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Gone but not forgotten:
Gary Porter
Position: Midfield
From: Youth team
Record: Played: 429(42) Scored: 56
To: Walsall - free transfer - May 1997
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: Not a bloody left back

Neighbours without Helen Daniels. Watford Football Club without Gary Porter.

His departure is unthinkable. He's been at Vicarage Road forever - since joining the club as a schoolboy in 1980, in fact - and it seems impossible to believe that he's not going to be there any more.

Not that the free transfer isn't understandable. Thirteen years of professional service must've pushed his wages up to fairly astronomical levels and, frankly, we haven't had our money's worth in recent seasons. That's not necessarily Gary Porter's fault - a broken leg put an end to his last Watford season, while the previous two were somewhat ruined by a disastrous move to left back - but, with no guarantee of any return, it's difficult to see how a further contract could be justified.

At his best, Gary Porter is a very, very good midfielder. Capable of scoring goals as well as creating them (his hat-trick in the sensational 4-3 comeback against Bolton must rate as one of the highest points of his career), he's also never been afraid of getting stuck in when needs be.

The problem is, however, that we haven't seen him at his best for too long. Whether it was just the usual inexplicable loss of form or (more likely) the demoralising effect of being asked to fill in for David Barnes, recent memories of Gary Porter have not been particularly positive. The thought of that hat-trick is neatly counter-balanced by the knowledge that I've spent many Saturday afternoons watching aimless, floaty, lazy balls being chipped hopefully up the touchline.

In the end, it could all have turned on one incident. Had the referee done the sensible thing and stopped play when Steve Palmer received a head injury against Peterborough, then Gary Porter wouldn't have had his leg broken by a fairly horrendous tackle. At that stage, there were signs of a return to form for Gary Porter - we'll never know what might've happened.

Who knows, he may still return. I hope so. But, at the same time, I do believe that the club has made the right decision - a tough but necessary bit of management. At this stage, our highest wage earners have to be delivering the goods - we can't afford to carry passengers.

I'm being hard on him, I know, and I've probably under-sold his talents. He's a fine player, full of ability, and he's given us thirteen years of committed service. If he's frustrated us sometimes, that's only because we know what he's really capable of.