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Why meeting Alec Chamberlain was as thrilling to one sports buff as shaking hands with Viv Richards Ė and why not!

By Peter Jones

Everyone who knows Alec Chamberlain well has a few stories to tell.

I've known Alec, and been proud to call him my friend, since he first rolled up at Colchester United 23 years ago. I was a cub reporter on the local paper, he was an ambitious young goalkeeper, and it didnít take me long to realise that here was one for the future.

As a professional footballer, I have nothing but the highest respect for Alec. Heís a credit to his family, his profession, his club and himself. As a friend, you couldnít wish for better. Heís loyal, honest, and great fun to be with.

Indeed, Alec often has me roaring with laughter - sometimes when i'm not sure if i'm supposed to be!

The day he regaled me with the story of a Graham Taylor eulogy, delivered in front of all his team-mates (after they had all been given a collective bollocking, following a dreadful Boxing Day performance at Fulham Ė without Alec, I hasten to add), had me almost gasping for breath through laughing. For me, it was so funny, I guess, because I know how modest Alec is. I could just imagine him sitting there, feeling outrageously embarrassed, and looking at the floor, wishing it would open up and swallow him.

But here's my favourite story - and I tell it because it reflects the esteem with which he's held by Watford supporters.

We go back to the cricket World Cup in 1999. I was working as a journalist for BBC World television, providing extensive coverage of the tournament for our worldwide audience. We had some great guests, and the highlight was the visit to our office of the great Viv Richards. Sir Viv.

He was a terrific guest and a thoroughly nice guy, and not surprisingly, lots of our newsroom colleagues came over to introduce themselves and shake his hand. Among them was the then head of the newsroom, Simon Waldman.

Later in the day Alec came into Television Centre himself. He was appearing on a BBC sports programme, and rang me on his way in. I told him to pop round and have a coffee, and I would then take him round to the studio where he was due to appear.

On arrival at Tele Centre, Alec duly called, and I took him up to the newsroom where I was working.

He was immediately spotted by the aforementioned Mr Waldman, who came marching over to us like a man on a mission. At that moment, international news was not top of his priority. You see, Simon's a Watford fan, and bear in mind this was just days after Watford had beaten Bolton at Wembley to reach the Premiership.

"Alec Chamberlain, great to meet you!", exclaimed a very excited, nay, emotion, Simon. They shook hands.

There was a slight pause.

"Wow," said Simon moments later. "I just can't believe it. I've shaken hands with Viv Richards and Alec Chamberlain in the same afternoon - it doesn't get better!".

Alec just burst out laughing, and was very humbled by the thought that meeting him had provoked the same excitement as meeting one of the world's greatest cricketers.

But doesnít that story reveal how much Alec is reverred by Watford supporters. Simon Waldman is a lifelong and passionate follower, and the enthusiasm with which he greeted him spoke volumes to me of the affection and respect that Alec commands.

And anyway, why shouldnít Alec be held in the same esteem as Sir Viv?

When Alec asked me to be on his testimonial committee, I didnít even need to think about it. Itís a privilege to help someone for whom I have the utmost respect and fondness.

Watford isnít my first team, but Iíve followed the Hornets for the past nine years thanks to him. I was there at Birmingham and shared in his personal triumph. I missed Wembley, dammit, but I was there in thought. We supped a beer or two days later!

I shared his downs during the Premiership season, and felt as bad as he did when Graham Taylor signed Espen Baardsen. But I always knew Alec would bounce back, and didnít he just. As he did when Lenny Pidgely muscled him out in 2003/2004.

As I said at the outset, Alec is an all round top guy Ė I can honestly say Iíve never heard a bad word about him.

Heís been a fantastic servant to Watford, on and off the pitch. Itís a privilege to be able to help make his testimonial a success, and such is the stature of the man, I know weíre going to have a fabulous year.

And no one deserves it more than Alec.

Peter Jones is a BBC sports journalist, and PR and media consultant



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