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"There's no feeling like it" - Kevin Reeves reflects on England debut

22 November 2019

40 years ago, Kevin Reeves became only the second player to play for England while at Norwich City. He remains part of a prestigious club of seven.

“I was with my wife when I was reminded of that, and I said ‘blimey, I cannot believe that,’” Kevin said, catching up with four decades on from his international debut.

From 1979’s England manager Ron Greenwood to Norwich boss John Bond, Reeves had a handful of people to thank for his first international cap, but perhaps none more so than mother nature.

“I know John Bond had a little bit to do with it because I think he’d recommended me to Ron Greenwood who had a West Ham connection,” Kevin recalls. “We played a similar sort of style, I like to think, of the West Ham way at Norwich.

“They were strange circumstances to get my debut because the game was due to take place on the Wednesday night, but the fog came down. I remember walking out on the pitch at Wembley and the fog coming down. A clause in Kevin Keegan’s contract said that he had to return to Hamburg on the Thursday, so [after the game was postponed for 24 hours] that enabled me to make my debut.

“It was a bit of a rush then because I’d only found out late that I’d be playing. I remember getting loads of telegrams, which is the way it was then! Anybody who pulls that shirt on and stands up for that national anthem at Wembley, there’s no feeling quite like it. I think it’s changed a bit now but then it was the be all and end all to play for England.”

glenn hoddle.jpg

The game in question was a routine 2-0 victory at home to Bulgaria in the qualifying stages of the 1980 European Championships, a certain Glenn Hoddle making his debut alongside Reeves and getting on the scoresheet.

“I roomed with Glenn and we both knew we were playing the following day,” Kevin adds. “He scored a great goal and the whole occasion was fabulous really, for my family to be there and to represent Norwich playing for England. That was a huge honour because a lot of the players were from Liverpool.”

Speaking of Liverpool, Merseyside is where Norwich City find themselves this weekend to return to Premier League action at Goodison Park. Everton is another club that Kevin knows well, having spent three years working there alongside Roberto Martinez from 2013 to 2016.

“I worked with Roberto for about ten years,” Reeves said, speaking fondly of his former colleague. “We started at Swansea City and had four years at Wigan Athletic in the Premier League. The FA Cup win was fabulous. I then went to Everton with him for three years. When he got the Belgium job that was when the connections stopped because they didn’t need a chief scout as they knew all the players.

“Everton is a fantastic club with really good people. I thought Roberto did really well and was a bit unfortunate in my eyes to lose the job. He lost two semi-finals in his final year against Manchester City and United. Both were very close, and we could’ve come out with the right result in both games.

“In the first year, we finished fifth with a chance of fourth right until the last two or three games of the season. The next year we did well in the Europa League and won the group before getting knocked out in the last 16. I really enjoyed my time at Everton and it’s a great club. The people, the training ground, it was a privilege to work there.”

roberto martinez.jpg

While the mood among many Toffees supporters may have been that it was the right time for a change when Martinez was moved on by Everton chairman Bill Kenwright, Reeves’ departure at Norwich City had quite the opposite reaction.

‘No Reeves, No Future, No Fans’ read the banner in The Barclay at Carrow Road, held by supporters upset that the forward had moved on to seek pastures new at Manchester City at the start of the 1980s.

“There were some nice touches,” Kevin adds. “I haven’t been back many times but when I have I’ve sat in the River End and someone once came up to me to say ‘we still call that the Reeves stand,’ which was a lovely touch. Somebody else recently said some of the older supporters still call it that as well.

“I’ve got a picture on my wall at home of me playing against Brighton & Hove Albion on the last day of the season and fans coming up to me as I’m walking off the pitch. It was a strange situation because I’d had the chance to go to Man City earlier in the season, but I didn’t want to go. When they came back with a big offer it was probably right for everybody.”

While playing for Norwich City, Reeves had the pleasure of working alongside club legend Duncan Forbes, who sadly passed away towards the end of October this year. ‘Pleasure’ could be a strong word, considering some of the tackles Forbes threw in on Reeves in training, however.

"Duncan used to give everybody nicknames. He decided mine was Rocky because he tried to make out that I was ugly!"

“I saw Ian Butterworth the other day who’s now a scout at Burnley and we were reminiscing about Duncan,” Kevin reflected. “Duncan was still playing, albeit towards the end of his career, when I was at Norwich.

“He was such a jovial character. He used to give everybody nicknames and he decided that my nickname was Rocky because he tried to make out that I was ugly! He was the same in training as he was on the football pitch.

“He used to come flying through you from behind and I remember Bondy saying ‘Duncan, what are you doing?’ His classic response was ‘I was going for the ball!’ That got him out of everything, it didn’t matter that your legs were in between him and the ball! He was a great character with one of the loudest voices ever. A great fella.”

In a playing career spanning four current Premier League clubs, two senior caps for England, and even a spell collating statistics for the Press Association, Kevin Reeves has lived and breathed football all his life, and remains a fan favourite here at NR1.

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