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Reid adds skiing and ice hockey to change of country and lifestyle at 50-something

TURNING 50 can lead people to try new things, like buying a motorbike, getting a tattoo, growing a beard.

Billy Reid is now assistant manager of Ostersunds. Picture: SNS
Billy Reid is now assistant manager of Ostersunds. Picture: SNS

And that's just the women. Billy Reid chose to emigrate to Sweden where he became a convert to winter sports.

"I watched my first ice hockey game recently and I've been skiing, too," he said. "It was a biathlon event, where you have to shoot a gun as well. So I'm experiencing things I've never done before. At my stage of life it's a whole new adventure."

That Reid decided to relocate to Scandinavia so soon after the landmark birthday, however, was probably coincidental. After years of playing and coaching in Scottish football - most notably his eight years as manager of Hamilton Academical - an opportunity arose for him to do something a bit different. It is still relatively early days, but so far there are no regrets about such a dramatic change of lifestyle.

It is not just the language and culture that Reid is gradually becoming accustomed to. He has joined up with Ostersunds, an ambitious club in the Swedish Superettan, but not as manager. Instead, he has become assistant to Graham Potter, a young, up-and-coming English manager who in his first two years in charge at Ostersunds won successive promotions from the fourth to the second tier.

A 10th-place finish last season was seen as a solid start and now the hope is that this forward-thinking club, only formed in 1996, can push on and reach the top division for the first time in their short history.

"Winning promotion is certainly the main aim this year," Reid told Herald Sport. "We won't be making predictions, but as long as we progress from last season we'll be happy.

" I still don't know the level, I've not seen enough of the football to say where we will end up. But I know there are decent players here and we've been adding to the squad. There are eight or nine new signings, so it takes time to bed them all in."

The Swedish league system - still wed to a programme of summer football - gets under way on Sunday, although Ostersunds have not been in complete hibernation over the winter.

They played three matches in the group stage of the Swedish Cup, giving Reid something of an insight into what he can expect in his new role. There is an energy about Ostersunds and their chairman, Daniel Kindberg, that Reid finds refreshing, the change of scenery giving this quinquagenarian - a 50-something - a new lease of life himself.

"It's been a real eye-opener for me," he admitted. "It's obviously a completely new environment, and a huge country. There's a lot of travelling involved. In one of our first games we had an 11-hour bus trip. But it's really interesting the way they work. We've got Africans here, some English, a Korean lad, two Mexicans and a few Swedes, so there's a mixture of everything.

"It's full-time and the structure is a lot more advanced than a lot of clubs in Scotland. The chairman is really progressive and everything is set up to take the club as far as possible."

It was something of a surprise that Reid didn't re-emerge as a manager either in Scotland or England after leaving Hamilton last April, but he is philosophical about it all, instead choosing to focus on the new life he has begun.

"I had one or two opportunities to go down to England but knocked them back," he revealed. "This was a different challenge completely. There's a freshness I felt I really needed. It was a big decision, leaving some of the family over there, and at times I've been myself with my wife going back and forth, and that has been testing for me. But I've adapted well.

"I'm pleased with the environment and the people have been fantastic. I've only met one person here who doesn't speak English, so that's been fortunate. I've had a few puzzled looks off the players when they can't understand my Scottish accent, but we're getting by. I'm hoping to go to night school and learn Swedish when things start to settle down."

After a decade of being the main man in charge of team affairs, Reid admits he has had to adapt to the role of being someone else's deputy. His hope, though, is that he can lend some of his vast experience to the 38-year-old Potter.

"I'm aware of not overstepping the mark," he added. "You're used to making decisions off the cuff and now you have to take a wee step back and say, 'hold on a second'. But Graham was one of the reasons I came here. The way he works is really impressive. He's a really positive guy and he doesn't make any rash decisions.

"The players seem to have great respect for him and the way he likes to coach. He's young in terms of a manager, but I feel that in a few years' time he can go and make a name for himself. Hopefully I can add something to that with the experience I built up in Scotland. I'm sure, working together, we can enjoy a good season."

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