Position: Left-sided midfielder
From: Youth team
Record: Played: 60(18) Scored: 2
To: Norwich City - £200,000 (including increments) - June 2001
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: In a rut
Oh, excellent news. Clint Easton's finally left Vicarage Road. Bloody hurrah!
This is probably not the kind of unapologetic player-bashing that you expect from BSaD, home of reasoned opinion
and wayward waffle. Well, fear not. My happiness at this particular transfer comes not from a dislike of
the player in the question. The reverse, if anything.
Clint Easton needs regular first-team football. Full stop. At twenty-three, he's been at Watford for long
enough to get himself into a rut, stuck somewhere in the no man's land between the reserves and the substitutes'
bench. It's surely time for a fresh start, a new challenge.
His numerous detractors - dominated by a majority who jumped on him as a suitable scapegoat for the endless
Premiership defeats, as if having an in-form left-sided midfielder could've saved us - would doubtless point
to a lack of commitment as reason for his failure to establish himself. That's laughably simplistic, frankly. Rather, his
main shortcoming has been a lack of authority and influence, something that wouldn't have been greatly altered by
running around very fast or booting opponents up in the air.
A player like Clint Easton - undoubtedly talented, with an eye for a cute pass - needs to change the flow of the
game. It doesn't matter that he's never going to be an Andy Hessenthaler or a Tommy Mooney, a player who
rallies others. He can make his mark in a quieter way, bringing the ball down and using it constructively. He
can win matches, even if no-one gives him a standing ovation for it.
Since his debut in '96, he simply hasn't done it often enough. Neither assertive nor outwardly confident, he's
tended to be swept away by the powerful flow of a competitive scrap. Tellingly, his best performances have been
as a substitute, arriving when battles have already been won or lost. Then, he has appeared thoughtful
and neat, in a fairly insignificant way. You've tended to feel that he must look like a splendid player in
five-a-sides at the training ground.
Stand well back, though, for there's a flaming big "BUT" heading in our direction. Because, for all that I've
said, Clint Easton ended his Watford career in absolutely tremendous form, casting my doubts and criticisms
to the wind with a series of determined, purposeful and, yes, influential performances. At long, long
last, we saw more than mere potential.
What changed? Well, a potential drop into the Third Division tends to focus anyone's mind, especially if the
club in question is Luton. He turned the move down, waited for another chance, and took it. While his explosive
return to the fold as a substitute against QPR - this time, a battle that definitely hadn't yet been decided - will be most vividly
remembered, it's a display against Burnley shortly afterwards that I draw your attention to.
A deeply ugly game against robust, take-no-prisoners opponents - previously, you wouldn't have seen Clint Easton for dust. That night,
however, he spent his time prodding and probing on the left, intelligently and conscientiously bringing some
badly-needed creativity to our somewhat random forward play. He was the best Watford player on the pitch by
a mile. Every pass was reasoned and constructive, every touch was positive, everything had fallen into place. Man, I'd have signed him on
the spot. He was dropped for the next game, which shows what I know.
That's the thing, though. If he can play like that regularly, he has a career ahead of him. A real career, that
doesn't involve serving behind the counter at Woolworths. He has his chance now, and at a club in the same
division. Personally, I'm glad that it's worked out well. The rest is up to him.