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Gone but not forgotten:
Gabriel Agbonlahor
Position: Centre forward
From: Aston Villa - on loan - September 2005
Record: Played: 1(1) Scored: 0
To: Aston Villa - end of loan - October 2005
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: Quick. And that’s about it.

Right, first of all, let me get one thing straight: The transfer regulations are rubbish. My interpretation of an ‘emergency’ is that your main goalkeeper has a broken finger, your reserve has a dislocated shoulder and your only option, days before an FA Cup Semi-Final, is a wine bar owner. Otherwise, when injuries bite, you live with it. You get on with it. You give young players premature debuts. You recall Paolo Vernazza and tell him it’s his last chance, adding: “And this time, I mean it!”

Of course, usually I would back the FA in any attempt to make things easier for less wealthy clubs; the scenario I’ve described can only help Chelsea make the most of their absurd squad: “Bugger – Joe Cole’s injured. Shall we bring in Damien Duff or Arjen Robben? Or shall we give David O’Leary a call, and see if he’s got any handy reserve players?”

Choices, choices. But, much as I want to see the balance redressed, there is something patently ridiculous about a transfer deadline that is followed by a flurry of transfer activity; our loan signings were just three of many that took place in the weeks following the August 31 deadline.

Much of the pre-season pessimism surrounding the Hornets was not so much that we couldn’t put a half-decent team together (although some gnashing of teeth in that regard would have been avoided had Henderson, Carlisle, Mackay and Spring been captured sooner), but rather concern over what would happen when injuries and suspensions took their toll. It was not apparent at that time that the transfer deadline was, in fact, nothing of the sort.

So, having reached paragraph five, I suppose I ought to mention Gabriel Agbonlahor. See, he represented the transfer system at its worst. We lost King and Henderson for a month or so, so we were left with a hopelessly out of form Hameur Bouazza and players such as Francino Francis and Joel Grant, who probably ought to be introduced gently to the arena, surrounded by more experienced colleagues, rather than be relied upon to be our main source of goals for a month. And, in a parallel universe somewhere, where football is played and administrated the Right Way, that is what happened, and Adrian Boothroyd learned a valuable lesson about strength in depth.

In this universe, though, Boothroyd brought in three loan players, one of whom was known to be quite good, and didn’t disappoint, one of whom was known to be quite rubbish, and didn’t disappoint, and our Gabby, who was unknown. Even to Villa fans, judging by reaction from the numerous Villains I spoke to about him.

And he’s not an awful lot better known now. Quick? Check. Control? Reasonable, I suppose, but we didn’t get much chance to see it. Good in the air? Ummm… Strong? Yes, as long as no-one challenges him and it’s not windy. Good finisher? Yeah, right.

Harsh perhaps. Perhaps we didn’t see the best of him; I very much doubt he’ll get a second chance at Vicarage Road. No, he will be unused substitute for Villa in a couple of Carling Cup ties, followed by a few loan spells before joining Walsall, then Kidderminster Harriers, then Nuneaton Borough. And then he’ll probably become a roofer.

Go on then, Gabby, prove me wrong.