Why West Ham's Winston Reid Has Come of Age in the Premier League
With ten games left in the 2012-13 Premier League season, West Ham United look well set to avoid relegation and stay in the top flight for at least another campaign.
Hammers defender Winston Reid is one of only two players who have been on the big dipper from the very start.
The New Zealand international has been at the heart of West Ham's season and although his profile may not be as gregarious as that of Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll or Mo Diame, the improvements he has shown in his all-round game have seen him out-shine his more illustriously regarded colleagues.
In short, Winston Reid is West Ham's best player and he has become a bona fide Premier League operator.
And here are some of the reasons why.
The Three Ps: Position, Pace, Precision
Good defenders are able to read the game like a book. Good defenders are quick. Good defenders are whistle-clean in the tackle.
Great defenders are all of those things.
While it's far too early to burden Reid with potential greatness, you can only look to see if signs of those attributes are there.
The signs are encouraging.
West Ham has never been famed for their ability to keep the score down in their recent Premier League history and the main area of concern for boss Sam Allardyce on promotion, was tightening things up at the back.
With Reid at its heart the Hammers' defense began the season with three clean sheets in their first four games.
A promising start turned into an excellent first two-and-a-half months as by mid-December West Ham had one of the best defensive records in the division with only one team, Stoke City, able to claim more shutouts.
So positionally, Reid has been on the money.
There have been inevitable dips and it has been a lot tougher away from home where the Hammers have struggled all over the pitch, overall Reid's performances have matured.
Reid is also one of the quickest defenders around and that's official.
In the Hammers' home game with Norwich he was clocked at just over 23 mph (via EA SPORTS Index) making him the fastest in the division. He is clearly eating all his greens.
In a division where you're regularly facing the likes of Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott, that comes in pretty handy.
As far as his tackling goes, Reid is putting in plenty of practice.
No-one in the West Ham back four has made more than his 51 this season. Although his yellow card count could be better, he is working harder than anyone else.
An Eye for a Goal
There is nothing West Ham fans love more than a hero.
The key to doing that is coming up with something memorable. Even better if you can produce something memorable against one of your rivals.
When Reid powered in a thunderbolt to beat Millwall, the Hammers' promotion-winning season in 2011-2012, his place in the hearts of the club's fans was assured.
Particularly as it came in adversity with West Ham playing for much of the game shorthanded.
More was made of Andy Carroll's impact but Reid's contribution was just as significant.
When Reid made his debut for the club in August 2010, it is fair to say it did not go well.
West Ham lost 3-0, they looked a total shambles and Reid has such a nightmare his performance was likened to that of a "part-timer" (via Daily Telegraph).
To be fair to Reid he was playing out of position at right back but, nevertheless, it was hard to argue with the description.
West Ham was so bad that season, the progress Reid managed to make was never really noticed.
The manager at the time, Avram Grant, certainly did not take much interest.
Reid, to his credit, did the best with the opportunities he was given—which were not many as it turned out.
Improved performances against Manchester United in the League Cup and against Burnley in the FA Cup, when Reid scored his first West Ham goal, were not rewarded with a run in the first team. In fact he was dropped and not seen again as the Hammers went down.
A season in the Championship under Sam Allardyce undoubtedly helped him get back on track—finally being appreciated by his manager inflated his confidence, accordingly.
Whether he could cut it back in the Premier League was a remaining question mark but his form is testament to the fact that he is doing that.
People Are Talking About Him
When West Ham tantalizingly announced they intended to sign one of the "stars of the World Cup" in the summer of 2010, Hammers fans could be forgiven for huffing a collective sigh of indifference when Reid was introduced.
Through no fault of Reid's, the club's fans were expecting someone with a rather higher profile than tsomeone who had just arrived from Danish side FC Midtyjlland.
To be fair to Reid, he was hardly a nobody and came to Upton Park off the back of an excellent tournament in South Africa for New Zealand, in which he scored a memorable goal against Slovakia.
After that debut at Villa Park, Reid must have wondered what he had let himself in for.
Allardyce has recognised Reid's contribution to the side on their return to the Premier League saying the Kiwi had been the "most consistent player by a long, long way," (via Newham Recorder).
The progress Reid has made has not gone unchecked by other Premier League clubs.
His performances triggered speculation over his future with a number of clubs across Europe, reportedly interested.
Reid signed the new contract and his elevation to integral status was complete when he was named by Allardyce as captain in the absence of Kevin Nolan.
Reid is West Ham's comeback kid. He is one of the most improved players in the Premier League.
It really has been quite a turnaround.