Reach for the stars… - Maybe Adam Reach deserves a bit of slack at Sheffield Wednesday…
“I’ve loved it here, I’ve loved my time…”, says Adam Reach, a player who – as things stand – is approaching the end of his Sheffield Wednesday career.
The 28-year-old has been one of the players who has been much-maligned by a portion of Wednesdayites this season, with many criticising his performances in what has largely been a season to forget for the Owls.
His contract is expiring, and – while Tony Pulis spoke months ago of hopes of a renewal – as things stand he will not be a Wednesday player next season – it’s all still very much up in the air.
But on Monday, ‘Reachy’ came to the party in a big way as he bagged two goals in an emphatic win over Cardiff City, putting in a stellar performance from left wing back that was reminiscent of his memorable 2018/19 campaign.
And sure, Reach hasn’t quite managed to replicate that season, but the stats suggest that he does maybe deserve a bit of slack from those who’ve put him on their scapegoat list. The Cardiff game was a reminder of what he’s capable of, but – whether in form or not – he’s been contributing ever since he got to Hillsborough.
The versatile former Middlesbrough man joined Wednesday back in 2016 for a reported fee of around £5m, and there have been points where they could have sold him on for a profit, but chose not to.
Has he been the most consistent player in the world? Even Reach himself will admit that he’s had bad patches. But has he given everything to cause, played in every position asked of him and consistently played his part adding to Wednesday’s goal tally? Absolutely.
At present, not a single player at the club has directly contributed to more goals than Reach. Barry Bannan has more assists (39/33) than him, but Reach has scored more (24/13) and has a combined goals/assists total of 57 following his brace v Cardiff.
There are also only three players at Wednesday who have played more games in total (223), and all of them have been at the club longer than he has.
This season alone he’s played under six different managers, in about seven different positions, and missed just one game across all competitions. In a season of uncertainty in so many ways, he’s been available.
In total, including interims and stand-ins, he’s played under 11 different managers in under five years, and they’ve all selected him.
Jamie Smith is the 11th, and the latest on a long list to have praised his ability and attitude, telling the media this week, “I’m really pleased for him… He’s really put the work in since we’ve been here, and he’s shown his quality today.
“He can play a number of positions, because he’s got good qualities and he’s a good footballer.”
Granted, with six goals and three assists he’s still some way off matching his nine goal and seven assist campaign of 2018/19, but though some accuse him of throwing in the towel, he’s now just four goals away from setting a new career best in terms of goal return.
And he knows he could’ve been better this time out – but under Darren Moore he’s finding his mojo again, and he could still play his part in what would go down as a famous escape should they pull it off.
“Topsy-turvy, stop start, probably the same as the club as a whole, really,” is how he described his season after the Cardiff win. “We’ve had lots of changes of managers, and systems, and of course changes in form and confidence – it’s all part of it.”
But he’s determined to end on a high.
He went on to say, “I’ve always tried to stick to my own game, what I’m good at, and do my best. I’m actually quite pleased with six goals… My best return is nine and I’m not too far from that – in a season where I’ve maybe not played to my highest or been my most confident.
“I feel that coming back though, at the right time of the season, and hopefully I can add to it and get a few more. But as long we get the goals we need, I’m happy if I don’t get another one.”
While so many have battled injuries in the time since his arrival in Sheffield, Reach has taken part in 90.6% of the 224 games that Wednesday have played since the start of the 2016/17 season – and five of the 21 that he’s missed were because they came before he’d completed his move from Boro.
He’s become known as a scorer of great goals rather than a great goalscorer, and against Cardiff he added another to his highlight reel in Wednesday colours, expertly placing a freekick into the top corner to make it 2-0.
Left foot against Aston Villa. Right foot against Nottingham Forest. That absolute belter against Leeds United. A rocket against Norwich City. If nothing else, he’s given Wednesdayites some memories.
One thing is for sure, Adam Reach will not be short of potential suitors if he does leave Hillsborough at the end of the season. There will be teams in both of England’s top two divisions keeping a very close eye on his situation, and he’s still young enough to venture overseas if he wants to.
For now, though, only one thing matters.
“If we want to get out of this situation then we need goals from everywhere… We need them from centre halves, from strikers, and I’m happy to have chipped in with a couple. Hopefully I can get a few more towards the end and we can get the goals we need to stay up.”
A few more Reachy rockets wouldn’t go amiss.