As he sat in his new home in the delightful ancient market town of Bradford-on-Avon talking to RugbyPass+, Formula 1 super-fan Miles Reid’s biggest worry was whether he would get Sky Sports installed in time to watch the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, not what the neighbours, who include fellow back-rower Lewis Moody, might think. That wasn’t the case for his Jamaican grandparents who were part of the Windrush generation.
Within walking distance of Bath city centre lies Larkhall, a laid-back district with a cosmopolitan, and even bohemian feel to it. For residents of nearby Snow Hill, an area where the majority of the city’s small black population have traditionally lived, moving there would be considered a step up. One street that leads down onto London Road catches the eye in particular as all the Georgian terrace houses are painted in pastel shades such as you might find in the Pembrokeshire hotspot of Tenby. Apart from parking issues, it looks idyllic. But once upon a time, colour was frowned upon here. In the minds of the locals, there was a black and white issue.
Referencing a story he first told BT Sport at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, about how it was felt his grandparents were denied an opportunity to buy a house in the street because of the colour of their skin, Reid said: “It would’ve been the 60s/70s. I lived on that side of Bath all my life and my parents did, so it is so relatable. Looking back, it is actually not that long ago which is pretty crazy that that happened but thankfully we have moved on, probably not far enough yet though.”
Understanding his family history – his Aunt was part of the group that was present on the day the statue of slave trader William Colston was spectacularly removed from its plinth in Bristol – is important to Reid, who admits that his mixed race heritage sometimes left him confused in the past.
“I am pretty light-skinned and I have ginger hair and freckles so people night not necessarily think I am mixed race. Many times people have said stuff to me, something that is completely out of order, and I have kind of sat there and said to them, ‘do you not realise I am mixed race?’
“It can be hard. Growing up, the black guys at my school all used to hang out with each other and the white guys would do the same, just because culturally they were very similar so it could be tough to know which group to fit into. But now I love it, I have got friends from all different sides.”
A lot of Bath Rugby management teams have actively shied away from the history of the club, for fear that too much talk of the 10 Cups and six league titles won in the amateur era might act as a millstone
It’s not hard to understand why. Reid is easy to converse with, relaxed and engaging, even tolerating chat that he now lives in this writers’ home town and stories about ‘the good, old days’ that his dad, Mark, a former Bath United/Spartans player, has already told him.
A lot of Bath Rugby management teams have actively shied away from the history of the club, for fear that too much talk of the 10 Cups and six league titles won in the amateur era might act as a millstone around the necks of the current generation.
But like his family history, Reid is fully invested in what has gone before him, which given his dad was mates with a lot of the players from that record-breaking era, is hardly a surprise.
“For me, being a local lad, I have always grown up around it. When I was much younger I didn’t like rugby because it was around me so much but when I got to about eight years old and I started playing, I realised who these people were, I guess, and it made me want to push on and push on and be like them,”
“My dad didn’t play first team but he played during the glory days with Jerry Guscott and people like that so, for me, all the stories that my dad told me and everything like that is probably what inspired me to get into rugby.
“It is definitely something that almost motivates me to create that legacy again, for the next generation to have something to strive to. Obviously we haven’t achieved anything near enough what those guys did in the era before rugby went professional but it is something I massively want to do.
“I always think it is important for players to know the history behind the club because it makes you want to work harder for the guys who went before you and, ultimately, those that are going to come after you.
“I feel like since Johann (van Graan, Head of Rugby) has come in, he has tried to tap into the history of the club a bit. Andy Robinson has come in and done some stuff with us. I have worked with him in the past but it is good to see that different perspective on things; he played and coached at a time when the club did great things.
“We have had past players come in and give out shirts, and we’ve had past players come in after games and give us a bit of stick. We are starting to embrace it a bit more and I think that it is important.”
It’s pretty cool, my dad being a black guy himself, he loves it. He’s always saying ‘the brothers are out in the backline’ when everybody is playing,
For Bath fans of a certain vintage seeing Max Ojomoh combine with Ollie Lawrence and Joe Cokanasiga to put Harlequins to the sword at Twickenham the other day would have reminded them of the time when black players like Guscott, Audley Lumsden, Adedayo Adebayo, Pete Blackett, Freddie Sagoe ran opponents ragged in the all-conquering 80s and 90s.
“It’s pretty cool, my dad being a black guy himself, he loves it. He’s always saying ‘the brothers are out in the backline’ when everybody is playing,” Reid says.
“Rugby is growing as a sport that is accessible for all, and the whole Black Lives matter thing probably brought that into the forefront in rugby.
“A lot of hard work still needs to be done in rugby and in life generally, but it is getting better and to be at the club where you’ve got people like Beno Obano in the front row. It is great to have those role models for young, black guys and, hopefully, as many as possible can get into the sport.”
Reid started playing at Avon RFC, whose pitch is on the floodplain of the River Avon; Bath’s bog of a pitch at The Rec is a race track by comparison.
“I loved my time down there. When that flooded, and it does flood a lot, I remember coming onto the pitch and there would be like tree stumps and you’d find all sorts when the flood water finally went away. It was mental.”
His rugby education continued at Beechen Cliff, where Bath’s greatest-ever No.8 and current Club President, John Hall, went to school. Bath team-mates, Orlando Bailey and Tom de Glanville were also there at the same time, coming through the AASE programme and all three are core members of a squad that is, ever so slowly, starting to deliver on its potential.
Made from the same mould as Lawrence Dallaglio with his sculpted torso and strong jawline, Reid has the ability to physically dominate opponents
Of the three, Reid has probably had his best season yet in the blue, black and white, playing the bulk of the Premiership season and impressing with his strong carrying and gainline tackling as well as chipping in with five league tries.
Made from the same mould as Lawrence Dallaglio with his sculpted torso and strong jawline, Reid has the ability to physically dominate opponents and, if he can back up this season’s performances next season – at the back of a pack that should be going forward not back – a first England cap cannot be far away, especially with one of his main rivals, Sam Simmonds, set to be exiled in France.
Reid’s only involvement with England to date came at a training camp in June 2021 and that ended abruptly when the then Bath captain Charlie Ewels clashed heads with him at Pennyhill Park and fractured his jaw.
Reid was hoping to deliver another big performance in the ‘Big Summer Kick-off’ match against Harlequins at Twickenham last month but an early blow saw the 24-year-old removed from the field and he never returned. Scotland’s Josh Bayliss, another looking to improve his Test prospects after being overlooked for the Six Nations, came on in his place and put in a man-of-the-match display in the 45-35 win.
“I failed on doing the numbers on the HIA test, which is so tough, I can barely remember my own phone number let alone repeat four numbers backwards when I have literally just come off the pitch,” he says.
“This season I feel like I have managed to stay away from stuff like that so much, so I was gutted that in the biggest game, where you want to be on the pitch for the whole game, I wasn’t able to do that. But it happens in sport and I am feeling fine now.”
What has made Reid’s progress even more impressive is that he started the season on the back foot.
“The start of the season was a weird one,” he says. “I came in and got an injury (ankle) at the end of pre-season and that put me out for six weeks or so, and I missed the first two games, which was frustrating, especially with Johann and his team coming in, you kind of want to get straight on the horse and show what you can do.
“But I came back in against Wasps and had a really good run of games. I feel I have developed some different areas in my game and have played across the back row which I think is really good because it gives you a different perspective on things and you understand the other positions a bit better, because you have been there, so that just helps with the cohesiveness of the back row altogether.
“I have been happy with how the season has gone for me personally and I am looking forward to building on that next season.”
After the wins over Exeter and Harlequins ensured Bath would not finish bottom for a second consecutive season, the mood at the club is decidedly more upbeat than when they were beaten 64-0 by Gloucester last season.
For many Bath supporters, such a thrashing at the hands of their most vocal rivals was the lowest point of the lot, and Reid felt their pain. So to go there this season and redeem themselves and win 33-24 was particularly sweet and it also enabled Reid to re-enact a scene every Bath supporter loves – Carl Fearns’ bicep pose in front of The Shed.
For about 10 years, ever since I saw that picture of Carl Fearns giving a fist pump to the Shed, I have wanted to do the same thing, so it was great to finally do that
“Last season, it was my 50th cap there and obviously we had that result and it was probably one of the worst days I have ever had on a rugby pitch,” he admits.
“It was meant to be a special day, you’re playing your number one rival in the competition, so to get a scoreline like that go against you is pretty tough.
“For me, personally, there was a bit of a vendetta going over there and for a lot of the other lads who were here last season, they also had unfinished business, so it was great to do that.
“For about 10 years, ever since I saw that picture of Carl Fearns giving a fist pump to the Shed, I have wanted to do the same thing, so it was great to finally do that.”
One derby defeat still rankles with him, however. Given his passion for motorsport, Reid was determined for his team to top the podium in a charity go karting race against Bristol Bears but despite his nickname, Will “The Horse” Muir was sadly lacking in horsepower and let the side down.
“I said to the boys, ‘we can’t lose this one’, but when Will Muir got in the car, we dropped down about two places, he ruined it for us and we made sure he knew about it, he was so slow even though he was probably the lightest on the team. He even looked both ways to check when he came out of the pit lane. You’d have thought being a winger he would have cared about speed more than anyone else!”
Reid will soon discover that the narrow streets of Bradford-on-Avon weren’t built for speed, either, but we’ve caught him on a day when he doesn’t seem in any hurry. Losing his daily playmate and temporary landlord, Cam Redpath, has left him kicking his heels and “not knowing what to do with himself”.
So that gives us time to discuss next season, one that Bath supporters can look forward to with hope with Lee Blackett and Richard Blaze added to the coaching team and some significant player recruitment.
“We’ve got Thomas du Toit and Finn Russell coming in and building on what we have here already,” he points out.
“Premierships and Top 4 are done on whole squads and I think we have used a hell of a lot of our squad this season so, yeah, it is really exciting and I am really looking forward to it.
The trust in our game from these last few games and into next season will grow and I think next year will be a good one for us
“It’s interesting, and I think Beno said it in a BT interview after that Exeter game, there hasn’t been a magic formula or something we have done differently, we have just stuck to our game plan, and the set-piece has really started to kick on and that is the basis of everything.
“I think if you look across a lot of our games this season they have been so close. The Harlequins game (at home), we just couldn’t get over the line at the end with the maul, and the Sale game, we were unlucky there, we gave a try away right at the end. So there has been a number of games whereby if something had just gone the other way or we hadn’t forced anything, we’d have been further up the table.
“The trust in our game from these last few games and into next season will grow and I think next year will be a good one for us.”
Whatever happens, Reid will have skin in the game, the colour of which is thankfully now irrelevant.