From: Sunderland - £40,000 - July 1996
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: Like finding a fifty pound note down the back of your sofa
Past profiles: June 2000
"I have in my hand a piece of paper"!
The familiar yell resonates from the Watford Rookery or relevant away end each week. In turn, this is greeted with the equally familiar half-wave from Watford's Number One. And that is normally that. A sort of greeting, a sort of wave, and everyone gets on with doing what they were doing previous to the minor breach of the peace.
There are very few certainties in life, but one of them is that Alec will always give me a little wave before each game. He knows it is me, especially since Rupert became miserable and gave up his role as unofficial "Alec greeter" in 1999. I would like to think that he secretly wonders where I am if I'm a little bit late for the warm up, but realism tells me that if I were not there to yell at him, he probably would not be too bothered.
Having joined the club in the summer of 1996 in nothing like the blaze of glory that his many appearances since have warranted, Alec was immediately the subject of much discussion. Of course, it was nothing to do with his goalkeeping abilities, or the huge transfer free of £40,000 that had dragged him away from Sunderland. It was rather more to do with his previous playing career at Luton. Alec's transfer came only a few weeks after Kerry Dixon had left the club for his natural level of Doncaster Rovers, and there was a genuine fear that the powers that be had forgotten that we were supposed to be their rivals and superiors, not their veterans team!
However, over the fairly dismal 1996-97 season, Alec won many fans at Watford following his outstanding debut at Crewe, and regular heroic performances for the first team when Kevin Miller was injured. But then off trotted Miller to Palace, along came Chris Day, and another season in the reserves beckoned. But history goes on to show that perhaps the pre-season injury to Chris Day proved to be one of the most important factors in our 1998 Championship season. Alec was simply outstanding, and finished the season as the undisputed "Player of the Season".
He remained the last line of defence for the following two seasons. But then along came Espen Baardsen, and with "veteran" still tagged onto Alec like some form of tattoo, the reserves loomed once again.
Instead, he spent the season rewarding GT's loyalty, regularly turning in solid performances, despite the inconsistent and chaotic defending in front of him. Surely a man of his age is not entitled to make saves of the quality he has this season - Sheron at Barnsley, Ekoku at Sheff Wed, and Livingstone at Grimsby stand out as among the most impressive.
I won't rehash the usual "And he's a really good bloke too", as we know that already. Despite being from up the road, that was a long time ago, and we are all entitled to make a mistake.
£40,000 has rarely been better spent. I just look forward to holding onto my "Piece of Paper" for a few more seasons yet!
Last updated: May 2001