From: Arsenal - £350,000 - December 2000
Career stats: Soccerbase
He is: Rubbish at something
He always wins the ball
He came from Ars-e-nal
I mean, how lame is that? Really? Jeez, you might as well celebrate the fact that "He's got a pair of feet / He watches
Coronation Street" or "He runs around a lot / He's a player that we've got".
Of course, Paolo Vernazza does always win the ball and he did come from Arsenal. These details,
however, tell you about as much about the player as his shoe size. To do him justice, we - and the Rookery choir -
are going to have to try a bit harder.
When you watch the players that turn out for a club like Watford over the course of years and decades, you
begin to know what to expect. Oh, there are certainly occasions when your breath is taken away, and even some
that don't involve Tommy Mooney. But you start to establish patterns over such a long period of time - the
type of players that you'll see, their limitations and their strengths.
Even our season in the Premiership didn't change things that much, really. When you've watched John Barnes on a
regular basis, you're well prepared for Nordin Wooter. When you've sung Kevin Phillips' name, you know what Heidar
Helguson has to live up to. Really, only one player broke the Watford mould completely...and by the time we'd stopped
staring in disbelief at Mad Xavier, he'd gone away again.
To the present, then. That midfielder, over there. The slightly lanky one with the shaved head. The one who's
just smashed into a tackle with barely disguised relish. The one who's coming away with the ball now. The one
who's just left an opponent for dead with a sublime bit of trickery. The one who's just curled an exquisite through-ball
into the path of a striker with the outside of his boot. The one who's now eagerly chasing back to defend and
start the whole process again. He plays for us, right? And we bought him for how much?
There's no criticism of others intended here, no snobbery involved. It's just that Paolo Vernazza plays
with a level - and, crucially, a consistency - of technique that I've not seen from a Watford player in
my adult life. In many ways, this is irrelevant - he will, quite rightly, be measured by what he achieves while
at the club, which means that he's got some catching up to do. In the meantime, he's quite breathtaking.
We've been here before, yes? From Craig Ramage to Charlie Miller, wonderful midfielders have blown their
chances spectacularly in the past. You could be forgiven for a certain cynicism. This time, however, there
are no warnings to heed, no tales from the past. Paolo Vernazza comes with at least ten years of football ahead of
him, a clean bill of health, evident enthusiasm for first team action, and a work-rate that matches his abundant
quality and means that he can stand his ground in a First Division scrap. On the negative side, he's probably rubbish at ten-pin bowling or something.
It'd be very, very surprising if his holiday in the Nationwide lasts for long. Naturally, it'd be fantastic if
Paolo Vernazza fulfilled his Premiership ambitions with Watford. If not, you tend to feel that he'll be back in the
top flight before too long anyway. It's where he belongs.
For now, though, just enjoy.