Steven Reid: Why Scotland qualification would surpass playing at 2002 World Cup
Ireland’s participation in the 2002 World Cup became the pinnacle of Steven Reid’s playing career. Coaching Scotland at a major tournament would surpass that achievement in the eyes of Steve Clarke’s newest recruit.
At 38, Reid is enlisted in Clarke’s backroom team alongside assistant coach Alex Dyer. The triumvirate are tasked with taking the national team to next summer’s European Championship. No-one needs reminding that, by then, Scotland will have waited 22 years to experience an international tournament finals.
Reid recalls the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea as his playing peak. Ironically, he was en-route to Barbados on a family holiday when the last-gasp call-up came. Despite Roy Keane’s infamous fallout with coach Mick McCarthy and the Irish FA, the Republic reached the knockout stage before losing to Spain on penalties.
Scotland, of course, would kill for such a scenario right now. They must overcome a horrendous start to qualify automatically for Euro 2020 after losing 3-0 in Kazakhstan in their first game, followed by a 2-0 win in San Marino. A play-off spot is already secured via the Nations League if required.
That opening result ultimately cost coach Alex McLeish his job and created vacancies for Clarke, Dyer and Reid. They take charge for the first time on Saturday against Cyprus at Hampden. Then it’s the daunting task of Belgium in Brussels next Tuesday.
There is a long road ahead to next summer’s finals, but Reid explained why he would regard getting there as the apex of his footballing life. “I went to the World Cup and came on against Cameroon in the first game, then again in the second game against Germany when Robbie Keane scored an equaliser in the last minute.
“As a player you think you’ll be playing in another big tournament in two years, then another World Cup in four. But it turned out be the pinnacle of my playing career and it was right at the beginning. So, to be there as a coach, that could top it.
“I played in the Premier League and then coached there. But to help take Scotland to a tournament after so long would just be amazing. It’s a great incentive. If we do it, I’ll try and take it in a little bit more and actually enjoy it. It would be up there as the pinnacle.
“It is an honour to now be representing Scotland in a coaching capacity and working with a manager who I obviously know really well.
“I played under Steve at West Brom and he gave me my first coaching role. So it is a real honour to be involved, not only in the squad but to be working alongside the gaffer and Alex, who I know as well. I haven’t worked with Alex but I know him and have a good relationship with him.”