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Gone but not forgotten:
Stephen Armstrong
Position: Left midfield
From: Vastra Frolunda, Sweden - free transfer - October 2000
Record: Played: 0(3) Scored: 0
To: ??? - free transfer - May 2001
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: Ignored

There are many fairytales in football, including some that don't involve Graham Taylor. When a player makes his debut, the beautiful game primes itself to produce another magical moment. The headlines are ready and waiting, the post-match interview with the sensational newcomer is no longer merely imaginary, the goal celebrations have been well-rehearsed.

When Stephen Armstrong replaced Micah Hyde at Selhurst Park in December 2000, eleven minutes remained. With the Hornets trailing by a single goal, he must've afforded himself a brief glance at glorious destiny. You'd have to be inhuman not to think about it for just a moment.

When the referee blew the final whistle, Armstrong's alleged colleagues had passed the ball to him just twice. For the rest of the time, he might as well have signed autographs for the fans on the touchline, like a deep fielder during a test match. He looked faintly embarrassed, as if he was lurking on the edge of someone else's conversation to disguise a lack of friends. No fairytale, then.

He fared better when given another opportunity, providing rare glimpses of attacking quality in an otherwise humiliating home defeat against an incredibly dreadful Huddersfield side. But, having been brought in to be "more than a reserve team player", he didn't do enough to win a place in the team with any regularity. Unsurprisingly, he was released when his short-term contract expired at the end of the season, allowed to seek regular first team football elsewhere.

Others - Stephen Brooker, most recently - have suffered a similar fate and found that it's been to their long-term advantage. If only out of sympathy after that debut, you hope that Stephen Armstrong finds a happy ending too.