West Ham’s Reid is not overawed by semi-final pressure

With Matty Upson moved to left back, it was a chance for youngster Winston Reid to step into the defence for the Carling Cup semi-final on Tuesday.

WEST HAM’S decision to move skipper Matty Upson to left back for Tuesday’s Carling Cup semi-final first leg on Tuesday, may have been a big surprise for the Hammers fans, but Avram Grant’s decision to put the inexperienced Winston Reid in the middle of defence was almost as big a shock.

The 22-year-old made his first start at Upton Park on Saturday against Barnsley and impressed enough to retain his place in the side for Tuesday’s showdown with Birmingham City - he did not disappoint.

“It was nice to play in the last couple of games,” he said. “I have not played much recently so the bones are feeling a bit tired.”

Reid had an inauspicious start to his West Ham career when he was played as a right back on the opening day at Aston Villa and was left exposed as the home team ran riot.

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That set him back in his early progress, but he has been determined to force his way back into the team.

“Of course, when you move up a couple of levels like I have from the Danish League to the Premier League it is going to take time to settle in,” he explained. “I am a new player at the club, so I have had to be patient and wait for my opportunity.

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“I have tried to work hard and to do my best and now my opportunity has come, I have tried to take it,” he said. “I’m just enjoying the experience of playing and hoping to learn from it whenever I can.”

Reid played alongside Tomkins, giving them a youthful combined age of just 43, but it was certainly not a partnership that looked overawed on Tuesday.

“It helped that I had played with ‘Tonks’ before a couple of times in the reserves,” revealed Reid. “It was fine playing alongside him and though we could have done some things better, overall I think we did pretty well defensively.”

They did, especially when you consider the second-half onslaught that the Blues subjected them to on Tuesday night. Reid had to cope with the pace and strength of striker Cameron Jerome and for the large part, he did it excellently.

“He is a good player, but then all the players you play against in the Premier League are good,” said Reid. “I thought we did well against him and the other Birmingham forwards and limited his opportunities as much as we possibly could.”

Tuesday night was a big game for a player so inexperienced, but when you consider he was playing for New Zealand in the World Cup in South Africa during the summer, it is clear that he is used to the big occasion.

The defender, who has six caps to his name, certainly enjoyed the night.

“Of course, it was nice to be involved in a match as big as a semi-final and play with the knowledge that you are so close to helping the club reach a major final.

“We were two games away and now we’re one game away, so we have to do our best to get there.”

Reid has played back-to-back games now in the West Ham defence, but is that enough to keep his place for Saturday evening’s clash with Arsenal?

“Obviously it’s up to the manager who he thinks are the best players to play in particular matches. I am still young, so I’m going to keep working hard and being patient and I hope to get more chances to play.”

With Wayne Bridge arriving on loan from Manchester City, the necessity to move Upson to left back has gone in the Premier League and therefore Reid is likely to step back from the limelight once again.

But it is good to know that the Hammers have someone as capable as Reid eagerly waiting in the wings.

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