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Oli PhillipsAn excellent signing, a great 'keeper, and a shining example

By Oli Phillips

Alec Chamberlain's arrival at Vicarage Road for 40,000 was viewed as significant by Watford fans. It was 1996 and Watford had just been relegated to the Second Division. And although nothing was said publicly, owner Jack Petchey had informed his staff he was not putting his hand in his pocket any further.

So manager Kenny Jackett had to labour on without funds to strengthen the squad. Therefore the sudden arrival of Chamberlain, and at a price, was deemed significant. It was thought this was a case of bringing in the replacement for when the club realised 1m or so for goalkeeper Kevin Miller.

If Chamberlain believed that to be the case, he had a long wait. Miller stayed the season and Alec made just one appearance, albeit an impressive one, at Crewe until the finale of the 1996-97 season, when he followed this up with three more outings.

Yet, in the next campaign, with Miller sold, Alec became a regular, finishing with a championship medal.

Those were two sides of the coin, encapsulated in two seasons but Alec took the disappointing and the good in his stride. And that is the measure of the man.

We can all debate about whether he is better than or as good as David James, Tony Coton, or Pat Jennings in their Watford days but, while memories of the Cup-tie display at Sunderland three years ago stand out, it is Chamberlain's professionalism that registers most in my mind.

You do not keep goal at 40 in the modern game unless you have looked after yourself, and Chamberlain has taken the lows and the highs of his career with fortitude. He has expressed his disappointment at being dropped or rested, but done so in reasoned tones and then got on with the job, focusing on the next target: breaking back into the side.

I remember him angered by the Northampton manager's criticism before a match, but he kept his cool on the park, let his performance do the talking, played extremely well and then described the quotes as being "out of order" after the game, before making his way to the team coach.

Alec must be a manager's dream: the consumate professional, reliable, willing and always giving of his best.

Every now and then, you meet a fully rounded and mature man among the professional ranks. It does not happen that often but Alec Chamberlain is one of that breed.

He has been a great servant to the club, an excellent keeper who has played a key role in the more recent glory days, and remains a shining example to all young and not so young professionals.

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