Position: Watford legend
From: Southend United - £95,000 - July 1994
Record: Played: 257(30) Scored: 64
To: Birmingham City - out-of-contract - June 2001
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: Tommy bloody Mooney
So, how ridiculous does that transfer fee look now? How absurd does it seem that Southend were prepared to
sell Tommy Mooney at all, let alone that they were so eager to get rid of him that they sent him out on loan? After seven
years of sheer, bloody-minded heroism, it seems absolutely unthinkable.
It really happened. Tommy Mooney really happened.
Let's not beat about the bush. Tommy Mooney hasn't been "quite good" for Watford. He hasn't "tried hard" or
been "pretty committed". He doesn't deserve a "warm welcome" when he returns to Vicarage Road next season. Tommy
Mooney isn't Kevin Phillips or Bruce Dyer, someone who shone brightly before leaving to seek more
gainful employment. Tommy Mooney is a Watford legend. Full stop.
It's only because the events are comparatively recent that he isn't already talked about in the same breath as the
club's greatest players. It'll happen, though. Even if he wouldn't displace Luther, Ross or Cliff from the forward positions
or Barnesy or Wilf from the left side in the starting eleven of an all-time team, he'd be waiting to explode from the substitutes'
bench. It's an elite group, but it's where he belongs.
When he arrived to boost our flagging survival hopes along with Colin Foster, Keith Millen and Dennis
Bailey, he won the fans over almost instantly. We saw that ferocious desire and almost foolhardy refusal
to accept the inevitable, never more obvious than when Southend, still his employers, visited
Vicarage Road. On that day, for the first time, Tommy Mooney was on a crusade. You wouldn't want to get in the way.
It was a signing by popular demand, then. It was unimaginable that we could see this player - this magnificent, incredible
hero of a player - and let him slip quietly back to Southend reserves. Even then, though, we had no idea how far
he could take us.
Looking back, it's easy to forget that he initially struggled to fit in, that the striking partnership with Jamie Moralee never got off the ground. But Glenn
Roeder, like subsequent managers, was to find that he couldn't be surpressed. Dropped from one position, he'd
simply pop up in another, even playing as part of an inventive back three during the Second Division Championship campaign.
Sure, there were times when it seemed that we had no need of Tommy Mooney and his awkward,
apparently limited talent. But there were many, many times when we had need of things that only Tommy Mooney
could even think of doing.
As with Graham Taylor, it's the miracles, and the constant confirmation of our faith in them, that we'll miss
most. He was the most Taylor-ish of players, really. In the Mooney wonderland, the idea that something was
impossible simply didn't exist, the concept of passing the buck was alien, the inevitable was rudely shoved
to one side. Just as others had done in the seventies and eighties, he embodied the spirit of the
club and its manager. Anyone can dream. Few can make dreams into spectacular, ecstatic, screaming reality.
Close your eyes. Think of your favourite Tommy Mooney moment....
Sometimes you can score a goal
just by wanting to score it so much that the impossible becomes possible. Receiving the
ball just inside the area, Mooney just ploughed his way through the Rovers defence, digging
his way out of tackles, fending off challenges, ignoring simpler lay-offs. Somehow, like
the winner of an egg-and-spoon race through the Amazon jungle, he emerged from all this
with the ball still at his feet. The angle was ridiculously tight, so he took the only
option open to him - he just twatted it. We followed its path, expecting to see it whizz
across the six yard box and out for a throw...but it hit the net and the Vicarage Road end
exploded. Mooney stood there, hand cupped around his ear, until he was swamped by
players and fans. One of those moments that you never forget...
- Bristol Rovers, 1998
Fifteen minutes in, Tommy Mooney added another chapter to Watford folklore. Chamberlain's clearance was flicked
on by Ngonge, towering by now, and the rest was pure Mooney determination. His first attempt was obscured from
view but it brought a fine save from Musselwhite. As the ball ran away, Mooney would not be denied -
a human cannonball, no stopping him, reaching it before it crossed the by-line and ramming it home. A solo
effort as thumpingly heroic as any mazy dribble or long-range screamer, a Hornet legend.
- Port Vale, 1999
Tommy Mooney's insane five minute cameo summed it all up. His first move was towards Desailly, quiet words as the two
waited for a long throw just to announce his arrival. The Frenchman was forced into emergency action immediately, desperately
heading clear from Mooney as he threw himself at Hyde's perfect cross. And then the moment - all the wry smiles that will
have greeted Matt's recent preview comments (that Desailly may have played against Ronaldo, but he hasn't come across anything like Mooney
on a crusade) wiped away as the two tussled and Mooney emerged utterly triumphant. He was injured in the process, GT rushing along
the touchline to show his concern, and hobbled away. Except for one last moment of brilliant lunacy as Mooney, despite being barely
able to walk, took it upon himself to return to the fray, demand the ball as Page lined up a free kick and attempt to ignore the pain to
beat Desailly one last time. He was hauled off straight afterwards, an absolute bloody hero.
- Chelsea, 2000
Oh, there are so many more. Tommy Mooney overcame his initial discomfort at being used as a striker, just as
he overcame everything else. When we needed him, our playoff hopes slipping away back in '99, he didn't let us
down. That famous scoring spree will never be forgotten, never be surpassed. In the Premiership, despite a lengthy
injury, he rose to the challenge in typical style. To the objective observer, he should've been way out of his
depth. Then again, the objective observer's probably never scored in front of the Kop.
And finally, back in Division One, he rounded it off. In '94, he was bought to fill the gigantic void left by
Paul Furlong, the last Watford player to score more than twenty goals in a season. Seven years later, Tommy
Mooney hit the back of the net twenty-two times.
As always, he did it in the end.