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The Highbury Library animted promo v5 350x350

After decades of watching the Gunners and keeping goal for a dodgy Sunday League fourth division side, I know a good defender when I see one.

So I fired off an email to official Arsenal Media after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa to demand that Winston Reid, 22, young lion of the New Zealand defence, be snapped up for bugger all (1.5 million quid) by Arsenal from Denmark’s FC Midtjylland.

This rush of futuristic transfer brilliance came after the All Whites, as opposed to rugby's All Blacks, had gone unbeaten through pool play with three magnificent draws. And I had a burning desire to see a Kiwi - almost certainly the first, but who knows what went on in the olden days - play for the Arsenal.

The email I promptly got back from Arsenal Media said they ‘’agreed" that Reid, although raw, could be moulded into a top-class defender and promised to pass on my scouting recommendation (rave) to the player buying department.

I waited, but bloody West Ham pounced on Reid and the Gunners missed out on an absolute bargain.

Four years later, as the ghosts of 2010-11 defensive giants Sebastien Squillacci and Andre Santos almost fade from the darkest recesses of our minds we are, if you believe the broadsheets, almost ready to sign athletic 6ft 3in Maori warrior Reid from West Ham in January. For about 10 million quid.

Hey, it’s only money. Sorry Arsene.

Mr Wenger might also/instead try for Villa’s
Dutch stopper Ron Vlaar, now 30, or go double Dutch by luring Celtic’s rookie defender Virgil van Dijk, 23, although Ajax coach Frank de Boer has already urged the latter to stay at Celtic.

"I am sure that he could be a success for any club in Europe," De Boer  told the Daily Record recently.
"It would be good for him to win trophies in the SPL first, before he thinks about anything else, it will all be a part of his education."

Which brings Arsenal back to Reid, who has the huge advantage of being Premier League hard at 26, with over 100 league and cup games, notching six goals. He was named Hammer of the year in 2013 and has just been appointed New Zealand captain by new England-raised coach Anthony Hudson.

Plus New Zealand have a solid history at the back, producing former Blackburn Rovers defensive rock Ryan Nelsen and unlucky-with-injuries Leeds centreback Danny Hay, who was part of their squad when they were flying in Europe in the late 1990s.

If Reid is signed by Arsenal, it will be a proud moment for him and our young football nation, where 70,000 kids and teenagers are now making it the fastest-growing junior sport in the country, in no small part due to Reid’s high profile in our remote outpost.

For the record, Winston Wiremu Reid’s parents both have Maori ancestry.
He was born in Auckland, but moved to Denmark at 10 with his mother and Danish stepfather, maintaining contact with his father and whanau (wider family) in New Zealand.

Reid played for the Danish under 19s and under 21s, but opted for the senior Kiwi side  when they qualified for the 2010 World Cup finals, perhaps knowing it would put him in the shop window.
He was immediately included in New Zealand’s squad, even though national coach Ricki Herbert, a vastly experienced former Wolves and All Whites centreback, had never seen him play live.

Herbert had one wise eye on the future with national skipper Nelsen’s impending retirement, but the impressive Reid quickly won a starting berth at right back and soared to power home an equalising header in stoppage time against scary Martin Skertel’s Slovakia in their opening game of the cup, securing a 1-1 draw.
He also did well in the startling 1-1 draw with Italy and 0-0 stalemate with Paraguay, and while New Zealand failed to advance they ended up being the only unbeaten team at the cup, after eventual winners Spain lost their first game to Switzerland. Remember that if compiling a pub quiz.
But after the highs of South Africa, Reid endured a torrid start to his Hammers’ EPL career, being thrown in the deep end and rightly criticised for shonky positional play, but a year in the Championship hardened him up and he has been one of West Ham’s best in the past two EPL seasons, hence Arsenal’s current hot-breath interest.

Given the Hammers are sailing along in front of Arsenal on the table, surely he deserves the chance to develop into something special, as Tony Adams did after a slow start to his EPL career.

Reid could form a potent long-term combination with Calum Chambers or Laurent Koscielny in central defence.

Add in Debuchy, Jenkinson, probably sell the ageing Mertesacker, keep Gibbs, Monreal, Bellerin, plus one of Vlaar or Van Dijk or someone else pretty bloody good, and you have very deep reserves indeed.

Arsenal have, apart from de-knobbing Dortmund last week, defended like a badly hung-over Sunday League team at times this season and, at worst, Reid will be extremely useful in the squad for the sharp end of this season as we chase third, defend the FA Cup and coast into the Champions League final, with Winston leading the troops to a 4-3 win over Real Madrid, powering home the winning header from a corner with me behind the goal in the 94th minute.

C’mon, take my advice Arsene, sign Reid, and reap the rewards.

Footnote to Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis:

If Winston Reid is signed in January, my commission is the standard initial recommendation fee ... 10% of total fee I believe. Cash cheque is fine.
Or two tickets to Champions League and FA Cup finals behind one of the goals. Thanks mate.

Gary Birkett, a former Kiwi football writer of the year, is a director of Media Zone NZ, which specialises in quality freelance sports journalism, public relations and general media work Down Under and in the UK. Short-term contracts for events like the 2015 Rugby World Cup are welcome.
Contact  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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