Matty Hayward – @MattyHayward96
“Let’s embrace being top of the table and the fact that the best striker in the league has just signed a new contract with us”
You could describe Jamie Reid’s time at Torquay United as a rollercoaster, although that wouldn’t make much sense because very few rollercoasters have one big dip followed by one bigger ascent. In many ways, Reidy’s time at Torquay serves as a tidy metaphor for the club over the last four years: steady but making no impact under Hargreaves; failure deemed as mild success under Nicholson; worse failure under Owers; then a remarkable and almost unblemished upturn under Gary Johnson.
As recently as the start of this season, many Gulls fans (not all, I wouldn’t include myself) would have been content with seeing him made Reidundant. However, since his Reidistribution to centre forward and the ensuing Reidnaissance, it’s fair to say that the majority of fans are now Reidophiles: they worship Christ The Reideemer.
In light of securing Jamie’s signature for what we assume is at least another season (although we’ve been frustratingly left in the dark by the club), it’s about time we looked a bit deeper into Reidy’s career at Plainmoor and tried to find out what’s led to his Reidbirth.
By my calculations Reidy scored just over one goal every ten appearances before this season (9 in 89), but it wasn’t just goal-scoring that held him back. For a number of reasons (some I spoke to at the time cited work rate; first touch; that nebulous concept of “attitude”) the crowd didn’t warm to him and there was a long period where Jamie and Plainmoor weren’t the best of friends.
He told me, “Plainmoor was not a nice atmosphere to play in…and I don’t blame them [the fans]…they must have been fed up with what they were paying to watch.” He’s right, we were. It was easy – and often wrong – for fans to paint Reidy as a scapegoat because he was often present in Nicho’s 16/17 team and Owers’ relegation side. Certainly, he was a frustrating player to watch at a time where every Torquay United game was very frustrating for fans and the shouts of “REIDY” from the Popside became increasingly sparing, increasingly ironic, and from an increasingly small base of people.
However, this season is different. In 33 appearances, Reidy has scored 21 goals and made a further 9 assists. “REIDY” shouts are to be expected before every game, after every game, and pretty much any time he gets the ball during the game. Why is this? What’s changed? Why’s he gone from the Popside’s scapegoat to the GOAT?
Well, part of it will be because we’re in a lower league than last season. That can’t and shouldn’t be ignored: this is the lowest league Torquay have been in and it’s the lowest league Reidy has played in. Obviously we should be top and obviously he should be scoring goals. There’s more to it than that though: “There’s a lot of factors that go into it,” he tells me, “I’ve got a manager who has put me in my position and said nothing tactical or over complicated, just said ‘stay dangerous.’”
He also credits the fans and his teammates: “I think a massive factor is down to the atmosphere in the ground, it carries all the boys over the line…The players I’ve got around me and the chances they’re creating for myself is the reason why I’m having a good season.” He specifically notes Asa Hall (who he called “The Viking”) and Saikou Janneh as key players on and off the field in helping his and the team’s success.
He only mentioned his position in passing there, but he’s mentioned it in interviews on the official site (“all I’ve ever wanted to do since coming here is show people what a good striker I am, and not what a bad winger I am”) and I think that’s crucial. Under Nicho, Reidy played primarily as a wide player: more a utility man in the forward line.
Under Owers, he played up front a bit more but was rarely considered first choice and the prehistoric hoofball employed really didn’t suit his style. Under Johnson, Torquay play a “fast, attack minded, pressing game,” something he (rightly) says he hadn’t had since he first joined. The result of that is that the Northern Ireland Under-21 international (Google it if you don’t believe me!) gets more chances, has more freedom, and ultimately scores more goals.
Another thing that shouldn’t be ignored is his improvement in other areas of his game. While it’s tempting – or lazy – for us fans to judge strikers on their numbers, Reidy’s touch, passing range and all-round play has remarkably improved. I only have to think back to the victory over Slough – where he played half a dozen delightful cross-field balls to teammates – to prove that his ability on the ball is as good as any midfielder in our team too.
Unfortunately, it’s less fun to talk about great passes a striker makes, so instead I asked him about his favourite three Torquay goals to date. As you’d expect, he cites the goal at home to Concord as his best: a screamer from upwards of 35 yards. The other two he includes are the goal at Ebbsfleet which encouraged Gary Owers to tell the media, “we’re not rubbish anymore,” and the finish at Wealdstone from this season: “I missed a penalty in the first half and I wanted to make it right all game.” It seems Reidemption following a missed penalty is becoming a theme of our team this season…
An outcome of this marked improvement in performances has been at outpouring of love (perhaps mania) on Twitter. You only have to spend a few minutes browsing Twitter – or Reid the comments and replies to the announcement of his new contract – to see all manner of memes and tweets about Torquay fans’ love of the man affectionately known as the Prince of Park Lane (this isn’t his only nickname…). Does Reidy have any idea about the scale of this mayhem?
“I’m aware of it yes…My brother sends me stuff sometimes, I’ve seen my head being stuck on a lot of people and a lot of memes…including Pele I think”. Understandably, Reidy now stays off Twitter in light of the “negativity” he had been receiving (his word, mine would be “needless, destructive abuse”). It pleases me, as I’m sure it’d please a number of members of the Yellow Twittersphere, that he sees some of the nonsense we get up to, though I’m sure the adoration he gets on the field (like the impressively catchy and increasingly well-known “Reidy is a shagger” song) gives him a pretty good idea of what the fans think of him. Indeed, he tells me in jest “whoever started the Reidy is a shagger chant needs to explain and apologise to my Mrs!!!!”
Unlike the fans, Reidy’s focus is boringly, very classic-footballer-when-asked-to-talk-about-the-futurey, on the next game. Though he tells me that the long-term goal is to get the club back to the Football League, he stresses that his aim for now is to “go from game to game, ticking them off with wins.” Indeed, United travel to East Thurrock with the title race back in their hands and the goal has to be to keep it there.
While I have been one of Reidy’s most vociferous (sometimes erroneously optimistic) fans throughout his time at Torquay, it is important to keep all this in perspective. Jamie Reid has proven himself to be a good striker and Conference South level: something which, frankly, I’d like to think we already knew. The real test for Reidy will be if he can replicate this success further up the pyramid, obviously we hope that he gets the chance to do that next season for Torquay.
For now though, Reidership, let’s embrace being top of the table and the fact that the best striker in the league has just signed a new contract with us. Thanks for REIDing. Up the Gulls.
Dom Roman – @DomRoman
“Jamie has become far less predictable for defenders to mark – getting his head up and enjoying his football”
Hands up I admit it, I was definitely a “Reidy doubter” at the start of this season. Not to be confused with a “Reidy hater”, I would never go that far and Jamie has always been a trier after all and in some terrible teams. But as the man who would be the ‘Plainmoor Prince’ struggled horribly against Bath in August, I pretty much convinced myself his future lied at somewhere like Truro, or even worse Taunton (no disrespect to them of course..)!
His mind was clearly still troubled by anxiety brought on by constant groans and moans from the long-suffering Yellow Army. At the ‘Meet the Fans’ evening he was shy and retiring, looking generally uneasy around the fans who had dished out stick from the side-lines (understandably so). One fan commented something like “I hope you have a better year” to Jamie and he was unimpressed, this wasn’t a man primed and ready to explode into NLS action.
A slow start to the season entailed as a partnership with new captain Brett Williams stuttered and even a goal against Hemel Hempstead did little to raise morale levels. Then a change occurred a couple of weeks later; a change in management that would send ripples of delirium across the TUFC spectrum and alter the course of Jamie Reid’s TUFC career. It was of course the hiring of (Sir) Gary Johnson.
The ‘Gary Johnson-Effect’ was immediate. Hungerford despatched with ease and Jamie on the score sheet. And that’s basically the way things have remained, as win after win pushed us up the table and Reidy bagged goal after goal from all sorts of angles. Johnson has instilled belief in the striker that he is the main man, that he should be taking chances and winning us games. “No more tracking back on the wing to cover full backs, you are staying up top Reidy”. That’s how to get the best out of players and breed confidence. Suddenly the team was buzzing with attacking intent and the ‘Reidy Doubters’ became believers.
In recent Yellows past, a prolific marksman has been less frequent than a Clarke Osborne visit to Plainmoor, but I’ve been equally impressed by Jamie’s other attributes. You can see the hard work and fine-tuning of skills that is going on at the training ground. Jamie no longer dwells too long in possession, turns more quickly on the ball and overall has become far less predictable for defenders to mark – getting his head up and enjoying his football, with ‘Super’ Saikou Janneh a very suitable partner. It’s a recipe for goals.
There’s still much to prove as Matty mentioned. United’s Achilles heal this season has been against the better NLS teams and if we reach the NL for 2019-20, then the opposition will be stronger, more aggressive and tactically astute. Unlike before, I think Jamie (surrounded by the right players) with new contract all signed and a manager backing him, can prosper in that league – why not? Anyway I’m getting ahead of myself! Let’s win that promotion, let’s have more goals, more serenades, knee slides and magic moments to savour. Well done No.19 – this is your time.