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Gone but not forgotten:
Devon White
Position: Centre forward
From: Notts County - £100,000 - February 1996
Record: Played: 35(3) Scored: 8
To: Notts County - 'nominal fee' - March 1997
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: (If you can't say anything nice...)

If 'being a nice bloke' counted for anything in the world of professional football, Devon White would be much in demand. If willingness to take a battering from bruising Second Division defenders was a vital part of every footballer's game, he'd be coaching at Soccer Skills courses. If people like Howard Wilkinson were involved in the England set-up then...YIKES!

For some reason, criticising Devon White feels a bit like taking a painting by a six year old and dissecting its artistic content until the tears flow - it's all true but it makes you feel so bloody mean. Still, what the hell...

When he first arrived, most Watford fans were delighted that we'd finally signed a striker taller than 5' 7" who wasn't Kerry Dixon. After Glenn Roeder's departure, he hit a rich vein of form as we attempted to achieve a miraculous escape from relegation - his performance against Reading was quite superb, netting two goals (including a fairly extraordinary effort from a seemingly impossible angle) and generally adding the kind of physical, intimidating centre forward play we'd missing since Paul Furlong left. He even executed a sublime little backheel in the move that led to our fourth goal (no, he didn't just stand on the ball accidentally - don't be so cynical).

It couldn't last, though. As the season neared its conclusion, White was falling foul of referees who interpreted his somewhat unconventional style as being contrary to the laws of the game - at Luton and Norwich, the man in black had his whistle out every time Devon got close to the ball. And, gradually, it all went horribly wrong.

This season, he should have been in his element. Finesse isn't something you find a lot of in the Second Division and Devon White has all the elegance of a giraffe on rollerskates. In many ways, though, the problem was his familiarity - defenders were more used to playing against height and more able to deal with the long-ball tactic. If we attempted to change our approach, his lack of coordination, pace, control, vision, anything else you care to mention meant that he wasn't ideally suited to a team that wanted to play the ball on the ground. The performances became increasingly comical and the fans became frustrated with him. Eventually, confidence shot to pieces, he found himself overtaken by a sixteen year old and slapped in a transfer request.

In the end, Devon White is an honest, hard-working footballer. But if wanting talent was the same as having it, we'd all be out there on the pitch. You just can't have a centre forward who has to practise shooting from the edge of the six yard box before matches; you can't have situations where players look up and think better of passing because they know possession will be lost.

I sincerely wish Big Dev all the best at Notts County. I'm pleased for him - he's returned to a club that wants him, to fans that seem to like him. And I think that suits everyone, really...

See also Goal Machines