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Gone but not forgotten:
Darren Bazeley
Position: Right back/right wing
From: Youth team
Record: Played: 223(60) Scored: 27
To: Wolverhampton Wanderers - no fee (Bosman) - June 1999
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: Confusing

Bye, Darren. It's

It's been what, exactly?

It's been nice? Not really. Few players have scattered consensus as thoroughly as Darren Bazeley, opinions of his talents ranging from gushing admiration to utter exasperation, and few have been as fist-chewingly frustrating.

There are things that I really will not miss. The Bazeley stock moves, seen ad nauseam during his nine years in the first team and responsible for me tearing out great clumps of hair in anguish. The aimless, thoughtless crosses into the box, a shout of "KEEPER'S!" going up virtually before the ball's left his boot. The aimless, thoughtless crosses not into the box but into the stand behind. The refusal to go outside defenders, preferring to gain a yard and belt the ball against the back-tracking opponent to gain a respectable-but-shameful corner. Hhhhhnnnnnnggggghhhhh. No, it's not been nice.

It's been dreadful? Well, that'd be unfair. The frustration only comes from the fact that he's clearly not useless, that he so obviously could be splendid.

His portfolio contains moments of exquisite brilliance. When ambition grabs him and sweeps away his natural reticence, he's capable of anything. The bonkers hat-trick at Southend, the perfect left-foot curler at Northampton, the staggering full-pitch solo at Bury - remember and savour, and don't forget the endearing way he spent subsequent months trying and failing to recreate each wonder goal every time he got the ball.

Perhaps more importantly, his last season at Vicarage Road offered consistency and reliability that even I couldn't sneer at (see his player profile). Pushed back into a defensive role, where his attacking contributions were more of a "bonus" and therefore less open to criticism, he kept Nigel Gibbs out of the side for most of the campaign with exactly the kind of unfussy, quietly resolute performances that Gibbs himself built his reputation upon. At last, it seemed that Graham Taylor had found a home for Darren Bazeley.

But apparently not. The reasons for his departure remain obscure - with the monstrous challenge of the Premiership awaiting and a testimonial season on the way, Bazeley chose Wolves (the proverbial "sleeping giant") over Watford (the proverbial, erm, "hyperactive midget"). We can only speculate.

Bye, then. It's been.