Behind The Scenes - Roy 'The Kit Man' Reyland
In every organisation there are priceless people who set the stage on which others produce their magic. At Saracens, one of the classic examples of that is Roy Reyland.
Roy is the kit manager at the club, and has been for 13 years. Prior to that he spent 29 years at his beloved Tottenham Hotspur, working under 18 managers and mixing with some fantastic football talent.
His book ‘Shirts, Shorts & Spurs – from Gazza to Ginola, my 29 years as kit man at the Lane’ tells the story of his time at the London club. With a foreword by Steve Perryman and preface from Terry Venables, it shows what respect there was for him at his old club. But that was a decade ago and a lot of water has flown under his sporting bridge – definitely not Stamford Bridge! – since then.
Having been a follower of the round ball for most of his life, he is a confirmed egg-chaser these days and is loving his ‘second career’ at the StoneX Stadium.
“I love the job I do. It is difficult, involves long hours, it is enjoyable and, at the end of the day, it is rewarding,” said Roy.
“After 29 years at Spurs I had had enough of doing the ridiculous hours because of the number of games they played and I had an interview with the CEO at Saracens that led to me switching clubs and sports. I started in the 2007-08 season and I haven’t looked back since.
“Spurs won a couple of trophies during my time there, including the FA Cup at Wembley in 1991, but I’ve enjoyed huge success with Saracens. There are a few cultural differences between football and rugby players and I think the rugby boys are a bit more appreciative of what we do for them.
“They are also a lot more helpful. George Kruis used to sweep the dressing room after matches and none of the players are above carrying some of the kit we use to and from my van.
“That is perhaps the biggest difference between the two sports, the amount of kit I have to carry to matches. The numbers in the team are much greater in rugby and the intricacy of the tactics in the game, as well as the S&C and warm-up gear we have to take with us, is very different to football.
“It can take up to two-and-a-half hours to properly set the dressing room for a match. We work as hard as we can to make everything perfect for the players and take great pride in making sure we get things right for them.”
One of the things Roy did bring with him from Spurs that has proved highly successful, and been much welcomed by the players, is an in-house laundry service. ‘In House’ means ‘done by Roy’ and his able assistant Derek Cole, with all the training and playing kit for the 55 squad members being washed and dried at the training ground.
“It as one of the things I identified from football that rugby was lacking in. Other clubs still send off their kit to a laundry and ask the players to clean their own kit,” explained Roy.
“But we have been cleaning everything on site for some time now. It means we lay out the kit for the player ahead of training each day and then change it for the second session later on.
“Laundering that amount of kit every day takes some doing, but it makes a big difference to the players. They only have to bring their boots and wash-bags with them each day and then get on with their business.
“Being precise in everything you do is at the core of being a good kit man. You soon know if something is missing or has gone wrong, but if everything is perfect then nobody says anything – that’s how I like it.
“Hand on heart I can honestly say that I have never forgotten anything during my two stints at Spurs and Saracens. There was one occasion at Spurs when a loan player forgot to ask me to pack his training boots for a game, but I got someone to drop by the training ground and pick them up to avoid any fuss.
“There are never any problems, only issues that need to be resolved. There are long days driving to matches all over Europe, but when the team wins it is all worth it.”
Having handed out, and laundered, so much kit during his career you would have thought Roy would have a killer collection of shirts at home. Thankfully for his incredibly understanding and supportive wife, Alison, he has never collected them.
“I’ve got about four that I’ve been given by players who were close to me, but no more than that. You don’t need mementoes when you’ve got the memories that I’ve got.”
His book was no kiss and tell story. It was well received by his former colleagues at Spurs and by their fans. Just imagine if he had spilled the beans on everything he saw.
“You are a bit like an Agony Aunt in my job. The kit room is the place the players gravitate towards when they want to have a chat and get things off their chest,” he added.
“To be honest, I listen to them, let them have their say and then completely forget about what it was they were moaning about. They have to have confidence in me and I have never betrayed a confidence in my time at either Spurs or Saracens . . . and never will!”