From: Wolverhampton Wanderers - free transfer - July 1998
Record: Played: 7(7) Scored: 1
To: Walsall - free transfer - June 1999
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: Stuart Slater in (heavy) disguise
An occasionally dazzling, worryingly injury-prone, frequently frustrating winger. Sound
familiar? Yes, in an exclusive unmasking worthy of "Scooby Doo", BSaD can reveal that Tony Daley was really Stuart Slater all
Joking aside, the similarities are remarkable. Although never clutched to the club's bosom
as lovingly as Slater, Daley was a player whose name refused to fade away. Even as late in his
Watford career as the three playoff matches, when he'd been absent for weeks and with Graham Taylor standing
by a very settled side, there were whispers of a surprise recall.
It didn't happen, his chance had already gone. Daley's single season with Watford was
one of outrageous highs and lows. Arriving from Wolves to re-join Graham Taylor after years
of terrible injury problems had threatened to destroy a career that had once looked so
promising, he simply never managed to achieve full fitness often enough to make an impact.
After a few first team games at the start of the season, his confidence was shot. Watching him dribbling aimlessly against Brighton reserves in
September was truly painful - he was a shadow of the player who illuminated Villa Park with his lightning speed
and won full caps for England. Injury prevented him from playing his way back to form, and it
seemed that we'd probably seen the last of him. And yet he was back at the turn of the year, putting in wondrous displays of scything wingplay
against West Brom and Sunderland before fading away again.
But for a moment of true Taylor genius, Tony Daley's final Watford appearance would've been
a wretched night in Ipswich when he stumbled about "like his bootlaces were tied together". Most
managers would have left it at that.
But, like Slater, Daley leaves us with fond memories. From nowhere, he returned for
a crucial Bank Holiday trip to St Andrews. Most of us weren't even aware that he was fit,
let alone still in Taylor's plans. It was a masterstroke. Booed angrily for his Villa connections
whenever he touched the ball, he was simply brilliant, crossing gloriously for a first half assist
and scoring the winner with a mighty header.
He didn't play for Watford again.