THIS summer’s Olympic football tournament will hold an extra significance to one family from Milton Keynes.
The current crop of British players who will run out at Old Trafford, the Millennium Stadium and Wembley in July and August will be the first to wear the red, white and blue of Team GB since 1972 – when Ian Reid from Newport Pagnell was part of the side.
He was one of the country’s best part-time footballers of his day, playing for England’s Amateur team and Great Britain, making four Wembley appearances which included three FA Amateur Cup finals – equivalent to today’s FA Vase.
He won 28 England caps, captaining the side on 10 occasions, and featured eight times for Team GB in their Olympic qualifying campaigns of 1968 and 1972 – the last time that players from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland competed together.
Great Britain won the first Olympics football tournament in London in 1908 and repeated that success in Stockholm four years later. But with the British team remaining amateur while other countries started to select professional players after rules were relaxed, the team failed to qualify for every Olympics after 1960 – a couple of years before Reid started to make a name for himself on the pitch as he trained to become a P.E teacher off it.
He worked at Ousedale School before he began suffering from Huntington’s Disease – a rare disorder which affects muscle co-ordination and leads to dementia – and passed away in July 2011, leaving behind an incredible football legacy.
Starting his playing career at Crook FC in his native County Durham, Reid soon enjoyed success, including their 1963 Cup final win over Enfield in front of over 77,000 fans at Wembley.
Playing as an attacking full-back, he would win the Cup again – this time playing for Enfield in 1967 – before losing the final of 1973 with his Slough Town side. He eventually ended his playing career with Wolverton Town at the age of 36.
The highlight of his career came in 1971 when he played for Great Britain in their Olympic qualifying game against Bulgaria at Wembley, where they won 1-0.
The 16-man squad travelled to Sofia for the return encounter, but were humbled 5-0 by their professional opponents, ending their Olympic dreams.
That first leg win remains one of the biggest upsets in football history, given that the British amateurs were going up against a Bulgarian team largely made up of the country’s FIFA World Cup squad of Mexico 1970.
Four years earlier Team GB had reached the final qualification round for the 1968 Games, but were knocked out by Spain.
Reid retired from teaching at the age of 57, but despite his deteriorating condition, he never forgot the footballing memories that shaped his family’s life.
Now, with Great Britain finally represented on the football pitch again, son Nik says he’ll watch this summer’s tournament with a heavy heart as the likes of Gareth Bale and Jack Rodwell follow in his father’s footsteps.
“When he was really ill, dad couldn’t remember what he had to eat the previous day, but he could still tell you dates of games he played in,” said the 40-year-old.
“I’m incredibly proud of what he achieved and want everyone to know about the people who used to play for the British team.
“It’s a bit of shame that the Olympics now includes so many professionals, but I guess it was inevitable with all the money involved in sport these days.
“Dad had a great life, flying all over the world to play, despite being an amateur. And he did that while balancing his career in teaching. My mum Jean was like the original footballer’s WAG.
“I’ll sit and watch the football tournament this year and tell my six-year-old daughter Bo-Isabella about her grandfather. It’s good that she was able to meet him.”
Argentina are the reigning Olympic champions after they beat Nigeria in the 2008 Beijing final, and Nik believes dad Ian would have liked nothing better than for this generation’s Team GB to win that title on home soil.