Andy Reid's brilliant performance for Sunderland against Manchester United yesterday sent Giovani Trappatoni, his Ireland manager, the clearest message so far: That Reid is far better than any other midfielder he has in his Ireland squad and deserves to face Italy and Montenegro next week.
The manner of Andy Reid's performances for Sunderland this season have been excellent to say the least. The 28-year-old creative midfielder has shed almost nine kilograms since June and has so far been named man of the match for Sunderland on no less than four occasions this season.
It would be fair to say that Reid has always carried a little bit of extra weight, despite impressive performances for numerous clubs and country.
Reid first came to prominence in 2005 when he signed for Spurs after six good years with Nottingham Forest.
One of the most sought after youngsters in Ireland, Reid initially turned both Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger down before he chose to go to Forest where he felt he would attain first team football at an earlier stage.
The move proved highly successful, as Reid played 121 times for Forest before Spurs bought both he and Michael Dawson in January 2005 in a deal worth £10 million.
Initially the faster pace of the Premiership proved a little too much for Reid, who needed time to settle, but with Martin Jol under intense pressure to bring glory back to the club he just couldn't wait for Reid, who moved down the pecking order before eventually being sold to Charlton the following season.
However, when Reid possibly needed help most from Jol he did not get it. Reid has always had a question mark against his weight, but Martin Jol's training regime at Spurs was slack when it came to the eating habits of his players and their physical fitness regime.
The move to Charlton was a mixed bag for Reid, good performances on a personal level combined with awful team performances meant that he was one of the few shining lights at the Valley before Roy Keane brought him back into the Premiership with Sunderland.
His creative genius has never been in doubt, although many have asked questions about his fitness. Combine this with Steve Bruce's impending arrival at the Stadium of Light and Andy Reid had a mountain to climb if he wanted to get back into the team at Sunderland.
During all this club football, Reid had begun to establish himself in the Ireland team. Seen by many in Ireland and the country's natural successor to Liam Brady, albeit with a little extra weight, Reid impressed over his 29 games.
However, an incident in Germany following Ireland's win over Georgia in Mainz last year saw Reid banished from successive Ireland squads by Giovani Trappatoni. Initially the reason given was a tactical one, but that did not add up for the country's inquisitive journalists.
Then Trappatoni released the real reason. Reid had been up late leading a celebratory singing session well into the early hours of the morning, so Trap chose to omit him from his plans.
With Reid playing ok, and carrying that extra weight, it was always going to be extremely hard to break back into Trappatoni's plans. So he came up with a simple plan. Lose weight and play well, leaving Trap with no excuses to leave him out of the squad.
During the summer, Reid employed a personal coach and set about to improve his fitness. 20lbs later and a slimline Reid is one of Sunderland's best players in their impressive start to the season.
"Since I have been here, he has done his best to impress. He has lost a lot of body fat and he is visibly a different player," Bruce told The Daily Mail.Reid seems to have convinced Steve Bruce, and has reaped the rewards of a very good preseason over the last couple of weeks.
"He has done his best to get himself in the team and has asked a big question of me. Do I include him in the team? He has taken it on himself and he knows to play at this level you have to be physically fit.
"Fair play to Andy, because he has done everything he can physically. His ability has never been questioned. He has lost nine kilograms and that is a remarkable turnaround."
Since making his bow against Norwich in the Carling Cup this season, Reid has played every match for Sunderland. A brilliant double against the Canaries meant that Bruce had to include him for the next Premiership squad, since then Reid has been the Black Cats best midfielder on every occasion.
This culminated in a highly impressive display at Old Trafford where United proved lucky to escape with a 94th minute equaliser after Reid had set up Kenwyne Jones with a brilliant chipped pass to put Sunderland 2-1 up.
Reid has achieved the first and second parts of his plan. He has reached a fitness level that few thought he was capable of and he has forced his way back into Steve Bruce's plans. Now all he has to do is get Trappatoni to pick him.
There are players like Liam Miller, Stephen Hunt, Glenn Whelan, and Aiden McGeady in the squad ahead of Reid at the moment. With the extra weight he was better than all four. Without it he dwarfs them completely.
Trap has to bring him back into the squad. With only two games to go and both being must win games for Ireland to stand any slim hope of qualification, Ireland need all their best available players.
And Reid is most certainly one of those.
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