Over the past 40-odd years I’ve watched hundreds of players representing the club, and in most cases where they played more than a handful of games, I can conjure up some kind of mental image of them. Sometimes it’s their appearance – a hairstyle or moustache, say – that I recall, sometimes a facial expression, sometimes just the way they ran, or jumped, or celebrated a goal. Sometimes it’s just their sheer uselessness that makes them stick in the memory. (Yes, Jamie Moralee, I am looking at you.)
But there are a few who remain resolutely anonymous, no matter how hard I stare at their name in a team line-up. Here are five of them, in order of the period when their Watford career took place:
1) Tony Geidmintis (60 games + 1 substitute appearance, 1976-78)
These were key years in my Watford supporting story, as the misery of successive relegations gave way to the joy of the GT era. I can picture most of the players from this period as clearly as if they were in the room with me now – Pollard, Downes, Mayes, Mercer, Rankin, Pritchett, Bolton, Jenkins… – but I have no memories of Tony Geidmintis. A right-back, according to Trefor Jones’s The Watford Football Club Illustrated Who’s Who; maybe anyone who had to step into Duncan Welbourne’s shoes was destined to pale by comparison.
2) Joe McLaughlin (53 + 0, 1990-92)
I know he was a centre-back and that we signed him from Chelsea, but his Watford career seems to have passed me by. I’m astounded to learn from Trefor Jones that he was actually the club captain in 1991/2.
3) Gerard Lavin (141 + 6, 1992-95)
Another right-back, and in this case it may be the fact that he apparently took Nigel Gibbs’s place during his long period out with injury that has induced some kind of amnesia. I’m looking at his picture now in Trefor’s book and it stirs no memories whatsoever. Presumably he must have something about him to play nearly 150 games, but I’m damned if I can remember a single thing he ever did.
4) Paul Okon (14 + 1, 2002)Okay, maybe it’s stretching a point to call 15 games a ‘career’ at Watford, but Okon really was the epitome of an anonymous player. I remember watching games when he was playing and wondering where he was on the pitch and what he was doing. You could come away from a match and rack your brain for hours trying to remember a single thing he’d done in the 90 minutes. The most pointless of Vialli’s many pointless signings.
5) Jermaine Darlington (34 + 1, 2004-05)
It’s not that long ago, but beyond a vague memory that he played on the wing, his year at Watford seems to have vanished from my memory, even though I must have seen around half of those 34 games. The most interesting thing about him was the fact that he shared his surname with another football club. Sadly, he never played for Darlington.