From: Youth Team
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: Sinking without trace, like Kevin McCarthy
Past Profiles: June 2003, July 2002
Jamie promised good things when he burst into the team under Vialli and, as previous profiles suggested, many of us thought he was destined for great things.
At the City 'Orns end-of-season dinner in 2003 we were discussing who would be starting the next season. Who would be the players to make an impact. Who, indeed, would be player of the season. While not predicting the last of these accolades for our Jamie, there was considerable support for the notion that he would be one of the first names on the team sheet to fill the gap left by Allan Neilsen. Together with Richard Johnson we saw him providing the steel in midfield that would make us a force to be reckoned with, and further exemplification of the talent that was coming through from our academy.
After all, he had impressed in the eighteen months since his debut against Arsenal in the FA Cup. From the start, when Graham Taylor sang his praises on the Radio Five Live commentary, to the point at which he was awarded Young Player of the Season 2002/03, Hand was on an upward trajectory. Sure, he showed an increasing tendency to get booked as his petulance and reputation merged in the minds of officials. We put this down to enthusiasm and youth, however. It was a likeable trait.
Sadly, on reflection, it now seems to be a trait borne out of lack of understanding of what is needed to be a footballer at this level. It is not just about skill, but about attitude and ability to engage brain. Whilst continuing to be a very likeable player, Jamie just doesn’t seem to demonstrate all of those qualities.
Ray Lewington could not find a regular place for him as Gavin Mahon became ‘the first name on the team sheet’. Injuries did not help his cause, and so the notion of loan spells to get some first team experience was mooted. It didn’t seem that many clubs were jumping in for Jamie, but eventually he went to Oxford United for eleven games and then onto Livingston. This shows an admirable sense of loyalty to yellow and black but hasn’t done much for his first team chances at Vicarage Road. Indeed, his spell north of the border was cut short in strange circumstances, with Livi’s website announcing that he was returning home with immediate effect, but with no reciprocal announcement from Watford. Was this the footballer’s equivalent of gardening leave?
In came Adrian Boothroyd and the well-documented demolition and rebuilding of the squad. Surely Hand would not survive this cull? Maybe Adrian had seen some things on the training pitch, or maybe Jamie’s gardening leave had allowed him to hide behind the begonias. Whatever, he remained in the squad, became quite prominent as a community ambassador, and was mistaken for more players than anyone else at the sponsors’ dinner (‘is that Ben Herd?’).
Pre-season saw him play with the first team – he was even in the starting lineup for the very first game and scored a rare goal against Velje BK in Denmark. Yet again though, his star waned and when the league season kicked off he was nowhere to be seen.
In a squad desperately thin of back up in central midfield, he has been overtaken by Al Bangura and Toumani Diagouraga. With Bouazza, Campana and Mariappa also in the first team picture, maybe he needs to change his name to Handa. Or maybe he just needs to apply himself and get another break. I suspect, though, that we may not see much more of the former Young Player of the Season. Another great hope for the future who is sinking without trace - just like the 1976 winner, one Kevin McCarthy.
Last updated: September 2005