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Just who is Les Reed?
He has become one of the most powerful men at Saints, and will be a pivotal figure in the events of this summer at the club.
But who exactly is Les Reed?
The 61-year-old has emerged as the key decision maker on sporting matters at St Mary’s since the departure of Nicola Cortese last January.
Reed has already publicly stated that contract negotiations with manager Mauricio Pochettino are his responsibility, as well as issues relating to players.
He is also thought to have been heavily involved in the controversial decision to sack under-18 coaches Jason Dodd and Paul Williams this week.
A great deal of power, therefore, lies in his hands.
But it also means a significant amount of pressure on his shoulders right now.
Ralph Krueger may hold overall responsibility in his position as chairman, but it appears it is largely up to Reed to try and keep the manager at St Mary’s and the squad intact.
Since his appointment as head of the football development and support centre in 2010, Reed’s powerbase has expanded.
He now occupies a position as an executive director on the football club’s board and is a major player behind the scenes, operating as a sort of de facto sporting director.
But what is his background?
Reed’s experience in football is certainly wide-ranging.
As a schoolboy, he trained with both West Ham and Arsenal, but, after failing to win an apprenticeship, he began playing on the non-league circuit.
Reed moved around a number of clubs at that level, before being picked up by Cambridge United and then Watford, where Graham Taylor was in charge.
He never made a first-team appearance for either club, subsequently moving to Wycombe, where he again was unable to break into the side.
However, it was there, after receiving advice from Taylor, that Reed began taking his coaching badges.
It was an important step in his career, leading to him becoming involved with the Football Association.
After some player-coach gigs in non-league, he began working in earnest for the organisation during the 1980s as regional director of coaching for London and the South East.
Along with other regional coaches, he would introduce methods to clubs and FA licensed coaching centres around the country.
Reed was also part of England’s staff for the 1990 World Cup, helping scout their opponents.
He left the FA to join Charlton as Alan Curbishley’s assistant in the mid-1990s, but was recruited back into the association soon after, when technical director Howard Wilkinson brought him on board to support his work.
Reed held responsibilities with all of the national youth teams up to under-21 level.
He was also a part of the backroom staff during Kevin Keegan’s ill-fated reign with the senior team, as well as Sven Goran-Eriksson’s spell in charge.
Reed succeeded Wilkinson when he left in 2002, and was involved in setting up a series of elite development programmes.
He also authored the Official FA Guide to Basic Team Coaching, and travelled round the world studying methods other countries used to help them win major tournaments.
However, he left the FA in 2004, after Trevor Brooking’s appointment as director of football development resulted in a change of direction. Reed rejoined Charlton two years later and took on an assistant role when former Saint Iain Dowie was appointed manager.
When Dowie was sacked in November 2006, Reed was promoted to the number one job.
He embarked on an infamous 41-day spell in charge, in which he won just one out of eight matches, being derided in the media with headlines and phrases such as “Santa Clueless” and “Les Misérables”, before parting company with the club on Christmas Eve.
Reed returned to football with Fulham, where he spent just over a year as technical director.
In 2005, he also founded a consultancy company called Sports Associated Solutions, which described itself as specialising in coaching, coach education, player development and talent identification.
He joined Saints in 2010, heading up the club’s football development and support centre, overseeing areas such as the academy, scouting and sports science.
He has helped shape the current set-up at Staplewood – for example, appointing former FA colleague Martin Hunter as under-21 coach – and has become an increasingly influential figure during the past four years.
There were rumours shortly before Cortese left the club earlier this year that Reed, along with Hunter, might be shown the door.
But he has since taken on even greater responsibility.
This summer may well prove to be his defining period.
Trying to persuade Pochettino to commit his future to the club, and attempting to keep the squad together in the face of significant interest from some of the country’s elite clubs, represent new and significant challenges for him.
Reed will likely need to draw on all his footballing experience if he is to successfully navigate the next few months.
He has said the intention is to keep the team together and build on it.
They are words supporters will remember.
And they will certainly hope he is able to deliver on them.
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