From: Barnsley - Free transfer - July 2003
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: Player of the Year in waiting...?
The summer of 2003 was the second successive close-season in which wage-bill pruning and pragmatism were the order of the day. Or three months. Or however long, with any bright light at the end of our financial tunnel and imperceivable distance away.
In the context of which, the re-signing of Bruce Dyer almost a decade after he left to join Crystal Palace as the nation's first million-pound teenager was a welcome surprise. With Noel-Williams, Smith and Foley departing, striking options badly needed increasing, and even if Dyer's development hadn't lived up to his early, lofty billing, fifty goals over the previous three seasons with Barnsley were enough to suggest that he was more than capable of fitting the bill at this level.
An impressive pre-season followed; Ray Lewington gushed about his form on tour and he played an imposing, pivotal role in a demolition of Aldershot at the Recreation Ground. However, his confidence appeared to suffer more than most during Watford's horrific start to the 2003-04 season; he looked leaden and clumsy, and his trademark ferocious acceleration was not in evidence. The one goal he scored, at home to Millwall during our first victory in September, was a fortunate deflection off his thigh and didn't prove the springboard to rediscovering his goalscoring habits that was hoped.
He lost his place in the starting eleven in mid-October, already the focus of the vacuous Vicarage Road juke-box jury who cheered his substitution against Walsall. And although there's no denying that Dyer's first season back at the Vic was a huge disappointment, it should perhaps be judged in the context of a six month spell from October to April during which he was awarded only four starts, one of these a thankless task at Stamford Bridge.
Towards the end of the campaign, and perhaps not entirely coincidental to his finally setting up home back in Hertfordshire, Dyer's form began to look more convincing, his substitute appearances at last demanding, rather than gently suggesting, a return to the starting line-up. When he got his start at Rotherham, he held his place for the last five games, to which he contributed two goals, two more fine efforts disallowed for questionable offside decisions (at Millmoor and the New Den) and, crucially, looked the bullish, aggressive striker we thought we'd signed last summer.
As you were, then. The last month of the season was enough to suggest that there's more to come from Brucie... if he follows the trend of the previous two season's boo-boys, he'll be Player of the Year come May. Stranger things have happened.
Last updated: June 2004