Born on this day is former Sunderland manager Peter Reid, who spent nearly 8 years at the club, overseeing two promotions to the Premier League and some of the most exciting football in living memory for many fans.
Reid enjoyed a long career as a player with teams like Bolton, Everton and Manchester City. He made the gradual transition to management with the role as player manager with City, before returning to football with Southampton and seeing out his career with spells at Notts County and Bury.
After retirement, his first experience of full on club management was with us. Mick Buxton was sacked after we’d lost six out of seven games – that run culminating in a 2-0 defeat at Barnsley which left us in 20th place in the Championship. Bob Murray gave Reidy seven games to save our season and reader, he did it. Craig Russell’s last-minute winner against Sheff Utd set things rolling, and while we might only have averaged a goal a game, we lost only once and finished four points clear of the drop.
Reid stabilised us and revived our fortunes. 1995-96 saw us grind our way to promotion, with Bobby Saxton drafted in as number two to Reidy. We got off to a poor start, but quickly rectified this and by December, we were top of the pile, only dropping down a few places before climbing back there in mid-March. A run of six clean sheets saw us promoted with a game to spare, meaning that our last-game defeat at Tranmere meant nothing and Reidy was chaired around the pitch by celebrating Sunderland fans in a carnival atmosphere. Our manager’s demeanour was perceived by some as being dour. Not Moyes dour (nor Grayson dour, or Parkinson dour), because we were winning, but nevertheless the man from Merseyside's perceived misery birthed the song “Cheer up Peter Reid”. An official release by Simply Red and White saw the song chart, peaking at number 41.
Things didn’t go too well the next season, as it quickly became apparent that like Icarus, we had flown to close to the sun without the adequate time required to prepare non wax wings. A forced simile, but still. We probably weren’t ready for the step up to Premier League football just yet. It didn’t help that Reidy’s big hope, Niall Quinn, bust his knee against Coventry in September. He returned before the end of the season, before he’d fully recovered, but our fate was confirmed on the last day as our fans took over Selhurst Park and then Wimbledon, but all for nothing.
Reidy oversaw the landmark transition from Roker Park to the Stadium of Light and took Sunderland into the new millennium. 1997-98 started at our new stadium, but our form, initially, was not befitting of a club in a brand new stadium. We hadn't been reborn or reinvigorated; our bad form had carried over. Reid shook things up and set up the defence of Holloway, Williams, Craddock, and Gray that shored things up - and his best ever buy, Kevin Phillips, started scoring. And didn’t stop.
We spent most of the season in second or third place, eventually making the play-offs after the final day results didn’t quite go our way. We all know what happened against Charlton, and what happened the following season as we started by going 24 games unbeaten in all competitions and dominated on our way to promotion, achieving that at Bury on April 13th and claiming the title at Barnsley three days later, winning the league by 18 points. We lost only three games, scored 91 goals and let in only 28 – SuperKev had grabbed another 25 goals, despite missing over three months after Reidy’s brother Shaun stood on his toe in a League Cup game against Chester.
Things were going so well that he even managed England U21s on his days off, and got us to the semi-final of the League Cup. Two seventh place finishes in the Prem followed as we were treated to famous names joining us – Hutchison, Schwarz, Reyna, McAteer, Flo (well, he was famous), then the wheels started to come off. Quinn got old, Phillips lost his mojo, Reidy seemed genuinely morose...and after ending 2001-02 one place from the drop, we started the following season badly. After eight points from our opening nine games, he was sacked and we were introduced to the nightmarish Howard Wilkinson.
Since leaving us, Reidy has managed Leeds, Coventry, Thailand, Plymouth, and Mumbai City, having several spells out of the game. Whatever your thoughts on Peter Reid, he gave us some of the most entertaining football in our history and got us promoted twice. Happy birthday, Peter.