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Gifton Noel-Williams
Position: Striker
From: Youth team
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: Injured. Yeah, still
Past profiles: July 1999


Man, it just breaks your heart.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a profile of Gifton Noel-Williams, commenting that "much rests on Gifton's young shoulders next season". I didn't know that those words would prove to be both irrelevant and painfully accurate.

Accurate, because much did indeed rest on Gifton's young shoulders. As it happened, his shoulders were fine... it was the rest of him, particularly the knee that was injured against Sunderland back in January 1999, that couldn't cope. What we saw during the very briefest of comebacks in November was enough to remind us that we had been missing - and would miss again - our brightest young star. In particular, his substitute appearance at Hillsborough was simply scintillating, not only making absolute mincemeat out of an opposition defence - against a backline that was hardly resilient, granted, but still pretty much the only time it happened during our short stay in the Premiership - but also bringing the best out of his struggling colleagues, most notably Charlie Miller.

And then he was gone again, prompting renewed talk of extremely premature retirement and greatly reducing our chances of survival. Sure, given a longer run, it may well have been that other rearguards would've worked out how to handle him...yet it was difficult to escape the feeling that they would've had to work rather harder than they did in denying the limited strikeforce that we were often forced to field.

Ultimately, that's all in the past. Football is all about the future. Once more, Gifton is on the long road to recovery; once more, there is talk of this being a "make or break" situation for the youngster.

Watford fans everywhere should be crossing their fingers. Before injury intervened, Gifton was some way from being the finished article...but he was still capable of being devastating, combining fearsome strength as a target man with a deft touch and an emerging knack of putting the ball in the back of the net. Having made his first team debut at just sixteen, he was developing...but, crucially, it was that fact that he was developing that separated him from previous youth team stars like Wayne Andrews and Bruce Dyer.

Remember him for his performance against Oxford, when he was forever seen with the ball at his feet, a determined glint in his eye and a desperate defender hanging round his waist. Remember him for that goal against Sunderland, just the most delightful bit of cheeky poaching.

And, more than anything, hope and pray that we don't have to remember him for much longer. He's too young and too damn good to be only a memory.

Ian Grant
Last updated: July 2000