João Palhinha’s sensational strike at the City Ground will take all the plaudits for pure magnificence but it was Fulham’s third goal of a surreal 316 seconds that was most special. Arriving at the back post after a superb move started by a sumptuous Aleksandar Mitrovic defence-splitting ball was Harrison Reed, a tenacious defensive midfielder turned into a box-to-box machine by Marco Silva. The ginger from Worthing hadn’t scored in over a century of fantastic Fulham appearances. Four years of frustration melted away in the Trentside air as he connected with a first-time strike to leave Dean Henderson beating the ground like a wrestling referee and then slid into the corner in front of the delirious Fulham faithful.
Reed has long been one of the most reliable members of a Fulham squad that has gone up and down with such regularity that it was almost easier to accept the almost unanimous opinion of the talking heads this summer that the Whites would slip out of the top flight with barely a whimper. But the midfielder, who epitomises Silva’s attacking attitude after working hard at both his fitness and the offensive side of his game to fulfil the requirements of his coach, is playing some of the finest football of his career alongside Joao Palhinha in an engine room to fulfil any of the rest of the top six. He’s always covered every blade of grass and read the danger quickly, but Reed is developing into a more complete central midfielder before our very eyes.
His quiet excellence shone in the Scott Parker side that probably should have stayed up, but didn’t. It was a surprise to me that Southampton let out of their outstanding youth projects leave for £6m, but it probably demonstrates how well the Saints are served in midfield. Some suggested that Reed’s success was down to the fact that Parker’s ultra-defensive system and there might have been something in that, but his evolution under Silva shows that there is much more to Reed than merely stopping the opposition from playing. I’ve been sceptical of the project to turn a consistent number six into more of an eight, but with Palhinha adding quality to the deeper element of this partnership there’s more scope to refine Reed’s role.
His ceaseless running makes it difficult for opponents to subdue Fulham’s midfield – and it was key to the visitors taking such a firm stranglehold on proceedings in Nottingham on Friday night. Silva spoke to his side at half-time about the need to move the ball quicker in order to hurt a Forest side that have shown a fragility when holding a winning position. Reed and his colleagues quickly set about turning those strong words into action. He isn’t just a reassuring presence in the middle of the park, but an integral part of Fulham’s dressing room culture and a leader in his own right.
The news last night that Kalvin Phillips has suffered a serious injury and could be a doubt for the World Cup this winter got me thinking. Gareth Southgate likes playing with a pair of holding midfielders, as illustrated by the success of the Declan Rice/Phillips axis in the European Championships. Jude Bellingham is a shoo-in to come into the line up, but there isn’t exactly a surfeit of English-qualified holding midfielders. Now that Reed has shown he has more to his game, might the England head coach cast a glance in the ginger Iniesta’s direction? He could do a lot worse. Our newly-established goal threat has more Premier League strikes to his name than Mason Mount. Reed’s performances speak for themselves but if Southgate is determined to break England’s long wait for a major trophy, he will know that the national side only lift the World Cup with a Fulham player in the team. For George Cohen in 1966, see Reed in 2022. You know it makes sense, Gareth.