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Gone but not forgotten:
Wayne Brown
Position: Defender
From: Ipswich Town - free transfer - December 2002
Record: Played: 25(1) Scored: 1
WFC total: Played: 35(2) Scored: 4
To: Colchester United - free transfer - July 2004
Career stats: Soccerbase
See also: Past player profiles
He was: In search of a happy ending

Wonderful thing, hindsight. Insight is even better, though.

Bearing in mind that there have been comparatively few promotions and relegations when Graham Taylor hasn't been in charge, transfer dealings have often played a major part in the evaluation of each manager's reign. That means you, Luca. But others as well, from Dave Bassett to Ray Lewington...with the only exception being poor Kenny Jackett, who, by and large, didn't get to sign anyone at all. Of course, we're still in the Ray Lewington era, with fresh additions to the squad that have yet to tip the scales either way.

Which is where it gets interesting, really. For, as with any manager, there have been failed transfers during the last couple of years. Three particularly stand out, although two of them are still very much retrievable...and, indeed, may have a significant influence on our fortunes in 2004/05. The fascination, I think, comes from the fact that two of the three - Wayne Brown and Danny Webber - were driven by public demand, that no amount of hindsight can obscure the excitement that exploded when the news broke.

Insight, y'see. A glimpse at how the most rational of decisions can still go wrong, courtesy of any number of random, unpredictable, unforseeable factors. Think about it, next time you slag off the manager for signing Bruce Dyer. Or when you pluck a random name from the lower divisions and claim that he's the solution to whatever problems we happen to be suffering. It just ain't that easy.

In both cases, we signed known quantities. They were players who'd already had experience of life at Vicarage Road, twice in Danny Webber's case. They wanted to come, we wanted them to come, directors and anonymous donors were prepared to pay for them to come. We knew their personalities, how they'd fit into the dressing room as well as how they'd fit into the team. It couldn't go wrong. It bloody did anyway.

At the same time as Danny Webber attempts to start a new season with a clean slate, Wayne Brown has had his contract cancelled to enable him to leave for Colchester United, having spent and apparently enjoyed a loan there at the end of last season. Best for all concerned, without question...but very different from what we'd hoped for when he was allowed to escape from Portman Road eighteen months ago. Then, we were ecstatic, for his loan spell under Luca Vialli, particularly the partnership with Filippo Galli, had been a rare but very real highlight in an otherwise disappointing campaign. This was supposed to be the happy ending.

In many respects, Wayne Brown was simply unlucky. He returned to a squad that had re-discovered its sense of unity and purpose under a new manager, no longer needing the kick up the backside that he'd provided just a few months before. And, specifically, he arrived just as Marcus Gayle hit his stride as the left-sided part of the defensive pair, effectively making our new signing redundant from the very start. While he found temporary employment as a left-back, it suited nobody...and a player who relied greatly on confidence was already starting to look a little lost, a shadow of his heroic former self.

It didn't really get any better. Although he was to get occasional chances in his preferred position, he no longer seemed assertive enough to seize them, looking lightweight and slight in comparison to the bullish figure that we'd once cherished. Without that outer confidence, all of his weaknesses were cruelly exposed - he was in the wrong place at the wrong time too often, lacking sufficient pace to recover, not strong enough in the challenge to turn fifty-fifty situations in his favour. Not, in short, the player that we'd signed.

Unrecognisable, in fact. The slump in form was completed by a torrid afternoon at the Hawthorns, his last appearance in the yellow shirt at left-back in a 3-1 defeat. One out of five. He was loaned out to Colchester for the rest of the season...and, while there was some debate over whether we had a recall clause when our other defensive options started to fall by the wayside, it rather missed the point.

Once upon a time, Wayne Brown was the solution to all of our problems. No longer. He's very much free to solve someone else's.