Duggie Reid

Wednesday 13 February 2002 01:00 GMT
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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John Douglas Jamieson Reid, footballer and groundsman: born West Kilbride, Ayrshire 3 October 1917; played for Stockport County 1936-46, Portsmouth 1946-56; married (one son, one daughter); died Park Gate, Hampshire 8 February 2002.

Few men have ever become part of the very fabric of a football club more comprehensively than did Duggie Reid at Portsmouth.

He was a spectacularly explosive force in the days when Portsmouth ruled English football. As his nickname "Thunderboots" implies, the tall, muscular Scot packed a shot of devastating velocity and his goals were integral to Pompey's back- to-back League Championship triumphs of 1948/49 and 1949/50.

Such was Reid's power that, once, he hammered the ball through the net and into the crowd when scoring from the penalty spot at home to Manchester City, and further vivid testimony to his fearsome prowess was offered by the Wolves and England goalkeeper Bert Williams. When asked by a reporter just how hard the Portsmouth marksman could propel a football, the rueful custodian simply lifted his jersey to reveal a large and livid bruise, in the midst of which the imprint of the ball's panels could be clearly discerned.

Not that Reid relied entirely on brawn to notch up his 134 League and FA Cup goals, including seven hat-tricks, in his 300-plus Pompey appearances. Though gangling of gait, he was a skilful operator, a precise and intelligent passer who created plenty of scoring opportunities for his fellow forwards.

Having moved south from his native Ayrshire to take a job as an apprentice plumber in Manchester as a 15-year-old, Reid excelled in local amateur soccer before joining Stockport County, turning professional in 1936. In his first season he played a minor part in lifting the Third Division North title, then featured at wing-half as the Edgeley Park club was relegated the following term.

His progress was interrupted by the Second World War, during which he served in the Army, and in 1946 he was transferred to top-flight Portsmouth for £7,000. At first the Fratton Park fans were sceptical of the seemingly ungainly 28-year-old, but he convinced them of his worth in the most emphatic fashion, by finishing as the club's top scorer with 29 strikes in his first campaign.

Thereafter Reid became a south-coast folk hero as he developed impressively along with the rest of the manager Bob Jackson's exhilarating side. The accent was on team spirit rather than star individuals, though the wingers Peter Harris and Jack Froggatt were justly feted, along with the schemer Len Phillips and the majestic half-back line of Jimmy Scoular, Reg Flewin and Jimmy Dickinson.

Reid was joint leading scorer with Harris as the championship was claimed with five points to spare in 1948/49 and he was prolific again in 1949/50, when his last-day hat-trick in a 5-1 home victory over Aston Villa was instrumental in Pompey's retaining the title on goal average (the precursor of goal difference), edging out Wolves.

Thereafter Portsmouth slipped from their lofty pedestal as the team began to age, but still they held their own in the top division for the remainder of Reid's Fratton Park tenure, the last years of which were spent at centre-half. The conversion had taken place in the spring of 1953, when he was 35, and he continued performing to a high standard until leaving the club to become the player-boss of non-League Tonbridge in 1956.

Reid had always been fascinated by tactics – he moved salt and pepper pots around many a train restaurant table-top to illustrate his ideas to team-mates during long journeys – but management did not suit him and in 1958 he returned to Pompey as a groundsman.

He transformed the hitherto poor Fratton Park surface into one of the finest in the land, moving the England skipper Bobby Moore to remark: "If you can't play at Portsmouth, then you can't play anywhere." Reid, a kindly, modest man, who spoke little but whose few words tended to be meaningful, looked after his beloved pitch for two decades until his retirement in 1978.

For many years, he also ran a hostel for the club's young footballers in Southsea, and he encouraged the soccer development of his son, David, who played for Pompey juniors, then Leatherhead and England at amateur level.

By Ivan Ponting

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