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Ray LewingtonThe "Mr Reliable" who Ray Lewington tried to sign for Fulham 19 years ago!

When Ray Lewington took over as Watford’s manager from Gianluca Vialli back in 2002, he had no problem with Alec Chamberlain as his goalkeeper. After all, he’d once tried to sign Alec when he was Fulham’s manager back in the 1980s.

"When I took over at Fulham I had no goalkeeper because Gerry Peyton was out of contract and had left for Bournemouth," said Ray. "Alec would have been in his early 20s and had already started to make a name for himself with Colchester, and I thought he'd fit the bill for me perfectly.

"So I approached the club, made an offer and that's where it ended, because I couldn't agree a deal with Colchester, and therefore never even got to speak to Alec. But 15 years later he was still going strong, and it was a pleasure to have the chance to work with him."

Ray was Alec's fourth manager at Watford, and like Kenny Jackett, Graham Taylor and Gianluca Vialli, trusted his Number One implicitly.

"Quite simply he was - is - Mr Reliable," said Ray. "Alec has never let anyone down, and at the risk of repeating what everyone else has said about him, he really is the model professional.

"Obviously there were times when I was at Watford when I wasn't playing Alec, but it was really to do with circumstances rather than anything to do with not wanting to play him."

Ray was referring to last season, when Alec was sent off at Crewe and lost his regular place to Lenny Pidgely for five months. With Richard Lee injured, Pidgely was on loan from Chelsea, and reading between the lines, the Premiership club expected the youngster to carry on playing once he broke into the Watford first team.

The same thing happened this season, when Richard was injured again, and Paul Jones was brought in as cover from Wolves, and left Alec sitting on the subs' bench.

"Any suggestion that I didn't think Alec wasn't up to the job anymore could not be further from the truth," said Ray. "Indeed, he would have started this season as first choice 'keeper, but was injured in pre-season, so Richard got his chance and has done very well. During my time at Watford I was always very lucky in the goalkeeping department.

"Even though Richard's established himself as first choice, Alec's still more than capable of holding his own, even at 40. He's still playing very well, he looks after himself, and because of that he's very fit, and he can continue being a trusted substitute goalkeeper for a couple of years at least."

Ray was delighted to give Alec his first break as a goalkeeping coach earlier this season, after Kevin Hitchcock left for Blackburn, and believes coaching is a role he has taken to easily.

"He knows what he's talking about, and he's well respected and very well liked as a person," said Ray. "It's good that Alec's started to focus on what he's going to do after he stops playing, and it's good news that he wants to stay in the game, because he has a lot to offer."

Before leaving Watford, Ray had been very supportive of Alec's testimonial.

"He thoroughly deserves it," said Ray. "He's been a great servant to Watford, and as a manager it was a pleasure to work with him. I wish him every success in everything he does."

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

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