It was only going to be a matter of time before we were sussed out.
Years after we West Ham fans worked it out, several so-called bigger clubs have cottoned on to it too. That is, of course, that Winston Reid is one hell of a good centre half. If we’re truthful to ourselves, we’ll admit it took us a while to unanimously agree on him. A signing originally pitched to us in the summer of 2010 as someone who was a star of that year’s World Cup, it was a tad of an anti-climax when we discovered the player we had been courting was a New Zealander. Not quite the Spaniard of Dutchman we’d expected.
Our disappointment was soon turned into genuine fear when our new £5m man played his first few games. Seemingly confused by the fact he wore the number two shirt, Uncle Avram proceeded to start him at right back – a position he struggled to adapt too before suffering a fate you’d not wish on any professional footballer. He was dropped – for Julien Faubert!
It wasn’t until Grant had relegated us and left that we started to see the signs of the player we’d been promised. Knowing a thing or two about centre halves, Big Sam was quick to make him a mainstay in our Championship side, making 33 appearances. And with each appearance there was an ever-increasing assurance and calmness that perfectly balanced our defence at the time and played a key role not only in our promotion. Despite the signing of James Collins – deemed by many at the time to be bought to played alongside Tomkins – Reid continued to establish himself at the heat of our defence.
Now fully prepared for what the Premier League might throw at him, his strength, bravery, ability to tackle, his leadership and above all his pace meant that for the first time in recent memory, we had a defence that we could actually be proud of. And, more importantly, one we didn’t have to watch through our fingers every time a ball went into our box.
So good was he, in fact, that in a season full of positives for the entire team, it was Winston who held aloft the coveted Hammer of the Year award for 2013. With a strong start defensively to this season, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that he has been drawing more than just an admiring glance from one of the big boys – with rumours rife of a bid coming from Arsenal. And when you look at Arsenal’s defence, it’s not hard to see why. Per Mertersacker and Laurent Koscielny have looked far from convincing this season, and lack many of the qualities Reid could bring them., however such qualities at Premier League level must come at a price.
But what is that price? Media reports have suggested a bid should be expected in the region of £6million. To me, this smacks of a repeat of Arsene Wenger’s perusal of Gary Cahill, whereby he bid deliberately low in an attempt to unsettle the player. Unlike Bolton though, we are currently in a position whereby we do not need to sell. He’s an established part of a solid defence, and only recently spoke out about his love for West Ham, and how settled he is with us.
However, we must remain pragmatic. As happy as he appears to be at the club – confirmed by the fact he has not publicly courted any approach – will the opportunity to join Arsenal be too appealing to a player now in his mid 20s? With New Zealand being a nation who at best struggle to qualify for World Cups – he is unlikely to be able to fully showcase his talents on the highest stage of them all, so is bound to harbour strong ambitions to play in the Champions League.
Let’s be honest, it’s an ambition he is unlikely to be able to achieve with West Ham, be it at Upton Park or as part of the Olympic Stadium legacy. And when a player has the ability to really further his career – are we really in a position to stand in his way? The last thing we want is a distracted and despondent player at the heart of our defence. If he does go, we must ensure that the deal is the best possible deal for West Ham. I’ve seen comments on Twitter to the tune of holding out for £15million, but again we must be realistic.
This is as overly inflated as the reported £6million is ludicrously low. Somewhere between the two, and you’ve probably got a realistic value. But is a cash deal the best deal? If we did sell him for £10million, suddenly every replacement option goes up in price knowing that we have cash in our pocket.
So what is the solution? Well, I suspect the answer is currently sat on Arsenal’s bench. If Reid did sign to compete with Metersacker and Koscielny, then where does that leave Thomas Vermaelen? Unlikely to be happy at being fourth choice at The Emirates, I believe we should look to include him in any deal. Whilst a player I’d have previously thought we’d be unable to attract, the lure of being a first choice centre half in the run up to a World Cup would surely be preferable for the Belgian.
Attracting Vermaelen to commit long term might be an issue, but the inclusion of a buy-out clause in case of a decent tournament would potentially suit both parties. A deal of £2m cash plus Vermaelen, will solve many problems. We will have a ready made replacement for Reid and have the cash to fund a loan move for a proven goalscorer in January. While it will be sad to see Reid leave the club, there may well be a deal to be made that might benefit the club and the player alike. If he does leave, I will wish him all the best.