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BLIND, STUPID AND DESPERATE
 
Editorials:
The Graham Taylor Faux All-Star Team
By Tim Tweddell
 
In every successive campaign, there are players who arrive at the club to become a part of Watford folklore; never to be forgotten Golden Boys. Their exploits are etched forever in the memories of the Vicarage Road faithful. They shone, they sparkled, they lit up the sky.

Then there are those who, for various reasons, didnít quite have the same impact. When mentioned a few years down the road, their names will be met with a blank stare, and a quizzical "Who?".

Some passed across the sky like dim meteors, giving of hardly any light at all; some glowed like meteorites as they crashed to earth; while others were shooting stars, brilliant but short-lived.

So, here is a selection of players from GTís second coming who form "the team that never was". Some were unlucky with injuries, a lot really; some couldnít quite force their way into the side; and some were simply not good enough.

Goalkeeper: Herwig Walker. 1999-2000
Appearances: Starts: 0 Sub: 0

Played in the Isle of Man pre-season tournament, and spent the first few games of the 1999/2000 season on the bench. With both Chamberlain and Day fit, he went back to the reserves and was never seen again with the first team. Released at the end of the season.

Right Back: Lars Melvang. 1997-98.
Appearances: Starts: 2 Sub: 3 Goals: 1

Briefly vied for the number 2 shirt at the beginning of the 97-98 season, when he arrived on a short term contract. He scored on his debut, but there was little to choose between him and Sir Nigel Gibbs. The decision was made when he got a knee injury and despite having been kept on for treatment, he never recovered sufficiently and was released.

Left Back: Ben Iroha. 1998-2000.
Appearances: Starts: 8 Sub: 2 Goals: 0

Bunion Ben! Nigerian international who looked to be a serious contender for Paul Robinsonís shirt. Remembered largely for a surging run and a thunderous shot in the opening minutes of a Third Round cup tie at White Hart Lane, which hit the bar and resulted in a goal which gave Watford the lead. The bunions were eventually cured by surgery, but before he could get back to match fitness, he got an infection after a cut in a foot. He never recovered from this set-back and retired.

Centre-back: Dean Yates. 1998-2000.
Appearances: Starts: 10 Sub: 0 Goals:1

Signed at the beginning of the 1998-99 season, he was forming a solid partnership with Robert Page, until after ten games he suffered a knee injury from which he never recovered. Tried desperately to get back to match fitness after surgery, but the knee just wasnít able to perform. Retired.

Centre-back: Carlton Palmer. 2000-1.
Appearances: Starts: 5 Sub: 0 Goals: 0

Brought in to the side in December, one of GTís favourites from his England days, he was taken on loan for three months from Coventry. Performed with increasing effectiveness and was fitting into the side well. However, the agreement with Coventry allowed them to recall him at any time, which they did in early January 2001, after only five games at Watford. This lead to a well-reported argument between the player and manager, who, having recalled him, did not play him.

Right Midfield: Johann Gudmundsson: 1998-2001.
Appearances: Starts: 8 Sub: 18 Goals: 2

Yoyo, as he was affectionately known, was an Icelandic International who scored two goals on his debut including an amazing header from the edge of the penalty area, and that was about it. For three years he yoyo-ed between the first team and the reserves, spending considerably more time at the bottom of the string than at the top. Despite some promising displays for the reserves, he repeated failed in the first team and was given a compassionate discharge to return to Iceland, which is probably where he had wanted to be all the time.

Centre-Midfield: Charlie Miller. 1999-2000.
Appearances: Starts: 11 Sub: 6 Goals: 0

It might seem that the signing of an under-21 Scottish international midfielder from Glasgow Rangers for £350,000 was too good to be true. In fact, it was. He performed well for a time, before acceding to the lure of other more fulfilling pursuits (allegedly). The next season he appeared, struggled would be more accurate, once as a substitute, before being given a free transfer back to his spiritual home.

Centre-Midfield: Alexandre Bonnot: 1998-2001.
Appearances: Starts 8: Sub 8: Goals: 0

Arrived in November 1998 on a free transfer. Left May 2001 on a free transfer. In two and a half years, he made spasmodic appearances and was largely injured in-between. Never let the side down when he played, but was so injury prone, we never really saw what he had to offer.

Left Midfield: Steven Armstrong: 2000-2001.
Appearances: Starts: 0 Sub: 3 Goals: 0

One of the more mysterious signings made by Graham Taylor. With Peter Kennedy being absent most of the season, injured or out of form, it was supposed that Armstrong would fill the left midfield spot. However, he was not selected in the starting line-up for a single game, and played a total of 56 minutes in seven months, before being released.

Forward: Xavier Gravelaine: 1999-2000.
Appearances: Starts: 7 Sub: 0 Goals: 2

Remembered for his two goals against Southampton in a rare Premiership win, and a ridiculous dismissal for a supposed two-footed tackle. A mercurial player with gallic body language; that shrug of the shoulders and 'those eyes', he was a player with considerable flair who was a joy to watch. Arrived on a free transfer, obviously with a release clause, because he sadly left after only two months to return to France. He was the only player in this list for whom the club received a fee.

Forward: Guy Whittingham: 1999-99.
Appearances. Starts: 4 Sub: 1 Goals: 0

Arrived on loan, with a view to a possible permanent transfer, after scoring a hatful of goals for Portsmouth, who couldnít afford to keep him. Failed to impress, failed to score, was substituted in three of his four starts, and was released. But he played a peripheral part in the famous run-in to the play-offs; the player who took his place in the team was Tommy Mooney.

Substitutes:

Midfield: Alon Hazan: 1998-99.
Appearances: Starts: 16 Sub: 22 Goals: 2

Signed in January 1998 on the recommendation of fellow Israeli international, Ronny Rosenthal, and apparently being nurtured for the Premiership. He made sixteen starts in the Nationwide and twenty-two appearances as sub, most of which were in the last minute of the game to satisfy some absurd FIFA rule. Lasting memory of him is skinning Robbie Elliot when he fittingly came on as a substitute in the play-off final at Wembley. The eighteen months of waiting never came to anything, as he had to return to Israel for personal reasons, and never did appear in the top division.

Winger: Tony Daley: 1998-99.
Appearances: Starts: 7 Sub: 7 Goals: 1

Never the player he was under Graham Taylor at Villa, and with a catalogue of injuries, he came on a free transfer at the beginning of the 1998-99 season. He didnít do a great deal and the old injury problems arose again. He was surprisingly called up for his final match at Birmingham, and went out in a blaze of glory, scoring one goal and making the other in a crucial 2-1 victory. At the end of the season he was given a free transfer.

Goalkeeper: Chris Day: 1997-2001.
Appearances: Starts: 13 Sub: 0

Bench-warmer extraordinaire. Someone has to do it. Understudy to Alec Chamberlain, he only played when the number one keeper was injured. His few performances varied between the abject ( Sheffield United 4 Watford 0 ) and the inspired ( Liverpool 0 Watford 1 ). Transferred.

Midfield: Adrian Bakalli: 1999-2000.
Appearances: Starts: 0 Sub: 2 Goals: 0

Certainly one of the most baffling Watford players ever. A Belgian under-21 international, he managed just two substitute appearances in almost two years. Even at times when the club was crippled by injuries, he could only make the substitutesí bench, and was eventually given a free transfer.

Forward: Sergei Clescenco: 0000-0000.
Appearances: Starts: 0 Sub: 0 Goals: 0

At the moment of signing, the Moldovan international apparently changed his mind following pressure, some said, from "certain quarters". Weíll probably never know the full facts, and his career with Watford was over before it started.

So there they are: sixteen players who, on average, were each at the club about a year and a half, and collectively started less than a hundred games. Many came in on free transfers and those that were bought totalled just over £1 million; all except one were given free transfers, released or retired. But they were part of squads which had major success under Graham Taylor, even if their individual contributions were small.

(12/9/01)