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03/04: Review:
By Martin Patching
First published in the Hemel Hempstead Gazette, 11/09/03

Mark McGee's Millwall are the visitors on Saturday for a Division One fixture to be screened live by Sky Sports.

The Lions have made a fair start to the new season and had they managed to hold onto a lead in their previous game against Gillingham, would in fact have topped the table as I write.

Millwall eventually went down 4-3 at the Priestfield Stadium and defensive errors were very much to blame.

Manager McGee has threatened changes at the back and the Hornets will face a stiff test of character as they themselves attempt to climb off the bottom of the table.

The visitors are in a transitional period after establishing themselves as a very difficult side to beat.

Veteran striker Steve Claridge has made another move towards management by joining Weymouth as their player/manager.

Belgium international Christopher Kinet has returned to his homeland and promising striker Richard Sadlier has unfortunately been forced to retire with a hip injury.

McGee has therefore been busy in the transfer market in acquiring the services of journeyman striker Noel Whelan. Whelan will almost certainly be partnered up front by big Bob Peeters, a powerful Belgium striker who joined via the Dutch football league.

Peeters is a real handful on his day and has got off to a flying start at The Den by hitting three goals in his last two games.

In midfield, the evergreen former England international Dennis Wise will face up to several familiar faces on Saturday.

Wise trained with the Hornets squad whilst in dispute with Leicester City prior to joining Millwall. The former Chelsea favourite will be assisted by Paul Ifill and Tim Cahill who are both capable of scoring goals from deep positions.

At the back Australian international full-back Kevin Muscat will need little introduction to Watford fans.

The former Wolves skipper was recently signed from Glasgow Rangers to tighten things up at the back.

Never far away from any trouble on the pitch, Muscat will square up to Watford youngster Lee Cook in what should be the contest of the afternoon.

On the opposite flank it is hoped Watford's recent signing Bruce Dyer will be fit to face the Lions.

Dyer is doubtful with an ankle injury.

In an era where longevity of career and therefore players' earnings seem to be paramount, it was refreshing to hear that the former Barnsley striker had in fact concealed an injury from the staff at Vicarage Road.

Bruce picked up the knock in the final pre-season friendly at Wycombe where the striker scored and had previously been a force in the build-up to the new campaign.

His recent slightly off-colour displays, perplexed the staff and possibly the home fans and the settling in factors were given as a possible reason.

Bruce's ankle injury came to light during training where he was forced to pull up, then subsequently own up to his secret.

In doing so Dyer has proved to be a signing from yesteryear, where playing in the first team was more important than anything else to a player. The fans are warming to him already.

During his tenure, former manager Gianluca Vialli signed certain players who would opt out with a runny nose, let alone a sore ankle, so it's high fives for Bruce and a tough striker's attitude.

On the subject of Vialli, the club were pleased to mark the announcement that they had settled with the former manager for the remainder of his two-year contract.

With a hearing in the High Court imminent and Vialli claiming sums of up to 2million, the Hornets' financial future remained in jeopardy.

Watford chairman Graham Simpson is pleased a settlement has been reached without incurring any extra legal costs and whilst not being prepared to elaborate on the figure involved, it is hoped the sum is considerably less than the former boss was claiming.

A week later Vialli announced, through the broadsheets, his marriage. Now, I wonder if there was a free bar?

Reproduced courtesy of Gazette Newspapers