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Gone but not forgotten:
Stephen Kelly
Position: Right-back
From: Tottenham Hotspur - on loan - September 2003
Record: Played: 12 Scored: 0
To: Tottenham Hotspur - end of loan - November 2003
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: A player's manager's player's player, or something

Stephen Kelly, then.

You know, him.

Oh, come was only a couple of months ago, for heaven's sake....

As these things go, he may become something of a benchmark. Which he doesn't particularly deserve, having been pleasantly effective and occasionally moderately impressive over the course of a couple of months at Vicarage Road. But, as he still has plenty of time to do something more with his life, it shouldn't bother him too much.

When you plough through these pages, there will be many players that you'll barely remember. But there's forgettable, and there's forgotten, if you know what I mean. Danny Hill? Not forgettable at all, if you're the kind of person who notices these things in the first place - his short-lived loan has become one of the minor statistical glitches that are treasured by every obsessive. Paul Okon? Anonymous, certainly...but extravagantly, spectacularly anonymous, a class of anonymity that Watford Football Club will never again be able to afford. We should've enjoyed it while we could, you know.

Craig Armstrong? Ah, now we're getting there. Except that Kenny Jackett's favourite left-back always gave the impression of rising slightly above the hustle-and-bustle of Second Division life, of being a little bit better than all of that. He wasn't better at all, of course...but it was a good, if completely useless, trick, worth recalling momentarily.

Stephen Kelly, however, had it all in this particular context. When he was borrowed to cover for Lloyd Doyley, Ray Lewington's lack of faith in the youngster caused some controversy...although not, it has to be said, nearly as much controversy as the deployment of Gavin Mahon in that position towards the end of the previous campaign. But even that debate couldn't retain anyone's interest for very long, for it quickly became apparent that the loanee was indeed a more rounded, complete player, and he became increasingly dependable as the weeks passed.

In a forgettable way, he did his bit and he did it thoroughly. He did nothing much wrong and plenty right, for one month and then for another. He began by playing his part in a truly abject, shattering defeat to Ipswich; he finished by playing his part in a truly mighty, uplifting victory at Norwich. In neither case did he stand out especially, either as hero or villain. The same applies to everything in between, albeit that his form steadily and noticeably improved as he settled into First Division life.

Indeed, he even conspired to suppress this profile for several months, as if eager to disappear completely into the mists of time without interference from BSaD. To leave no trace whatsoever. On the very day that this piece first appeared, he was unexpectedly recalled to the club for a second loan spell...and then, just as unexpectedly, he was almost instantly recalled back to Spurs to do, erm, something. As you can imagine, this was all terribly off-putting, and caused us to remove these words and delay their re-publication until after the transfer deadline, just to be absolutely sure that there'd be no more surprises.

This isn't fair, I know. He deserved the praise of his manager, and he was the type of player who often receives such praise, and rightly. Steady and unfussy defensively, he showed no little confidence when moving forward, occasionally supplying a fine cross or driving in a firm shot. A decent, intelligent, well-coached player. But we don't remember those things, generally. We remember extremes, and nothing about Stephen Kelly was extreme. No, sir. Stephen Kelly was a Morcheeba record in footballer form. Nice enough to pass the time, but you'd be hard pushed to hum it....

So, we'll get on with turning Lloyd Doyley and Jack Smith into the fine players that they will hopefully become. And Stephen Kelly will have a good career, at a higher level. Everyone's happy. You will forget that he ever played for Watford, though....

Ian Grant