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Book Review – Cheer Up Peter Reid

Former England midfielder Peter Reid has recently released his autobiography. His involvement in England’s 1986 World Cup campaign inevitably features prominently…

“I certainly don’t call it the ‘Hand of God’. It was the hand of a cheating bastard.”

Anyone who saw the TV documentary Premier Passions 20 years ago will know that Peter Reid will usually call a spade a spade, potentially with the odd expletive thrown in. And in his new autobiography, Cheer Up Peter Reid, the former midfielder doesn’t hold back as he reflects on the contribution of Diego Maradona during the unforgettable 1986 World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and England. Whereas Gary Lineker seems to have a fairly open-minded attitude towards Maradona and his ‘Hand of God’ goal, other England players such as Terry Butcher are less forgiving. Reid is clearly in the latter category, the quote above not the only criticism of Maradona in his memoirs.

Reid writes: “Cheat is a strong word to use in football and players hate it when they are accused of being one so I do not use it lightly, but I can say without fear of contradiction that Diego Armando Maradona is a cheat. He deliberately used foul means to deceive the referee and to unfairly damage England, so how could I see him as anything else?”

Maradona’s two famous goals in the Azteca Stadium were of starking contrasts and Reid would have a close-up view of the magnificent second as he unsuccessfully attempted to catch the Argentine star and became powerless in his pursuit. Over the years Reid has been compared to a man struggling to catch the last bus, while Sir Alex Ferguson writes in the foreword that “it was like an old racehorse chasing Frankel” and Reid reflects that it was “like a kid racing his dad in the back garden”. Whichever way you look, Reid will forever be associated with that moment – one he admits to still having nightmares about even now.

But the book is a reminder that simply playing for England in such a major match was a big achievement for Reid, whose career could quite easily have been ended by injury while at Bolton Wanderers a few years earlier. He credits the late Jim Headridge with helping him overcome his injury woes and Reid, a boyhood Liverpool fan, would go on to join Everton under Howard Kendall and start an enduring love affair with the Toffees.

Reid’s time at Goodison Park saw Everton become a major force, as his own reputation grew sufficiently for him to break into the England ranks and be included in the 1986 World Cup squad as he turned 30. But he would start the tournament looking on, suffering excruciating pain in his ankle after being injured late in the season with Everton following a challenge from Nottingham Forest’s Colin Walsh. A lesser man might have conceded defeat in their bid to play in the World Cup. But not Reid. The previous year had seen him miss out on playing in the European Cup due to English sides being banned, before Everton finished runners-up to Liverpool in the First Division and FA Cup. He wasn’t going to suffer a further blow by not going to the World Cup in Mexico.

After sitting out the opening two matches, he got his chance in the third game against Poland due to the absences of Ray Wilkins and Reid’s old mate Bryan Robson. England finally delivered and Reid deservedly kept his place against Paraguay and Argentina despite the pain he was in. His World Cup involvement constituted almost a quarter of his total of 13 England caps, with a combination of his late emergence on the scene, injury problems and strong competition for midfield spots all contributing to the relatively low tally.

He writes: “Considering the bad injuries that I suffered, I’m not disappointed at only getting 13 caps for England. When I was lying in a hospital bad with my career on the line I would have given anything to play for England, but looking at it in terms of what I had to offer I think I was better than 13 caps. I look at it simply though; when I was a schoolboy I wanted to play for England and I achieved that ambition. That’s the main thing, I did what I set out to do.”

Reid was last involved with England during Euro ’88, when he was in the squad but did not appear at any stage – not even in the dead rubber against the Soviet Union. “Bobby Robson ensured me and Viv Anderson, who was also unused, were given a round of applause in appreciation of our commitment to the cause,” he recalls. “You can imagine how that went down with the rest of the lads. Every time I went somewhere, even if it was just getting in and out of the lift, they would clap me. Bobby was just trying to be nice but that killed me.”

It’s fair to assume that Reid didn’t adopt such an approach during his managerial career, which he recalls including his controversial departure from Manchester City early in the 1993-94 season, his reign at Sunderland in which he twice won promotion to the Premier League – and the Cheer Up Peter Reid song was born – and contending with chronic financial problems at Plymouth Argyle. He also recounts the time he gave a certain Boris Johnson a piece of his mind when England met Germany in a legends match in 2006.

But arguably the book’s most revealing insight is not about football, instead concerning Reid’s daughter Louise and her recent battle against cervical cancer. She writes the opening chapter to the book and pays a moving tribute to her dad for his support, with he in turn heaping praise upon the NHS for helping her through the ordeal while reflecting on the shock of being told of Louise’s diagnosis. “There was nothing that could have prepared me for the worst news I have ever received,” he admits.

Reid may have always had a fierce will to win and still have nightmares over Maradona’s goal. But as important and memorable as it was, it was only football. Other events in his life have put on-field matters firmly in perspective. This book by Reid is well worth a read.

  • Cheer Up Peter Reid: My Autobiography is published by Trinity Mirror Sport Media. It is available from sources including Amazon.

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Blogging about the history of the England national football team, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s.

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