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Player profiles:
Jamie Hand
Position: Midfielder
From: Watford FC Academy
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: Destined for great things. And every referee's notebook.
Past profiles: July 2002


Every player should have a trademark. Something unique, something to be identified by. Micah Hyde's endlessly enjoyable now-you-see-it-and-now-you-don't-trick; Paul Robinson's alternately snarling and beaming celebration in front of the Rookery; Anthony McNamee's Jake-the-Peg move when taking someone on; Heidar Helguson's head-down charge at the nearest available target, whether ball, opponent or brick wall....

None of these things are absolutely vital. Some of them are almost incidental. But every programme needs a theme tune and every player should have a trademark. Otherwise, you're in danger of being Steve Talboys. Or Richard Flash. Or Geoff Pitcher. Or Peter flippin' Beadle.

Which brings us, by the usual round-about route, to Jamie Hand and his trademark hack, a thing of splendour...albeit rather brutal splendour....

You see, it's not a two-footed lunge from behind - that's Robbo's department, and no-one should get ideas about taking over Robbo's manor unless they're feeling especially brave. It's not the "scything foul" of cliché either, for that implies a certain kind of clean, sweeping efficiency. More rusty axe than scythe, this. And it offers absolutely no opportunity for the standard "I played the ball, honest!" protestations of innocence, as it's generally accepted that the line between playing the ball and violently booting someone in the upper shin is a fairly clear one.

It's a hack. No other word will suffice, except for a few unprintable ones when that boot makes contact. That it gets him booked on a very regular basis is just part of the fun, really...although I have a sneaking suspicion that his manager might not see it that way. Whatever, there's no difficulty at all in identifying Jamie Hand, largely because the referee has already spotted him for you and is waving a flourescent yellow card to attract your attention.

All this, generally speaking, is a good thing...and I say that with a clear conscience, for hacking is more often the cause of bruises than broken bones. However, there's not much in what I've said so far that separates Jamie Hand from, say, Derek Payne...which, bearing in mind that you're not given the "Young Player of the Year" award simply for kicking people up in the air (well, not at Watford - insert your own Leicester joke here), can't be right. There must be more.

There's plenty more, as it turns out. A midfielder of vigour and drive, Jamie Hand has absolutely enormous potential - glimpsed in its entirety in a monumental performance in a particularly youthful home victory against Derby - and, crucially, he seems extraordinarily impatient to fulfil it. Remarkably, the glut of (considerably more experienced) central midfielders has not appeared to obstruct his progress, and he started nearly half of the club's league matches last season. That he'd clearly have liked to start far more speaks volumes - with an implicit chuckle, Ray Lewington recently described him as a "pest", commenting that he appeared in his office as much as the rest of the squad put together.

He plays with the same enthusiasm. The criticism is obvious - that he sometimes allows that enthusiasm to overwhelm him, leading to lapses in discipline, as well as over-ambition and a general lack of control - but there are increasing signs that he's learning to make his contribution count. It's a matter of timing as much as anything else, a matter of experience. His judgement might not always be right at the moment, but all the fundamental bits of a very fine central midfielder are present and correct, allied to a near-insane will to succeed. You wouldn't bet against him...and even if you did, you certainly wouldn't tell him.

Next season will be particularly interesting, you suspect. With Richard Johnson - touch wood - back to fitness and form, Jamie Hand might need to knock on Ray Lewington's door a few more times yet. While they're distinct players in many respects, they'll be fighting it out for the same role...and both are extremely impatient to get on with their careers, albeit for different reasons. Keep your eye on that one...and, as you're doing so, remind yourself that we have a squad that's getting stronger all the time.

Ian Grant
Last updated: June 2003