tes·ti·mo·ni·al noun: Something given in appreciation of a person's service or achievement; a tribute.
It has been a strange week: the fans' forum was passionate, if not as heated as some would like; the pre-season friendlies have gone well; and no one has left the club. I thought, however, that an opportunity was missed at the forum to sell the testimonial match for Alec Chamberlain. Although Aidy hinted at a future as a coach in the club, little was done to really encourage the fans to turn out on Saturday. But why should they?
The first testimonial match I went to was, ironically, for another keeper - Steve Sherwood. We played Hearts a few days after the end of the 1987 season. The match was notable for two reasons: firstly, a youth player called David James played; secondly, and more significantly, it was to be the last match of GT's first era.
Believe it or not, there are strong similarities between Steve Sherwood and Alec Chamberlain. Although Sherwood had his weaknesses, he was a part of the team that went from the old Fourth Division all the way into Europe and the Cup Final. Chamberlain has not always been the first choice, particularly in recent seasons, but he has been part of a side that got a double promotion, reached two semi-finals and survived various financial problems.
When I first saw Alec Chamberlain play (on a wet night down in Plymouth), I had my doubts. We won the game one-nil, but he looked a little suspect in some areas and, with GT's sometimes poor track record with keepers, I was not convinced. I was glad to be proven wrong and, although he has weaknesses (as do all keepers), these are more than compensated by the air of calm and order he adds to the defence.
One of the hardest skills as a keeper is talking to your defence: positioning them, watching the play, encouraging. Alec is a master at this. All keepers who play on into their late thirties and early forties have to be. As reflexes dull and agility is lost, the ability to prevent a shot on goal in the first place is as vital as saving the shot itself.
Alec Chamberlain is not the best keeper we have had at Watford, but I challenge you to find a more professional one. Through all the ups and downs of his time here, I cannot recall a complaint. By all accounts, he is a model professional and is widely respected by other players. That is why he deserves a testimonial.