Norwich City report card: Operation Harrison Reed must be attempted
PUBLISHED: 14:24 18 May 2018 | UPDATED: 14:24 18 May 2018
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Harrison Reed emerged as a crucial part of Daniel Farke’s plans. Paddy Davitt assesses the chances of a return, in the latest of our summer report card series.
Harrison Reed arrived as the poster boy for Daniel Farke’s new vision. He departed as a jack-of-all trades.
In no way is that meant to sound derogatory.
On the contrary, it underlines his adaptability, his superb versatility and perhaps above all else, his character.
Reed’s big mate, James Maddison, rightly claimed all the plaudits and individual awards going for a superbly influential campaign. But Reed was arguably Norwich’s best player down the stretch.
Maybe even from the point City pitched up at Brentford on December 22 without a recognised right back, after Ivo Pinto went lame at Leeds United the week before and Russell Martin prepared for his New Year loan exit to Rangers.
Any concerns at deploying a diminutive midfielder brought in from Premier League Southampton to knit the play, in the style Farke craved, were allayed that day at Griffin Park.
Reed was brilliant; composed going forward and tigerish in his defensive work, operating nominally in a wing-back role.
But in later times he was entrusted with a slot in a more conventional back four as Pinto kicked his heels on the sidelines.
Such was the seamless nature of that transition, many Norwich fans would not be averse to Reed operating down that right flank again next season.
Much initally hinged on his parent’s club’s ability to arrest an alarming slide down the Premier League. Mark Hughes and Mark Bowen managed to halt the descent and depose Swansea City in the process.
That in all probability should enhance Norwich’s chances of a reunion.
Reed is contracted to St Mary’s until 2021.
Towards the end of the campaign you got the sense, from both the player and the head coach who gave him a platform to step up from development football, the willingness exists for a second tour of duty.
Hughes, however, will be the king maker, although a long-term contract has yet to be agreed and announced for the Welshman to continue beyond his initial fire-fighting brief. Yet another complication.
Beyond that hurdle, should Hughes feel the 23-year-old is ready to bridge the gap in a bid to refresh his squad then City will have to go in a different direction.
That might require a leap of faith on Hughes’ part to feel Reed can influence games in his preferred central midfield mooring at the highest level.
Given the venomous manner his solitary goal was thumped home in a 2-0 Championship home win over QPR in August, there may also be lingering doubts he has the productivity at this stage to make the difference in goals and assists against better players.
But Reed clearly has no desire to go back to the shadows at Saints after 43 league appearances in a campaign that on a personal level must be adjudged a huge success.
It was far from serene progress.
Reed was one of the casualties from Farke’s pragmatic change of course after those early-season humblings at Aston Villa and Millwall.
Alex Tettey, the man who had deferred to the accomplished youngster, was restored to a central midfield lacking ballast or experienced nous.
Tom Trybull formed a hugely effective pairing that triggered one of the most fertile periods of the season.
Reed had to sit and suffer on the sidelines, bar a key role in a derby day win at Ipswich when Tettey was ruled out through injury.
Yet it was only that positional switch around Christmas that really triggered a great leap forward.
No wonder Farke wants to work with the former England youth international again.
When money is tight and resources are limited, to borrow a player who can operate in a number of different positions with an unflappable temperament and the assurance to handle the harsh terrain of the Championship clearly represents a highly-valuable commodity.
Should he not return to Carrow Road, then Reed goes with his reputation enhanced and you feel plenty of affection for the club that gave him a genuine opportunity to prove his worth.