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Gone but not forgotten:
Dominic Foley
Position: Striker
From: Wolverhampton Wanderers - Free - July 1999
Record: Played: 16(24) Scored: 6
WFC total: Played: 18(30) Scored: 7
To: ??? - Out of contract - May 2003
Career stats: Soccerbase
See also: Past player profiles
He was: The subject of much debate

"Either way, one feels that if this ugly duckling is to become a swan at Watford he needs to do it soon. Foley would not be anywhere near the starting line-up given a fully fit squad, one suspects, and whilst he is still young-ish he's not that young...

So now or never then."

Dom Foley profile, June 2000

Ho hum.

It was once commented on the Watford Mailing List that never before has such an average player been the subject of such ferocious and intense discussion. We'll get on to the debate in a minute, but Dom Foley's averageness was only ever averageness in the purely mathematical sense. Dom Foley wasn't average very often... the sublime to the ridiculous within minutes was a more typical experience.

It was the sublime moments, backed up by a training ground reputation as the most complete striker at the club, that persuaded first Graham Taylor and then Gianluca Vialli to express faith in Dominic Foley in terms of contract renewals that kept him at the club for four seasons.

It's telling that most of his seven first team goals, spread as they have been over the course of six years and two spells here, are instantly recollectable. An audacious overhead kick at Wigan in 1998. A dramatic last-minute piledriver to beat Barnsley in 2000. A crisp, clinical finish at Elland Road a couple of months earlier. A defiant, elegant header against Luton in the League Cup. A composed, flawless finish when put through against Walsall.

It's equally telling that at no point within the four years since signing full-time has he really threatened to establish himself as a first-choice. Only once, at the tail-end of the Premiership season, has he strung together as many as three consecutive starts, despite the opportunities that the turbulence of promotions, relegations, managerial changes and squad revamps in the same period might have been expected to provide.

The good bits were moments of pure beauty; flawless control, astonishing vision. But much like a tower of coins balanced edge on edge, as soon as you turned around to excitedly discuss such moments Dom was all bambi-legged again, tripping over his own feet and inviting the scorn of the crowd that characterised much of his first team involvement.

Foley was perhaps unusual in that targets for the derision of significant elements of the crowd tend to either move on or be moved on, or win the crowd over in time. Foley was persona non grata for as much as four years - I certainly remember impatience greeting his name at Highbury early in the Premiership season - and this polarised views to an unprecedented extent. The crass cheering of Foley's dismissal during a woeful team performance at Carrow Road for which the unsupported Irishman had been awarded responsibility stands out as the low point of the "on-field" events of 2002-03. The intellectuals responsible have since moved on through Gifton Noel-Williams to Gavin Mahon, much joy may their pursuits bring them.

Ironically, like the similarly maligned Clint Easton before him, some of Dom's best performances came towards the end of his stay with some increasingly convincing run-outs at centre-forward early in the 2002-03 season. "Increasingly convincing" isn't enough of a return on four years however, and a resumption of spells on loan in 2003 heralded what was to follow.

Dom will be twenty-seven this summer, and international goals or otherwise will do well to find another club in the current climate. I hope he does... he remains the most likeable and unlikely footballer I've ever met. It's not many who would stop their boot sponsor on Occupation Road for a chat, rather than the other way around. And there's still an international striker in there somewhere...

Matt Rowson