From: Crystal Palace - £250,000 - July 1997
Record: Played: 13 Scored: 0
To: Queens Park Rangers - free transfer - May 2001
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: On the bench
There's one major problem with being a goalkeeper. When you're not in the team, you're really not
in the team. After all, it's not as if the manager's suddenly going to give you a substitute appearance at
left back as an experiment.
So, Chris Day's been really not in the team for the best part of four years now, since his arrival at Vicarage Road
as part of the deal that took Kevin Miller to Crystal Palace. At that time - with excited whispers about his
early career, of England Under-21 appearances and "gifted understudy" status at Spurs - there seemed little
prospect of it ending like this, with endless bench-warming and extended loan spells at Lincoln.
We'd reckoned without Alec Chamberlain, of course. After injury had deprived Day of a place in Graham
Taylor's new-look starting line-up at the beginning of the 1997/98 season, Chamberlain simply refused to relinquish
his position and, as we all know, became an irreplaceable part of the side that won two successive promotions. During
those momentous years, Day made just two first team appearances...and one of those was at Craven Cottage
in the Auto Windscreen Shield, which is stretching the definition of "first team" somewhat.
When his chance finally came, Watford were in the Premiership. With Chamberlain injured, Chris Day wore the goalkeeper's
jersey as the Hornets lined up against Wimbledon for the first game of the new season. By five o'clock, after involvement
in the hideous confusion that led to the visitors' winner and harsh criticism from all sides, he could've been
forgiven for preferring the safety of the dugout.
In truth, and with typical bad fortune, he'd simply come into the side at the wrong moment, at a time when
any keeper was likely to be severely tested. It's worth noting that he kept three clean sheets in
eleven appearances during that season, the same number as Chamberlain managed in twenty-seven starts. With a
shaky defence and remorseless opponents, this was not a vintage period for Watford goalkeepers.
Nevertheless, Chris Day can look back upon one personal triumph. Just as Des Lyttle's performance at
Bradford has now gone beyond mere footballing achievement and become one of the great feats of human endeavour, so
the keeper's role in that famous victory at Anfield has perhaps been exaggerated by collective memory. No matter, since
Day was absolutely excellent and fully deserving of plaudits. More than anything, he played a massive part in ensuring that
Liverpool were denied without the need for save after save. We saw his full potential there, his ability to
be a commanding part of the defence rather than merely its last line. We didn't see that often enough, maybe.
After long spells back on the bench, he ended the season between the sticks again, with thoroughly impressive performances
against Middlesbrough and Coventry in the final two matches. You began to wonder whether his future might be rather
brighter than it had once seemed. You stopped wondering when Graham Taylor shelled out a seven figure sum for
Espen Baardsen in the summer, leaving Day as third choice. He didn't play for Watford again.
That's the story, then. It's not the full story, though. Personally, I'll remember Chris Day for something else -
for his attitude...or, more accurately, for his lack of attitude. Undoubtedly, playing in just a dozen games in
four seasons must've been very hard for a promising, ambitious youngster. But you wouldn't have known it, for he
wasn't to be found sulking, frowning, or bitching. Quite the reverse, in fact. Whenever you came across him,
you got the impression that Vicarage Road was a brighter, happier place for Chris Day's presence.
For that, and for Anfield, we should wish him well.