BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
Crystal Palace may have eased Premier League drop fears in the closing weeks of the 2017-18 season – but first-team coach Steven Reid admits that pressure is never far away.
The 37-year-old joined the Eagles in September after a couple of years in the same role at Reading.
Reid started his career at Millwall, playing over 150 games for the South Londoners before a £1.85million move to Blackburn Rovers in 2003.
His playing days took in Burnley, QPR and West Bromwich Albion, where he worked under current Palace boss Roy Hodgson, along with collecting 23 caps for the Republic of Ireland.
The FIFA World Cup is getting closer to completion – Reid was part of the Irish squad at the finals in 2002 – and Palace’s first senior pre-season fixture takes place in Sweden against FC Helsingor on July 12.
The Eagles spent most of last season fighting relegation before pulling clear to bag an 11th-place finish – Croydon-born Hodgson and his backroom team achieving their short-term objective.
“The way the manager works, I don’t think it was ever going to be him coming in and a quick fix,” Reid told the South London Press.
“We came in after four games and went on to lose another three, so it wasn’t a case of coming in for that quick fix. The way he works it takes time.
“It takes time to get used to the style of play, the patterns of play; it takes practice. I know, from playing in Roy’s side when I was at West Brom, that it takes practice so that it becomes a habit.”
For 37-year-old Reid, the mix of ages in the coaching trio of Hodgson (70) and assistant manager Ray Lewington (61) is a perfect combination.
“There is a really good balance between the three of us and all our different points of views and opinions,” said Reid who completed his UEFA Pro-Licence in June alongside former Premier League players David James, Nicky Butt, Nemanja Vidic and Jason Euell.
“Obviously, the gaffer and Ray are gentlemen but we’ve all got a bit of both the ‘bad cop’ and ‘good cop’ to be fair – there’s definitely a bad cop in there.
“I’m closer, I suppose, to the players in age as I only finished playing a few years ago, so maybe I have a little bit more of an understanding of what the players are going through. I’ve been through a lot of it myself, playing at the Premier League level.”
Reid and Hodgson are both in the technical area giving instructions during the game, so how do they decide who speaks when?
“It depends,” said Reid. “Sometimes the gaffer might give you a bit of a nod to go out and bark for a couple of minutes.
“People will have probably seen me out on the pitch taking the warm-up before the game and then doing little bits of finishing. Then it’s about getting the set pieces organised as well – maybe people have seen the folder I’ve got on the sidelines? You’re constantly in touch with the analysts as well. It might be a certain set play or some information they’re giving us tactically in a game – you’ve got to decide which need to filter through to Ray and the gaffer.
“At half-time there might be little bits and pieces which I can show to players individually to the lads.
“We all go in – we might have a couple of words on the way into the changing room, it might be no words, it might be the gaffer straight in and he’ll have exactly what he wants to say in his mind.
“We might go in and it might be an analyst which has a couple of clips which need to be shown. A couple of individuals or a little unit event – every game differs. It might be a game where there’s nothing to show, it might be a game where’s there a couple of important details. Every game is so different in how it pans out.
“Even in the build up to a matchday during the week, I’m involved in day-to-day practises.
“The manager likes to take the main tactical side of training, which is great, and then Ray and I take the other pieces which need to be done and give our input as well.”
In a season where the Eagles were under constant pressure and fighting for their survival, Reid allowed a little smile when asked if he could ever enjoy watching the team in such a ring-side seat.
“It’s rarely fun,” he said. “But probably the Leicester game was the most relaxed I’ve been all season on the bench.
“But you’ve got to stay on it because at this level in the space of a couple of minutes you might think you’re in a game but then you’re out of it – a wonder piece of skill from an opposition player and you can find yourself behind.
“You can’t really switch off – ever. ut the Leicester game [which Palace won 5-0 in April at Selhurst Park], towards the end, you could actually enjoy it, although I couldn’t even put the folder down because if they had got a corner, you’ve got to be so switched on – who’s gone in, who’s picking up? Are there any changes to what they’re doing?
“You actually drip that in the last couple of days training before the game into what we’re expecting, but on a matchday things can change – things can change every few minutes.”
One moment did stand out for Reid during a tumultuous season – the culmination of some hard work on the training ground and in the biggest game of the season for Palace fans – Brighton.
“There were a couple of goals this season which stand out for me,” said Reid. “But Wilf’s header against Brighton [which put Palace 3-1 up at Selhurst Park in April] – Luka’s [Milivojevic] put a great ball in from deep and Wilf’s arrived and headed it in.
“Maybe it is not anyone’s goal of the month or goal of the season, but that’s one of my goals of the season because it’s something we see almost daily on the training field; those patterns of play, those type of balls, those types of runs from Wilf and it’s probably a goal which slips through [everyone’s top goals].”