool were in a similar situation to us and look at them now. And Blackpool aren’t the only ones... Burnley have been in the top flight, as have Swindon and Barnsley. I still believe that, with ability and ambition, it’s possible to get there.”

 But first, Argyle will have to achieve the near-impossible task of staying in npower League One… something that Reid believes they can do by putting their off-field problems to the back of their minds. “The way we’re going to get through this is if we can get the players relaxed and let them enjoy the football side of things,” he says. “If you’ve got a good dressing room you’ve always got a chance.”

 Argyle’s long-suffering fans might just believe that, with Reid at the helm, they might just have a chance, too.