Having burst onto the first-team scene back in August 2013 as a 19-year-old, there was much promise that this industrious midfielder would be breathing down the necks of Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin over the next two seasons. However, with the strong additions of Jordy Clasie and Oriol Romeu, all whilst James Ward-Prowse has been maturing into a first team regular, appearances have arrived at somewhat of a premium. Now being 21-years-old, It’s time for first-team football to be his priority. Harrison Reed has to kick on.
Since that first team debut against Barnsley, the England U20 regular has featured 21 times in the famous red and white stripes – 14 appearances of which have come in the Barclays Premier League. Now, whilst this may be an impressive accolade for most young talents who wish to forge their way into their sides first team, I ( and I’m sure many others ) would agree that these numbers are not representative of Reed’s talent.
He’s sharp, aggressive, passionate, hard working and where others with these traits usually fall short in technically ability, little Harry does not.
For the past three seasons now, Harrison Reed has been a sure starter in Martin Hunter’s U21 side. But that level can only develop and aid the ability of a player for so long. You only have to watch one game of U21 football to see that Reed is far superior to others whilst on the ball, off the ball and physically. He has truly surpassed the standard of the U21 League.
So, why is he still plying his trade at this level?
It seems that the midfielder – who has been likened to Paul Scholes – has found himself in a grey area of selection at Southampton.
At this point, he remains one of the few experienced players for the U21 side – making him a valuable member to Martin Hunter.
This is due to Matt Targett being tied down to first team commitments, Jason McCarthy being on loan at Wycombe Wanderers, Jack Stephens being on loan at Coventry, Jordan Turnbull being on loan at Swindon Town and even Sam McQueen being sent out on loan to Southend.
Perhaps the club feel that losing a player of Reed’s quality and experience would damage the other youngsters development? Whilst results at the U21 level are said to be irrelevant, playing attractive football and breeding the club’s philosophy is important – doing so would be made a damn sight harder with the absence of Reed.
Not to mention that when Southampton boss Ronald Koeman was asked who stood out in the U21 side, the Dutchman said: “Harrison Reed is close to the first-team.”.
Reed was one of only two academy prospects to be mentioned, so it’s clear that Koeman is viewing the possibility to embed Reed into his side. Most encouraging, the other player mentioned was Matt Targett, who has since picked up a handful of Premier League appearances. Maybe Reed’s chance is just over the horizon?
To me, however, all factors are pointing toward a loan move being the best decision. Reed is all too good for the U21 league, he will only be handed first team appearances if injuries were to strike and now being 21, he has to make a name for himself. Gametime is a priority and I believe that could be found in the middle of the Championship table or at a high-flying title challenging League One side.
Truth be told, Reed faces the threat of stalling his development if he doesn’t find a higher level of play.
He must ensure to find new challenges and place himself in high-pressure situations. Afterall, that is what makes players the best they can possibly be. If you ask any player who worked their way to the very top of the game what made them who they are, they will all speak of facing daunting situations as an unknowing youngster. Given Reed’s ability, continuing to settle for U21 football will hold him back from hitting the heights we all know he can reach.
If Reed’s attitude to be the very best is anything like his desire on the field, then he can make a loan move work and return to make a first team spot his own.