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Player profiles:
Al Bangura
Position: Midfielder
From: Watford FC Academy
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: Another bright young prospect


It was away at Stoke where the fans who had travelled, mostly on the free coaches, witnessed their first glimpse of Al Bangura. Although if everyone was truthful then they will have to admit that they either thought "who?" or "have they missed a sub and gone onto the officials?" But no, indeed number thirty-six Al Bangura was our player, and yes, he was on our bench. If you were there and looked around, you would see many fans checking the back of the programme to see if he was listed as a squad member.

So, in a game we needed to win to secure our "Championship" status for season 2005/06, Gavin Mahon limped off and was not seen again. Now this is what I call being thrown in at the deep end. Barely had the seventeen-year-old played a handful of reserve games when he stepped in to replace Mahon and show why Betty obviously rated him. At five foot nine, he was a small lad who, like Macca, seemed to be wearing a shirt that was several sizes too big. The Sierra Leone born player must have been told that this was not an end of season nothing game for him to show off, that it was a game where he must "get stuck in".

Indeed he did; moments after coming on he crashed into Lewis Neal and left him in a heap. He went for the "’ave it" style as he seemed to gleefully enjoy hoofing it clear. Oh well, it was effective. More of the same came in a Makelele-sort of performance, quietly effective. With Mahon injured, Al found himself starting for the first time at home to West Ham. A man of the match performance came with more hard tackles and a few tricks.

He got his professional deal at just seventeen and began the 2005/06 season in yet more tough tackling form. But this time the tackles were reckless and poorly timed, collecting a booking against Preston and being withdrawn for his own good, and then getting booked away at Plymouth for a similarly over aggressive tackle. But after three minutes at Cardiff and a no show against Burnley, he appears to have calmed down and now looks a better player.

We could have a real talent on our hands here, but it's clear that it will take time to mould him into a workmanlike midfielder. The hope and prospect could, of course, go belly up, like other players of a similar position; the supposed talent of Fisken and Hand never really came to grace the Vicarage Road pitch very often. So one hopes Al does develop into a good player and fulfil his potential in a Watford Shirt.

James Hewitt
Last updated: September 2005