Puskas he ain’t, but Reid on right wavelength

For Andy Reid, it must have been just like old times. Five years ago he earned his 25th international cap in an end-of-campaign knockabout against Wales under interim gaffer Don Givens.

Last night was his 26th and with interim boss Noel king manning the dugout. Sixty-six Ireland games came and went in between.

The joke this past while, one even Giovanni Trapattoni would have understood, was that the Dubliner got better with every game he didn’t play such was the furore that followed his dispatch in the wake of ‘Guitargate’.

There was an element of truth in that but then it seems timely to look back a full decade now and remind ourselves of the career people once foresaw for him and the write-up his debut against Canada a decade ago merited in this very newspaper.

“Reid made such an impact,” read the report, “as to suggest he was capable of bringing that touch of invention, that element of imagination, to Ireland’s midfield play that has been lacking since the retirement of Liam Brady and, to a lesser extent, John Sheridan.”

There was, too, a mention of the midfielder’s weight. It was not the first and wouldn’t be the last but that combination of heft and touch once prompted his then manager at Charlton to compare him to Ferenc Puskas.

That was a line that was always going to make headlines — and make them it did — but lost deep down into that appraisal from Les Reed at the time was his insistence that Reid was “the man who can unlock doors”.

He has done just that for Forest this season, scoring five times in 11 appearances and setting up a sight more, and he merited his inclusion against Kazakhstan last night on that basis alone even if the context here is worth framing.

The Kazakhs are ranked 132nd in world football and drew with the Faroe Islands not so long ago and Reid found himself shadowed by their journeyman captain Andrei Karpovich who is now playing for the ninth club of his 14-year career.

Brazil they were not.

Reid has known travels of his own, of course, and has spent a good proportion of his playing days journeying the secondary roads of English football that have more often than not ended with 90 minutes in places like Millwall rather than Manchester.

None of that mattered last night.

Reid gave a performance here that made you yearn for those five years back not because he would have reinvented the wheel but simply because he would realise that a wheel is round and works best on level ground.

Nestled in just behind Robbie Keane, he profited from Noel King’s determination to ‘play ball’ and he tuned effortlessly into the same wavelength as Robbie Keane and, particularly, Anthony Stokes for all of 75 minutes.

Reid’s first two touches were memorable only for their confirmation that the pitch would seek to frustrate them every bit as much as the visitors — again, just like old times — but he adapted and prospered from there on in.

His first-half is worth dissecting on its own. Close to 10 crosses were delivered into the Kazakh box via his white, left boot and only once did he fail to clear the first defender. More often than not the end result was an appointment with an Irish boot or head.

Both goals came courtesy of Reid corners: the first when Alexander Kislitsyn handled his pass under pressure and prompted the penalty and the second when Richard Dunne’s header was saved and returned with interest by John O’Shea.

Add to that the fizzing inswinger that glanced off Robbie Keane’s head and two more met by Dunne and Kevin Doyle and Reid had clearly more than earned his appearance money long before the 45th minute.

But it was more than that.

There was the intelligence to predict a backheel from Anthony Stokes down the left touchline, the presence of mind to use his own Achilles to find Seamus Coleman and a long-range chip that just cleared the bar after the break.

He’s no Puskas or Brady but Reid is welcome back all the same.

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