The salvage job Peter Reid oversaw in 1995 has been well documented on this site over the years, but it’s worth reminding ourselves. In the 39 games before his arrival, we’d won nine drawn 15 and lost 15 (1.07 ppg in modern parlance).
Upon taking over with seven games left, we won three and drew three (1.71 ppg) and after it seemed as if we were on a one-way ticket to the third tier, we ended up staying up by six points.
All the more remarkable, then, that motivated and cajoled the very same squad of players (plus Paul Bracewell, John Mullin and David Kelly) to the league title the following season.
No talk of needing time to build his own squad – which, of course, he did naturally over time. No, Reidy, just got in and worked with what he had – rolled up his sleeves, upon which he wore his heart, and got the team, the fans and the club, going.
Right person, right time, right club.
When it came to the end of the 1995 season, there was of course the matter of Reid’s contract to resolve – he’d been brought in to rescue the club, and he had done just that. A new more permanent deal was quickly sorted out.
The playing squad was the next to figure out – and on this day 26 years ago it was the future of 25-year-old Dickie Ord that was under the spotlight.
The central defender (who Bobby Ferguson, Malcolm Crosby’s assistant had tried to convert into a central midfielder) had been a permanent fixture in Reid’s lineup, and the gaffer evidently liked what he saw.
Ord had come up through the youth system and made his debut in a memorable 7-0 home win over Southend in our Third Division championship-winning season of 1987-88. Memorable because Ord had to momentarily depart the field of play to ‘use the facilities’ during the game.
However, the offer of a one-year deal seven and a half years later to stay at his boyhood club didn’t sit right with the defender, and he promptly rejected Reid’s offer.
His agent, Ian Elliott, told The Journal:
Richard loves Sunderland. His wife is from the area, he’s been at the club nine years, is due a testimonial and does not want to move. He thinks the club can go places under Peter Reid.
But the club have only offered him a one-year deal and he is not prepared to accept that when he can get three years somewhere else.
He has formally rejected Sunderland’s offer, but we hope it will be improved when Peter Reid returns from holiday, If not he is a free agent, and there is plenty of interest from other clubs.
Of course, an agent wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t talk up his client’s prospects, but it’s likely on this occasion rumoured interest had some truth to it.
Ord was a cultured player with a lovely touch, a wand of a left foot. He’d developed an aggression to his game that served him well; only a lack of pace prevented him from being a top-class player.
Interest was rumoured from a top-flight club who’d narrowly escaped relegation – Aston Villa, whose manager Brian Little was well acquainted with the north east, being the most likely candidate.
In addition, two ‘leading’ first division clubs were also keeping tabs on him.
Of course, Ord’s contract situation was resolved, and he went on to form a strong partnership with Andy Melville as Reid managed the team to the championship title, Ord starting 41 games and Melville 40 of the 46 league games.
It’s on such consistency of availability and team selection that successful promotion campaigns are built.
The following season began with his testimonial match versus Steaua Bucharest at Roker, and despite relegation was a successful one for Ord – in fact, the only games he missed were through suspension. He was sent off for two bookable offences at Derby, and on his first game back from suspension was given a straight red for ‘leaving his foot’ in on Emerson in an evening kick-off against Boro at Roker.
The following season, however, was a different story. Troubled by injury, Ord lost his place, and couldn’t regain it due to the form of Jody Craddock and Darren Williams. He managed only 13 starts, was left out of the side at Wembley and, aged 28, was sold by Reid to QPR for a fee reported to be around £1m.
Ord told the Sunderland Echo:
I didn’t even make the bench for Wembley and I was gutted,” he said. “I spat the dummy a bit, to be honest, and I made a decision that I’ve always regretted. Ray had been my England Under-21 coach and was a fantastic bloke and great coach. He got in touch and asked about me. I don’t think Reidy wanted me to leave and I know that Bobby Saxton didn’t, but they were fair and said it was up to me. I went to see Ray and he wanted me in his side and was going to make me captain, so I made the decision to go. I still had four years on my deal at Sunderland and time to turn things round, which I think I could, but I was upset about not being involved in the side and I made the hardest decision of my life, to go.
His move to the capital was a disaster – a cruciate injury in his first pre-season friendly ruled him out for a long spell, and two years, six operations and no appearances for the ‘R’s’, he returned to the northeast, as an ex-professional.
On his day, he was a superb player, and regardless of if things were going his way or not you could always rely on Ord for total commitment to the shirt. His two best seasons came under Reid, and you can see why the gaffer would have loved having Ordy in his team.