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Neal Ardley
Position: Midfielder
From: Franchise FC - free transfer - August 2002
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: Blatantly superior to David Beckham


I've always liked Neal Ardley, even when he didn't play for Watford. The origins are lost in the mists of time - it probably originated in Merlin football stickers or perhaps I just liked his name. But I always dreamt, in a sort of realistic way, that if one player could come to Watford it would be Neal Ardley.

So you can't imagine my delight when I discovered that he'd signed for Watford. What a fantastic manager Mr Lewington is, bringing in such quality signings. No wonder we're so high up in the League. So, he comes to Watford after being rejected by Franchise FC. Forget Milton Keynes, forget destroying the club known as Wimbledon, AFC Wimbledon should have been set up as a protest against allowing Neal Ardley to leave the club. To me, Charles Koppel is a bonafide genius, he knows nothing about football! He has let Neal Ardley come to Watford! Okay, enough about my personal fetish.

Neal came to Watford having not had a pre-season. Due to some disagreement with the club, Ardley was not even allowed to train with Wimblestein during pre-season whilst he found a new club. Rumours said that he'd turned down Derby to come to Watford, which is nice...although probably quite crazy too.

When choosing who I'd play for Watford in the first game against Leicester, I didn't put Neal in, only for the fact that he wouldn't be match fit. However, my mind began to wander, imagining him starting the game. In fact, even though I knew he wouldn't, I was quite disappointed when the commentator on Radio 5 didn't read out his name. But he came on, and from what I hear he did well.

The first time I saw him was against Millwall. He was still not match fit but I was happy to see that he was in the team already, Ray obviously agreeing with me that he should automatically be in Watford's first eleven.

Then came the Wimblestein game. Now Neal has only ever played for one club in his career and I believe he supports the club as well. So this game was bound to be difficult for him. But he didn't show it. In fact, he gave what I would say was the best performance by any Watford player this season. He was absolutely incredible. Remember the two crosses? Never had I seen such pinpoint accuracy when it came to crossing. Bang! All Robbo and Danny needed to do was stand there and let it bounce off their heads. To give such a performance against the club he still holds in his heart is surely worthy of our praise and admiration. One of the most endearing things I have ever seen as a Watford fan is Neal congratulating Robbo, both with huge grins spread across their faces.

David Beckham and Neal Ardley are very similar players. They both take extraordinary free kicks. They both cross extremely well. They don't really take people on, although they could probably do it with reasonable ease. To compare them would be unfair, as Neal is blatantly superior. Beckham versus Greece or Ardley versus Palace? I know which one I'd choose.

Neal is becoming more impressive by the game. Hopefully we can pull together as a club, get rid of our financial problems and give him a full-time contract. After all, he deserves it. But what is a fact is that Neal Ardley has fitted into this Watford team with ease, he hasn't missed a game yet this season. Which makes me a very happy man.

Mike Peter
Last updated: November 2002