Thursday, 5 January 2012

Is it sad to care about stats?

One of the odder sights during last Saturday’s game against Doncaster was that of Lloyd Doyley warming up on the touchline, instead of occupying his usual spot at right-back. He was a regular on the subs’ bench early in his career, of course, but for the past few seasons he’s been a fixture in the first team – one of the first names inked in on the team sheet, I’ve always assumed.

I’m sad for Lloyd (my favourite Watford player, as regular readers will know) that he’s lost his place purely because he had the misfortune to get injured – but also, I have to admit, because it leaves him marooned on 349 appearances, one short of a significant landmark.

I’m one of those people who spends half-times at Vicarage Road scanning the page in the programme that shows the players’ all-time stats. (Come to think of it, maybe I’m the only one.) I’m no statistician, but I am fascinated by statistical landmarks. A player who has made 100 first-team appearances is somehow infinitely superior to one who has made 99, in my eyes.

(There is a logical justification for all this, in that long-serving players help to strengthen the bond between the team and the fans. A team that has at least three or four players with over 100 appearances each to their name has a degree of stability and continuity that I value, whereas I instinctively distrust a first eleven where most of the players have an appearance figure that’s lower than their age.) 

In Lloyd’s case, I’ve been eagerly tracking his progress up the all-time appearance list since he entered the top 20 a year or so ago. He’s currently 12th, having just overtaken Stewart Scullion. Assuming he continued in his rightful position, he was due to break into the top 10 next season, and after that, who knows? After all, he’s only 28, and plenty of defenders go on playing at a high level into their mid-30s.

For the time being, though, his statistical progression is on hold, and I find that obscurely distressing. Still, good luck to Lee Hodson, who is a fine young player (though not as good a defender as Lloyd) and deserves a chance. And with 77 starts to his name, he could make it to a century early next season. Maybe he’ll eventually join fellow right-backs Nigel Gibbs, Duncan Welbourne and Lloyd himself in the all-time top 20…

Addendum, 9/1/12:
I needn’t have worried: 350 it is, then. Not Lloyd’s finest game, but let’s be charitable and put it down to rustiness after his injury.

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