Oh, I could fly without wings, on the back of Reidy’s kings; at three o’clock I’m as happy as can be; coz the good times they are here; and the premiership is near; so watch out world as all of Roker sings; Na, Na, Na, Na, Na, Na Na....
Today we celebrate the birth, 65 years ago, of the most successful manager in Sunderland’s modern history, Peter Reid. Brought up in the tough environment of Huyton on Merseyside in the 1960s in a mixed Blue-Red family, the young Peter ended up as Liverpool fan because his dad got in first and took him along to Anfield. He started out with Huyton Boys and was picked up by Bolton Wanderers in 1974, spending eight years at Burden Park that included gaining promotion to the first division in 1978.
In 1982, he transferred to his mum’s club, Everton, for a bargain £60,000, and became an integral part of the Toffees’ most successful ever team. In the golden era at Goodison the local lad became an FA Cup winner in 1983, Cup Winners Cup winner in 1985, twice a League Champion in ‘85 and ‘86, and World Cup midfielder for England in Mexico.
After the death last year of his contemporary, Diego Maradona, Reidy showed an admiration and humility that sadly escaped some of his less thoughtful England teammates from that Mexico ‘86 quarter final, describing the man who’d pirouetted past him and Terry Fenwick in midfield before going on to score his majestic second goal, as “quite simply he is one of the best players to walk the planet.”
Reid’s playing career extended well into the 1990s; he was part of the last wave of the old-style player-managers to feature successfully at the top of the English game during his time at Manchester City. But he hung up his boots for good as began his time at Roker Park – although he did turn out in red and white occasionally in charity and testimonial games.
We literally had our ups and downs – Reid oversaw the unexpected promotion in 1996 followed by relegation and playoff heartbreaks that were washed away in our record-breaking 105 point promotion in the 1998-99 season.
There is so much to celebrate when we look back on that time. The purchase of players like Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, Alex Rae, Stefan Schwarz, Gavin McCann and Thomas Sorensen brought international quality players into our line-up for the first time in a generation, alongside local talents like Micky Gray and Craig Russell.
Reid installed standards, belief, camaraderie and self-confidence in both the squad, the fanbase and indeed the city.
Recapturing that spirit has been the unspoken and unfulfilled mission of every Sunderland manager since.
The cultural impact of Reid upon our club and our city shouldn't be underestimated. The Premier Passions documentary, charting our ill-fated and under-funded odyssey into the top-flight in 1996-97, brought our club and our city to national prominence after decades in the doldrums, as well as providing content-creators with soundbites for the ages.
With the support of owner Bob Murray and chairman John Fickling, he oversaw the transition from old football at Roker Park to the new, commercialised and televisual era at the Stadium of Light, and our halcyon days lasted up to the point that the club tried and failed to move into the upper-echelons of the transfer market. If marquee signing Tore André Flo had reproduced his form from Rangers, who knows how far we would have gone with Reidy at the helm.
His record on Wearside speaks for itself; Reid took charge of 353 Sunderland games between March 1995 and October 2002, was awarded the League Managers Association Manager of the Year in 1996, and won 159 games and two promotions for Sunderland with a win ratio of 45 per cent.
He’d never again reach those heights as a manager; short spells at Leeds and Coventry between 2003 and 2005 ended prematurely, although a year as national team coach of Thailand in 2008-9 saw him win over half of his games in charge.
A proper football man with a proper social conscience, who often lends his support, voice, and profile to the campaigning work of Neville Southall and Marcus Rashford, a man - as we witnessed on social media during the pandemic - who loves his mum dearly, and remains one of the most popular figures in our national game today.