From: Northwood Town - free transfer - February 2003
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: The new Kevin Phillips...perhaps
The first time I heard the name of Scott Fitzgerald was during a particularly over-enthusiastic phone call I received a few months ago. The caller was at Aldershot's ground, watching Watford's Reserves cane Chelsea on their way to the Premier Reserve league title. On the score sheet twice that night was Scott Fitzgerald, the recent signing, who had recently been plucked from non-league obscurity and given a professional deal. "I tell you, he's bloody brilliant," enthused the caller, not normally renowned for over-excitability...much. "He's got it all, first touch, finishing, strength, pace, what a striker, he's brilliant and he's going to be our new Kevin Phillips!" was the shout.
Intrigued, I took in the next reserves home game and saw some of the same things. He didn't notch that night, but stung the second string Spurs keeper's hands with two blistering efforts and impressed with his all-round appetite for the game and his attacking instincts. He also showed that he is deceptively pacy, if slightly ungainly. For all of his attributes, one thing struck me the most. He looked raw...in fact, he looked very raw. When he got the ball he looked dynamite, but he also seemed to be a little lost when he didn't have it, much of his off the ball work was a little aimless and he was found in the wrong place at the right time on occasion and for spells of the game, the action passed him by. Despite that, I left the Vic feeling that we could be onto a winner, once he learnt a few of the basics to add to his obvious and natural talent.
After a few more promising displays for the reserves, a first team chance came knocking. He made his bow against Reading, a lost cause of a game, but Scott managed to be the only Watford player to show...well...anything that night and most observers felt he earned himself a first start. He duly got that against Sheffield United and once again, he showed his instincts and touch are good. He was on hand to tap in his first goal with a true striker's finish. Nice to have that under your belt so soon, I would have thought. He'd learnt much since that showing against Spurs - however, at times he still showed his rawness. He missed an easy-looking one-on-one in the first half, left a few too many unchallenged clearances for their defenders, that sort of thing.
The learning points are totally understandable, of course, for a player still coming to terms with his new surroundings and his new career. After the Sheffield game, Ray Lewington was at pains to point out that hard work remains for Scott. He needs to get more experience, that's a given. A good pre-season will do him good as regards his adapting to the demands of the professional game and a bit more work on that positioning when he doesn't have the ball. Calls for him to partner Heidar from the off next season are premature, but there's no doubt that if we're patient with him and allow him to develop, we might just have unearthed another gem. From what I've seen, he's certainly learning fast, that can only be a good thing.
The new Kevin Phillips, then? It's a bit of a thing to live up to. I'll settle for the new Scott Fitzgerald. Like the Grolsch, Ray Lewington should (and will, I'll wager) only let us have him when he's ready.
Last updated: June 2003