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Graham Taylor

A credit to his profession and an outstanding servant to Watford, says former boss Taylor

Former Watford manager Graham Taylor says the 40,000 he invested in Alec Chamberlain back in 1996 almost certainly ranks as his best ever value for money in the transfer market.

It was actually Kenny Jackett who signed Alec from Sunderland - Kenny was then the manager, with Graham general manager, but very much hands on when it came to the signing of new players.

Explains Graham: "It all came about through a friend of mine called Howard Lambert. Howard knew Sam Ellis, who at the time was assistant at Sunderland, and we heard that Alec might be available, and that he'd bought a house in Northampton.

"Sunderland didn't want to let him go, but Alec didn't want to stay if he wasn't playing first team football, and we were keen to sign him. We agreed a fee of 40,000, and as general manager I met Alec and his family when they came down to Watford to have a look round.

"I had a view as a manager, and I was trying to put this through to Kenny, that if you sign player you're signing a family as well," said Graham. "Therefore if they have wife and family then make sure you meet them.

"Well it didn't take me long to realise I was signing a good man, and a good family, and I warmed to all of them - Alec, of course, Jane, who was pregnant with Ryan at the time, and Natasha, who was just approaching her fourth birthday."

For someone who wanted first team football, Alec actually signed for Watford knowing he would not be walking straight into the team. Kevin Miller was then the Hornets' Number One, but at the time there was plenty if speculation about him moving on, and in Alec, Watford had a ready made replacement.

"When he first arrived, the professionalism that Alec showed was excellent," said Graham. "If you're looking for a true professional - the attention to detail, reliability...everything - then you certainly have that in Alec. Quite simply he was one of the best signings I ever made in terms of value for money.

"He's not a flashy goallkeeper, he only makes saves that are necessary, and that's the hallmarks of a very good goalkeeper - not spectacular, but very reliable, and that's him as a person. He's a terrific team player, and has been a great ambassador for Watford off the pitch too.

"Having said all that, he had his moments! On Friday mornings we used to have a short, sharp game, the coaching staff and the players. It was meant to be fun, but one particular Friday there were some dodgy decisions being made by the staff - and I called a decision which Alec didn't like at all.

"Well, he stopped playing, he went all miserable on me...I can only assume Jane had given him a hard time that morning before he left home - he and I had a right ol' barney. It was totally out of character, but it was never mentioned again.

"He could lose his temper sometimes, and on the odd occassion he could be a bit sulky, but that Friday morning we had the lot - the shouting too! But at least he showed me he was normal!"

Alec established himself as the undisputed Watford number one after Kevin Miller left for Watford during the 1996-97 season, and was a key player as The Hornets went on their memorable climb from the then second division to the Premiership in successive seasons.

"He was superb in both those promotion seasons," rememberd Graham. "Who will forget the play-off semi-final against Birmingham at St Andrews - he earned his corn that night, when we won on penalties. He was outstanding during the game, and then made the penalty save that got us to Wembley. Then he had another great game against Bolton, making a crucial save in the first half with the score still nil-nil."

But when Watford were relegated after one season in the Premiership, Alec suddenly found himself out in the cold - Graham signed Espen Baardsen from Tottenham.

"At the time, Espen was a very good goalkeeper and it was a sensible signing to make, and obviously Alec was disappointed when he didn't start the new season in the first team," said Graham. "But Alec is a very determined and focussed individual, and I knew he would put enormous pressure on Espen.

"Managers understand how disappointed players are when they're out of the side, but they look for reaction. Alec's was always a first class reaction - he might not have liked it, but there was never a dip in performance on training pitch.

"And eventually, of course, he got back in the team, then saw off Espen all together, and went on to win another Player Of The Year award - and even at 40 is still good enough to be playing in the first team, which shows you how well he looks after himself, how dedicated he is.

"It was a pleasure working with Alec, and I have nothing but the highest respect for him, as a player and as a person, and I'm delighted Watford have awarded him a testimonial - he thoroughly deserves it, he's been a credit to the club in 10 outstanding seasons."

Written by Peter Jones, of the PR consultancy Red Alert Media.

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