ANDY Reid is fed up. Not the kind of petulant frustration that sends managers up the wall, more the deep-seated disappointment that comes when you haven't started a Premier League game for seven long months.
He would try and hide it but there’s no point – Reid just doesn’t do sitting on the bench, picking up his wages. And for an intelligent, erudite bloke who just happens to possess the most cultured left foot on Wearside, it eats away at him.
First there were the injuries, now the battle to convince Steve Bruce there is a place for him in the high-octane young Sunderland side he is building. It has been a losing one so far.
His mood has hardly been helped by recently losing two vintage guitars left in a Durham studio – “my own stupid fault really” – but it is the way his career has stalled since February that irks.
Having mentally turned a corner by shedding a stone with his pre-season fitness regime, Reid was reaping the benefits with some fine performances for Sunderland.
A recall to the Republic of Ireland side was even mooted.
And then the injuries. First there was a hamstring injury at Portsmouth – deep in the middle of Sunderland’s winter of discontent – then a calf problem.
And then a visit to a specialist that revealed a wedge of his calf muscle was actually poking out a torn sheet of ligament that surrounded it.
That ruined a crucial pre-season for the 28-year-old – and his long recuperation from the subsequent operation is a root of his discontent now.
Another hamstring strain looks set to rule him out of contention today. It has made things tough for him.
“I understand where the manager is coming from completely. I’ve got no divine right to be in the team,” Reid says.
“But I just want a chance – whether it’s here or out on loan.
“I feel that if I get into the team here I’ll do a good enough job to stay in there.
“I thought it was coming together for me at last. I was really enjoying it, I was playing well and I felt great. I had a good run and picked up those injuries – it was really, really tough. But again, what can you do? Just deal with it and move on.
“Mentally is the biggest thing. It was difficult and it’s still difficult for me now.
“The manager is probably sick of me not being particularly happy. I’m getting sick of not being in the team. And it’s not anyone’s fault. I’m not slagging off the manager and he’s not slagging off me, I don’t think, it’s just the way it is.
“I can’t be any different, it’s just me – I wear my heart on my sleeve and I want to play. If I’m not playing, I’m not happy. I won’t just pick up my wages and say ‘Yeah, it’s all right’.
“I think the manager understands that and understands me. He knows the way I am.”
Reid looks likely to miss out as Sunderland trek to Blackburn in a game far less glamorous but arguably more crucial than their trio of tests against the big boys. Emerging unbeaten from games against Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal was reason for encouragement among Black Cats fans but Reid – a survivor from the Roy Keane era – knows only too well Sunderland’s capacity to disappoint.
It is why he is warning about the dangers of complacency. “I think the club is moving forward all the time – on and off the pitch,” he said.
“But we have to be very, very careful. I think if you’d said to people at the club a couple of years ago ‘Will you take a mid-table finish?’ everyone would have jumped at it.
“But now people are talking about being in mid-table and we’re fine. But I looked at the table the other day and we’re only two points off the bottom three. I know we’ve played hard games but I don’t think you can rest on your laurels.
“Last season we were doing particularly well, we’d been on a good run and then we went on a terrible run without picking a win up for 12 or 13 games. You then find yourselves right back down there.
“So we need to be careful about saying ‘We’re comfortable here’ because in the Premier League you’re never really comfortable.
“The manager knows that and no one will be resting on anything just because we got three draws against the best teams.
“If you look at the equivalent games last year, we picked up points against those teams last year too. In fact, we beat Arsenal at home.
“It is the games like Blackburn where we need to pick up results. Maybe we got a draw at Blackburn last year but it’s those sort of games that we need to pick up points in.”
No chat with Reid would be complete without a mention of Ireland, where he has become something of a cause célèbre for being continually overlooked in favour of more functional players. His approach remains diplomatic.
“I always watch the games – it’s my country and I’ll support them regardless of what happened,” he said.
“Of course I want to play for my country but the way I look at it is that I can’t affect it with anything that I say.
“The only way I can affect it is by going out on the football pitch in league football and playing well.
“That’s the only way I can affect it, which is the reason I haven’t said too much about it.
“There’s no point talking about it – it will make no difference.
“The only change that is going to happen is me being out on the pitch.”