Way back in the summer of 2010, West Ham announced the signing of a ‘World Cup star’ and everyone got excited.
The 2010 World Cup in South Africa had not long finished and Spain had just lifted their first ever world title. It was a competition packed with top performers, as always, so the potential of West Ham signing one of them made us all a little bit giddy.
Could we do it again? Four years after signing Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, could we be about to tempt the likes of Thomas Muller, David Villa or Wesley Sneijder to glamourous east London? Obviously not.
I remember the disappointment and the collective ‘who!?’ when the club revealed the World Cup star joining the club was, in fact, Winston Reid.
Yes, the scorer of New Zealand’s first ever goal in a World Cup finals had been tempted by the lure of playing under Avram Grant in the Premier League.
However, over 10 years on from that summer and it’s fair to say Reid has become a club legend in his own right.
His first season at the club will have been one to forget as he struggled for game time in a season that saw us relegated from the top-flight in humiliating fashion.
When was the last time a club was relegated from the Premier League with a World Cup star in the squad? Typical West Ham.
But it was in the Championship, under Sam Allardyce, where Reid established himself as one of the club’s best centre-backs.
He played a key role in that promotion season, playing 33 times and scoring three goals and deservedly won Hammer of the Year.
Obviously, the only goal any of us will ever remember of his from that season was the one against Millwall, which sparked a flurry of protests in the away end.
It rained broken seats and all sorts of other debris in the Trevor Brooking stand for a good few minutes afterwards. Goals like that instantly make you a hero at West Ham.
Like many players, one year of regular football in the Championship gave the centre-back the confidence and ability to settle in England and, of course, compete in the Premier League.
Reid became a stalwart during the next three seasons as Allardyce consolidated our position in the Premier League via what can only be described as typical Allardyce football.
Reid’s combative, physical approach to defending was eye-catching and reliable, fans grew to adore his presence in the centre of defence.
He had developed the ability to read the game so well and would often be there to intercept through balls or snuff out counter attacks before they had begun.
By this time, he was attracting the attention of other clubs, all of which must have been quite jealous that they didn’t also have a World Cup star to call their own.
But a move away from the club never materialised and by the time Sam Allardyce was gone and Slaven Bilic had arrived, Reid was now arguably the most important player in the squad.
That final season at Upton Park will live long in the memory of every single West Ham fan who was lucky enough to witness it.
With Reid at the heart of defence, Dimitri Payet doing Dimitri Payet things from midfield and Diafra Sakho scoring for fun (inconsistently), West Ham were finally a force to be reckoned with and had it not been for those defeats to Swansea and Stoke in the final three games of that season, Reid may have become a Champions League star as well. But it wasn’t to be.
However, Reid’s most important act as a West Ham player will never be forgotten. In the 80th minute of the final ever game at Upton Park, he rose highest to meet yet another killer Payet cross to score the final ever goal scored at our home.
The roar that followed that goal will probably never be replicated by a West Ham crowd. The commentary will never, ever be matched.
Despite playing a full season the following year, as we struggled to adapt to life in our new “world class” stadium, and signing a six-year contract extension, our World Cup star’s career was beginning to decline, and injury struck on a number of occasions to all but end his Hammers career prematurely.
It is now almost three years since Reid last played for the club after being stretchered off with a knee injury in a 4-1 away defeat at Swansea City in March 2018.
Earlier this year he was sent out on loan to Sporting Kansas City in the MLS, where he made 10 appearances and scored one goal, a move that was affected heavily by the global pandemic and may, just may, have prevented him from doing enough to warrant a permanent move.
So now Reid is due back at the club in January, with his future well up in the air.
David Moyes already has a number of centre-backs at his disposal and given it took Craig Dawson over three months to get his first game for the club, you can’t imagine a scenario where Reid will walk straight back in at Rush Green and do enough to get himself in to contention for a starting berth.
So it’s fair to assume Winston Reid’s West Ham career is coming to an end. Given how the last few years have played out, he won’t get the farewell he deserves.
He was able to give us the perfect farewell to Upton Park, so it’s just sad the fans won’t be able to return the favour.
But after 10 years, 222 appearances and 10 goals, he will forever be our World Cup star. Winston Reid is the man. He’s our man. Always will be.