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Gone but not forgotten:
Stephen Brooker
Position: Striker
From: Youth team
Record: Played: 0(2) Scored: 0
To: Port Vale - £15,000 - January 2001
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: Our new SuperKev
See also: Progess report

It's pre-season 1999/00. Watford had just won the play-off final, and we were getting ready for our first foray into the Premier League. And a bunch of mad Hornets had made the trip over the water to Ireland for a friendly against St. Patrick's Athletic in Dublin, obviously only coming over for the weekend for the football (cough).

So, having found St. Pat's ground, conveniently built in between some houses on the outskirts of Dublin, we're going through a bizarre ticket buying process, when out pops Graham Taylor.

Nicking a pint of Guinness out of someone's hand and downing it, GT speaks. "So, who wants to know the line up today?" he boomed (as only god can). "We've got a young lad called Steve Brooker playing. You might not have seen him before because he hasn't played much for the reserves, but he's a good prospect. A striker".

So, with excitement at the chance to see the new prodigy, I made my way into the "stand" and stood on the grass bank to be greeted by the sight of a tall, thin, blond vision. Stevie Brooker.

He had a great game, scoring two goals - a header from a Clint Easton free kick and a storming thirty yard pile-driver with his left foot. We'd found our new Kevin Phillips. He was young, taller than super Kev, but obviously a goal machine. After all, two goals on your friendly debut can't be sniffed at. It was just what we needed going into the Premier League with a huge injury list.

He made a couple of fleeting appearances, and then he too joined the injury list. And by the time he got back, there was no way for him to get in. Heider and Nordin forced him further down the striker queue, and he sat in the reserves putting in some good performances but never quite did enough.

And then this season he saw Gifton and Alan Smart get fit again, and his opportunites were obviously going to be limited. Two weeks into a month-long loan at Port Vale, they put in a bid and secured his services permanently.

I, for one, will now look for Port Vale's scores on a Saturday evening and look out for his name. I have this strange feeling that he will come back to haunt us, but still wish him every success in his career as I'm sure all the 'Orns who were there at the St. Pat's game will too.

Miles Jacobson