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Neil Cox
Position: Right back
From: Bolton Wanderers - £350,000 (plus increments) - November 1999
He is: Doing okay


From Gary Chivers through to Gerard Lavin, Darren Bazeley, Lars Melvang, Peo Ljung, and Des Lyttle. They come, they go. Some establish themselves and move on to further their careers, some flop spectacularly. All the while, Nigel Gibbs waits, ready to lace up his boots and take another step nearer to that all-time appearance record.

Anyone filling the right back position in a Watford side has a lot to live up to. It's not a matter of favouritism or sentimentality. It's merely that our man has set certain standards, in sheer professionalism as much as anything, and it's only right that we expect to see those standards maintained.

So now we're watching Neil Cox, the latest in a very long line of players who've attempted to convince the Watford faithful that they deserve to be in the starting line-up instead of you-know-who. And, well, he's doing okay.

It's taken some time. With the exception of an impressive debut at Sheffield Wednesday, Cox was slow to settle. In particular, he didn't greatly help his cause against Everton by earning a red card and a suspension for screaming abuse at a linesman, then picking up another ban for comments to the fourth official as he departed for his early bath. As usual, Gibbsy was ready and waiting.

Since then, however, Cox has grown in stature. While his contributions may not always be entirely praiseworthy, they are at least distinctive. For instance, his eagerness to support attacks, almost playing as a makeshift centre forward on occasions towards the end of last season, might sometimes leave us under-staffed at the back...but it's pleasing to see that he has the courage of his convictions. After all, if you're going to be a forward-thinking player, then you've got to do more than just the thinking - Des Lyttle always seemed to arrive in the final third just in time to be caught out of position when the opposition counter-attacked.

The point is that you sign players like Neil Cox for a reason. And that reason is certainly not that they're going to whip supporters into a frenzy of excitement or win matches single-handedly. It's simply that they're going to add something to the squad. That's been largely successful - whichever player you think should be first choice, the right side was a problem and it's now been pretty much solved.

Although you'd be a fool to bet against Nigel Gibbs getting closer to Luther's record during next season, you tend to think that he'll find Neil Cox more difficult to displace than the list of has-beens and ne'er-do-wells that began this profile.

Ian Grant
Last updated: June 2000