Soccer: Reid good fit for West Ham

By Michael Brown

When the West Ham website tantalisingly reported the club were close to signing a "young international who represented his country to distinction at the 2010 Fifa World Cup," fans might have thought they were on the verge of picking up a player like Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller or Fabio Coentrao.

The capture of Winston Reid on a three-year deal might have disappointed some West Ham fans but the 22-year-old All White has the potential to become a very good Premiership player.

He is athletic, quick, tall and strong and, as he showed against Slovakia, has an eye for a goal.

It is a good fit for the club and also for Reid.

West Ham might have staved off relegation by the width of a goalpost last season, finishing one place above the drop in 17th, but they don't look in danger of getting caught in a relegation battle this time around.

They have new owners who made funds available for new manager Avram Grant. They haven't been forced to offload their best players as they did in the not-too-distant past.

New co-owner David Sullivan said they barely survived "Armageddon" and he had no intention of going through that again.

West Ham have picked up German midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger, Mexican winger Pablo Barrera, French striker Freddie Piquionne, defender Tal Ben Haim and Reid to add to a squad that features Scott Parker, Carlton Cole, Matthew Upson, Robert Green, Luis Boa Morte and Mark Noble.

It means Reid will be at a club that shouldn't be relegated.

The amount West Ham paid for the centre-back, reported to be as much as £4 million, is significant. Clubs don't spend that much, particularly middling clubs like West Ham, if they don't intend fielding the player.

All Whites coach Ricki Herbert played a significant role in the transfer. He knows Grant reasonably well and was contacted by the West Ham boss during the World Cup for his assessment of Reid. Herbert had no hesitation in recommending him as a player of immense potential and negotiations progressed from there.

"Avram is excited to get Winston and sees him as someone who will play a big role in the future," Herbert says. "He sees him as athletic and technically sound and he was impressed by the way he handled some of the best players at the World Cup.

"From what I can tell, Winston is a good shot to be in the team. It's a step up from what he has been playing and it will take time to adjust ... but if they paid as much as people are saying they did for him, then he must see Winston as an integral member of the team. For a 22-year-old to be going to a club like that, it's fantastic."

It's unrealistic to expect Reid to make the starting XI immediately. West Ham open their Premier League season against Aston Villa next weekend and Reid travelled to London only three days ago to sign with the club.

There will be no question about his fitness, having come off a World Cup campaign, but he needs to learn the Hammers' system and Grant needs to better understand how Reid plays.

Captain Upson is bound to play as one centre-back with Ben Haim, Manuel da Costa, Julien Faubert, Jonathan Spector and Reid battling it out for the other. Reid could also play right-back but it's not his favourite position.

The Premier League will suit Reid's style of game. He's strong and quick enough to cope with the demands of the English game and also possesses enough quality on the ball to be an asset. He still has a tendency to dive in and use his pace to make up for it but he will mature over time.

Reid was linked with a host of clubs following the World Cup, including Arsenal, Blackburn, Tottenham, Everton, Aston Villa, Fiorentina, Palermo and Sampdoria. The Arsenal connection was the first to emerge but it didn't seem to add up.

The Gunners have a tradition of signing young players with potential but people maybe misinterpreted the presence of Arsenal chairman David Dein at the All Whites' World Cup match against Italy and the urging of New Zealand Football chief executive Michael Glading that Dein should watch Reid.

Blackburn seemed like a more realistic fit for Reid because of their standing in the league as a mid-table club and the influence of All Whites captain Ryan Nelsen but nothing materialised.

Reid has talked about his move to West Ham being a "dream" one. It's good, certainly, but Reid has the potential to appear in more illustrious teams than West Ham.

It might mean Hammers fans might one day bemoan the departure of the All Whites centre-back.

- Herald on Sunday

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