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Gone but not forgotten:
Chris Baird
Position: Right back
From: Southampton - on loan - March 2004
Record: Played: 8(0) Scored: 0
To: Southampton - end of loan - May 2004
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: A proper footballer

There is, I suppose, a recognisable pattern emerging. In simple (and sometimes slightly unfair) terms, every manager can be said to have a favourite type, a perfect match. The kind of player that they'll keep coming back to when there's a gap that needs filling or a job that needs doing, distinct and different from attempts at experimentation. It's about personality as much as anything, really - there's always a type that a manager feels a natural affinity for, and is therefore willing to place trust in. And even if we can't see everything through the dressing room door, it's still a significant part of how we'll remember them, how their reign will be characterised.

Going back, Glenn Roeder's type was, perhaps unexpectedly for a former central defender, slightly flamboyant and wayward - for all that he signed Tommy Mooney, Keith Millen, Colin Foster and (a genius bit of business, lest we forget) Steve Palmer, he seemed to keep coming back to waifs and strays, Jamie Moralee, Craig Ramage, Darren Caskey and suchlike. Graham Taylor assembled ranks of trusted foot soldiers, building close relationships with certain players...and he returned to those even as he neared retirement, bringing Carlton Palmer into a squad that needed some serious shaking up. Gianluca Vialli? Yeah, as if you need telling...and Paul Okon proved that a season in Division One hadn't really made any difference.

It's not been at all hard to spot Ray Lewington's type. Hell, he gave it away in the first month, for the arrival of Sean Dyche and Neal Ardley was every bit as loaded with significance as Ramon Vega and Stephen Hughes twelve months earlier. Even before that, you could see the then-reserve manager's hand in the transfer of Gavin Mahon, another from the same mould. Solid players, these...with a certain earnestness about them, an impression of taking the job seriously. Not players who'll go missing when things get tough, when their form dips; not players who'll beat six opponents and then curl a shot into the top corner from twenty-five yards either. Proper footballers. He'd have kept Steve Palmer, you suspect....

So, Chris Baird wasn't exactly a surprise. Somehow, he just looks like a footballer, in a thoroughly old-fashioned way. Part of the new breed, if you like...not the Premiership posers with all their bling, but the post-Bosman and ITV Digital generation, aware that new financial pressures mean that their chosen career is more fragile and precarious than ever before and that the dole queue beckons for anyone who takes their weekly wage for granted for too long. Work as hard on the training ground as on Saturday afternoons, contribute to the team and the club, earn your bloody money. That type. You know. Probably plays a decent round of golf.

Not a surprise, then. But absolutely terrific nonetheless. For all that Chris Baird struggled on occasions - hell, even if he bore no direct responsibility for either disaster, his loan spell began with a 4-1 cock-up at Ipswich and ended with a 4-0 defeat at West Ham that might've been very much worse - he was always up for it, visible, tall, stubborn.

Like I say, a proper footballer. A player with sleeves rolled up, socks pulled up, shirt tucked in. A right back who's more comfortable in defence than attack, but tries damn hard to contribute in the other half anyway...which is all that right backs should be, in my view. A defender who'll be beaten once, then bounce back for another block, tackle or clearance next time. A player who talks to his teammates - the highlight of the month-and-a-bit, for me, being a clearing header from the line at Rotherham, executed with comfort after a shout to Alec Chamberlain to prevent the keeper from getting in the way. That's what you want, right there.

It's what this manager wants too, clearly. He can't afford it, as we know too well, and so you don't imagine that we'll be seeing Chris Baird in a Watford shirt again. Whether he'll be seen in a Southampton shirt either is unclear at this point...but he'll have a solid, decent career from football, undoubtedly. More than anything, you get the impression that he'll make it happen.

We've all stood on the school playground while the captains pick their teams, and many of us will have stood there for rather longer than we'd have liked. It's a decent test, even now...and Chris Baird won't be waiting to be picked for very long....