The End of Reidy by Matty Hayward

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@MattyHayward96

Jamie Reid. Sixty-two goals in one-hundred-and-seventy-one appearances. Fifty-four in eighty-four since September 2018. And nobody cares. For some – the scouts, the analysts, the Football Manager fanatics, the Football League clubs circling like vultures over the heads of non-league strikers, perhaps even the players – that’s what football is about. Numbers. Data. Goals. Assists. Pass completion rates. Distance travelled.

That’s fine. The game needs those people. Those numbers are important. In fact, I often find myself reading those incredibly detailed Twitter threads that statisticians create about Sadio Mane’s heatmap or Tyrone Mings’ interception zones. They’re often, if not interesting, noteworthy and enlightening.

But football isn’t really about those numbers. If it were, El Classico would be contested by teams managed by Carol Vordeman and Alan Turing, and nobody would turn up (even if they were allowed to).

Football, like history, is far more about moments. That’s why we all go back, because a few times a season (slightly more if your team is good, less if they’re not) something amazing happens. A great – or more often an important – goal is scored and there is an eruption of collective emotion that I’ve never experienced elsewhere in life. Where else would a series of human-to-object and object-to-object collisions result in hundreds or thousands of humans maniacally shouting, leaping, throwing their arms in the air, making ridiculous noises and hugging strangers? Only at the football.

If you ask an Everton fan about Dixie Dean – and you’ll have to excuse the tenuous comparison here – they won’t tell you that he scored 349 goals in 399 games. They’ll tell you he was bloody brilliant; he was the first player to wear a number 9 shirt in an FA Cup final – a game in which he scored and captained his team to victory; and probably wax lyrical about the testicle story (told here in the fifth and sixth paragraphs). Well, in truth, almost every fan who remembers Dixie Dean’s Everton days is dead, but you get the gist.

And so we move effortlessly from Dixie Dean to Jamie Reid. Reidy’s weight of goals were fantastic, but we’ll soon forget his penalty at Wrexham or the tap-in against Oxford City (if we hadn’t already). What we won’t forget are the big moments: the title-deciding finishes, the trophy-lifting, the screamers, the shithousery, the performance of his own song in front of the Popside. These are the things on which memories are made.

With that in mind, I thought the best tribute I could give to Reidy was to recount some of the best memories he’s brought to Torquay fans during his time at the club – the things he’ll be remembered for in five, ten, twenty years’ time.

8) Ebbsfleet (a) October 2017 – Not Rubbish Anymore?

Admittedly this is a deeply personal memory, and I wasn’t even there, but it’ll certainly stay with me. I was on a pretty grotty bus in York when my phone came alive with notifications. Reidy had scored a screamer, just his third of the season and seventh for the Gulls. I didn’t know that at the time, though. All I knew was that we had taken the lead via the Prince and my fellow passengers were startled by my seemingly random display of elation.

(4:59)

7) Concord (h) November 2018 – A Long Ranger Against Rangers

Strikers, especially ones who score the sheer number of goals that Reidy did, are most associated with tap-ins and clinical finishes in the box. Reidy got a few of them, but he was also not averse to a worldie. Very few were better, or more memorable, than this strike against Concord Rangers. You have to be in some serious form to even consider shooting from this distance – I’d guess about forty yards. But to connect with it so well, completely bamboozle the ‘keeper and almost burst the net in the top corner requires not just confidence but bags of ability. A truly sensational, ridiculous strike.

(10:50)

6) Chelmsford (h) April 2019 – A Resilient Reidy

If you wanted to be trite, you could argue that Reidy’s performance against Chelmsford served as a fitting metaphor for his Gulls career – he missed a penalty but improved and scored late on, the basic Keatingian rollercoaster narrative is almost irresistible. I think the comparison would miss the mood of that match, though. After his penalty miss – one of many for Torquay, it must be said – the Plainmoor crowd bellowed “REIDY” in the peculiarly deep voice that chants of that short and basic nature demand. This, of course, is not reminiscent of his Torquay career at all.

 A memory that nearly made this list was his goal at home to Halifax in October 2017 where he glared at the Popside as if to say “oh, you’re not booing me anymore, then?”. He had to work extremely hard, much harder than most, to gain the support of the Yellow Army which he received on the night of the Chelmsford game. And that goal, beautifully crafted by his long-term friend, partner and fellow Irelander Ruairi Keating, will stick in the mind as a symbol of Reidy’s enormous will to fight for our club.  

(7:20)

5) Woking (h) December 2020 – An Assist!

Most of these memories are goals, mostly because I couldn’t write an article about “Oh anyone remember that turn at Dulwich!” or “what about that pass to Duku at home to Boreham Wood!” – memories of such minutiae are deeply personal and often don’t make it into 15-minute highlight packages. I think this assist was probably Reidy’s best though, and arguably it’s one of the best passes he’s ever played. Off the back of an embarrassing team performance at Yeovil, Reidy returned from injury, and while not fully fit he was highly effective.

After notching in the first half, Reidy picked the ball up in his own half, right in front of the Popside; turned and pinged a left-footed diagonal pass straight into the path of Keating who finished with aplomb. This felt significant. It sealed a hammering of Woking, something especially redemptive for Ruairi whose previous season had been curtailed by a couple of clatterings by the Surrey side, and a properly good afternoon of festive football against a team with whom we had developed a pseudo-rivalry.

(14:53)

4) Aldershot (h) August 2019 – What a goal.

This is Reidy’s best ever goal. While he can score all sorts of goals, his trademark is the turn and strike from range. He’s as prolific on the edge of the 18-yard box with his back to goal as he is inside the six-yard box with the goal gaping. But this was a trademark Reidism with a difference. When I do anything approaching an impressive piece of skill on a football pitch, which is extraordinarily rare, I tend to just scream and run round celebrating until everyone has acknowledged my Brazilian talent and the opposition have scored. But after Reidy pulled off this frankly obscene bit of control – a sort of aerial Cruyff turn – he maintains the composure to take a further touch and larrup the ball past a helpless goalkeeper. It’s one of the best goals ever scored by a Torquay player, and if you reckon it’s a fluke then you ought to drive to Barnard Castle.

(8:38)

3) Eastbourne (a) October 2018 – The First Hat Trick

Reidy’s first hat-trick for the Gulls was brought up in the classic fashion. His feet and strength were too good for the opposing defender, and the finish from the edge of the box made the goalkeeper look silly. Eastbourne weren’t easy to beat that day, and it needed a talismanic performance from our number 19 to wrestle control of the game and overturn their two goals. Sam Jones tells me The Prince was “different class” that day – it’ll be hard to forget Reidy’s first trio for The Gulls.

(Hat-trick sealed at 7:40)

2) Stockport (h) September 2019 – The Half Century

I understand there is some irony in opening my article by claiming not to care about numbers, then celebrating the game in which Reidy scored his fiftieth goal. What’s more, it was only a penalty. But it’s the day, more than the landmark, that’ll be remembered so fondly. It was hosing down with rain, but that didn’t stop Gary’s men battering a Stockport side in decent form. After opening the scoring from the spot, Jamie burgled the ball on the halfway line and terrorised the remaining two County defenders before slotting home a cool finish and bringing up number 51. It was a goal of the absolute highest class and topped off an excellent away day which kick-started our fantastic run. It’ll live long in the memories of everyone there, for sure.

(second goal at 5:45)

1) Woking (a) April 2019 – of course

Could it be anything else? This is by far Reidy’s most important goal in a Torquay shirt. The through ball from Ruairi was inch-perfect, but still left Jamie with plenty to do. And yet, nobody ever really doubted him. The finish was sublime and the celebration was peak Shagger Shithousery: eyeballing the Woking fans behind the goal, knowing the importance of the equaliser. Of course, we had to go on to concede twice more.

But arguably the key moment of that game came after those two goals. Frank Vincent clipped a delicious, enticing pass down the line. Reid, too quick for a certain centre back, nipped in front and drew a foul. Something often underplayed was Reidy’s footballing intelligence, but this was an elite example of just that. He knew Gerring was on a booking. He knew where he was. And he knew how to time the touch round the corner to make the tackle look late and clumsy. I’ve never celebrated a red card that much in my life. The whole game felt different after that moment. Without that split second of ingenuity, who knows how the rest of the game would’ve panned out. Would an 11-man Woking have left an opposing right back unmarked in the middle of the area? Would Torquay have won the league without that point? Would Gary Johnson still be here? These are the things that we owe to Jamie Reid.

(Goal at 2:55, red card at 11:21)

But now, we reach the end. Reidy’s off, and I think I speak for all Torquay fans when I wish him the very best. And you best believe I’ll keep thinking and tweeting about him and these memories; saying “Reidy would’ve buried that” every time our new strikers put one wide regardless of the difficulty of the chance; and I’ll be celebrating like mad when he’s knocking them in for Northern Ireland for the next five years. It would have been great if we’d got a fee for him, or better if he had signed a contract and was gearing up to take us back where we belong, but when you finish mid-table in the Conference you can’t really expect the best striker in non-league to stick around. It doesn’t matter who he’s playing for next season – whenever that is – he’ll still be one of our own.

COYY – Matty

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