The Starting Eleven – Kevin Reeves

It’s the 40th anniversary of the 1981 FA Cup final on May 9 and ten years ago, as we looked forward to Manchester City appearing in the 2011 FA Cup final, I was asked by the Manchester Evening News to write profiles of the eleven players who started the 1981 final.

For the next few days I will post those profiles, one a day, free to read here. These will only be free to view until May 16, so please read them while you can. Thanks.

Here’s the latest (appearing here as it was written in 2011)…

As we look forward to the 2011 FA Cup final, Gary James takes a look at the eleven players who made the starting line-up for City’s last FA Cup final in 1981.  Today, forward Kevin Reeves.

When Malcolm Allison signed Kevin Reeves in March 1980 he was only the fourth footballer to have cost £1m or more, with City responsible for 50 per cent of those signings.  Allison was happy with his £1.25m purchase:  “He is the nearest thing in today’s soccer to Kevin Keegan… City fans will soon be delighted.  We can all thank the astuteness of our Chairman Peter Swales.  Mr Swales has backed his beliefs and his management team.”

As with Steve Daley, City’s record transfer at the time, the fee put Reeves under tremendous pressure, the difference was that by the time of the 1981 final the former Norwich player was delivering game after game.  Reeves:  “There’s no denying that with City struggling under Malcolm there was pressure, but once John Bond came in the entire atmosphere changed and the fact I had cost a million didn’t matter any more.”

Reeves was also playing for a team he loved:  “My interest in City came when I was about ten and first getting seriously keen on football.  City were winning everything.  The FA Cup final in 1969 was the day I really became a fan.  I wasn’t from Manchester but as a young boy interested in playing I had to support the team that played the type of attractive football I wanted to play.”

In the 1981 FA Cup final replay Reeves scored City’s second goal from the penalty spot – “a remarkably composed despatch” was how one journalist described it – but he felt Spurs held the advantage:  “Steve Mackenzie scored a great volley and I netted a penalty, but Spurs had momentum and once Villa scored that goal it was clear they would win.  It’s nice that it’s remembered as one of the great cup finals and it is also the greatest occasion I played in.  I have to say though it is also my biggest disappointment.  There was nothing anyone could say to lift me.  It’s a day when you understand exactly how the fans feel.”    

Joe Corrigan felt that Reeves’ contribution both in the final, and the season in general, had been high:  “Kevin Reeves was injured early on and that was a major blow – he is one of City’s most underrated players.  Reeves was a very, very good player.”

It should be remembered that he was also at the centre of controversy in the League Cup semi-final against Liverpool.  The Blues were harshly treated with a Reeves’ goal being disallowed for ‘illegal jumping’:  “This was the most controversial incident of my time really.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with that goal and the television film proved it.  It was perfectly legitimate and the referee could never properly explain why he disallowed it.  What made it worse was that after scoring I ran to the Kippax celebrating with the other players unaware of the referee’s decision, and then discovered Liverpool were attacking our goal.  The entire match changed by a very, very unfair decision.  We were all furious.  If I’d have known I’d done something wrong then I’d have owned up at the time but, believe me, all these years later I still know I did nothing wrong that day.”

That goal would, almost certainly, have seen the Blues progress to the 1981 League Cup final as well, but the initiative swung to Liverpool who went on to win the tie 2-1 on aggregate.

Reeves finished both the 1980-81 and 1981-82 seasons as City’s top scorer and proved to be the best value of City’s million pound stars of the high-spending late 70s/early 80s, but relegation in 1983 brought an end to his City career: “It was the worst moment of my City career.  The club needed to cut costs and inevitably I had to leave.  A terrible period really.”

A move to John Bond’s Burnley followed but ultimately Reeves’ career was to be cut short by an arthritic hip.  Various coaching posts followed, most notably with Swansea.  In 2011, Kevin Reeves is chief scout at Wigan Athletic.

My biography of Peter Barnes is now available to subscribe to. Order by May 15 and you will receive a copy signed by me & Peter, the book posted to your home address before it appears in any shop AND your name printed in the book. Order (and more details) here:

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