Les Simmons Testimonial, 19/5/97
Team: Eschbach, Gibbs, Ludden, Johnson, Millen, Page, Slater, Flash, Phillips, Easton, Mooney
Subs: Ward (for Page), Bazeley (for Easton), Noel-Williams (for Ludden), Chamberlain (for Eschbach), Andrews (for Phillips), Blissett (for Flash)
A small reward
Report by Ian Grant
Football's continuing love affair with testimonials is usually misguided. Bearing
in mind that many players have annual salaries ten times larger than mere mortals like
us, it seems utterly laughable that we're then asked to show our appreciation by
giving them more money. And the 'short career' argument no longer holds water
either - in the modern employment market, there's simply no such thing as a permanent job.
But there are still deserving cases. In terms of 'thick and thin' commitment,
Les Simmons' 51 year stint at Watford Football Club simply dwarves anyone else's efforts. It's
a remarkable achievement and one that, I suspect, has received an inappropriately
small reward over the decades. This is what testimonials really should be about and the
attendance of over seven thousand shows that the Watford public feel the same way.
You probably already know that I detest friendly matches - football is meant to
arouse passion, it's only really worth the price of admission when there's something
at stake. But compared to some I've been to (I went to Jimmy Case's testimonial
in Brighton a couple of years back and had the dubious pleasure of watching an indisputably
classy Liverpool side play like careless imbeciles for what seemed like an eternity), this wasn't at all bad.
Arsenal won it at a canter - even with a side that featured more reserves than
international stars, they were too smart and too sharp for our jaded team. The appearance
of Dennis Bergkamp, who's vision is so extraordinary that it really does seem that
he has eyes in the back of his head, on the Vic Road turf was worth the admission
on its own - I fail to see why Zola and Juninho are so celebrated while Bergkamp
remains somewhat overlooked.
Our own foreign import, German triallist keeper Daniel Eschbach, did little to help
his cause and we were one down within five minutes as Hughes beat the offside
trap and slotted home. A few minutes later came the one moment to celebrate for
Watford fans - a superb goal from Stuart Slater, bringing the ball in from the
right wing and curling a shot that nestled exquisitely in the top corner.
Arsenal re-established their lead shortly afterwards and had extended it by
half-time thanks to some cack-handed defending (Dominic Ludden's claims for
a first team place won't have been helped by a suicidal pass across his own area
that was seized up by the Arsenal forwards). While never being truly one-sided,
there was no doubt which was the Premiership club.
The second half settled into a familiar pattern, with Watford pressing and Arsenal
looking infinitely more dangerous on the break. A couple of yellow-shirted
moments - a sublime piece of skill by Richard Johnson, rolling the ball under
his foot and turning to evade a challenge, and a long-ranged drive from
Tommy Mooney that forced a good save from the Arsenal keeper - enlivened proceedings
but, generally, it was pretty easy to forget that a game was in progress.
Aside from a tricky opportunity for Gifton Noel-Williams towards the end,
Arsenal created all the chances and added a fourth right at the death, snappy
passing leading to a clinical finish past Chamberlain. By that time, we'd had
a substitute appearance by one Luther Blissett (he hardly touched the ball but
what the hell) and we were happy enough.
See you all next season, I guess...