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, 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
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.
Last updated: July 2000