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Gone but not forgotten:
Alex Bonnot
Position: Midfielder
From: Angers, France - free transfer - November 1998
Record: Played: 8(8) Scored: 0
To: ??? - free transfer - May 2001
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: Polite

Ah, Monsieur Bonnot. He came, he played in the reserves, he got injured, he went away. It's the kind of mundane story that crops up endlessly in this section, challenging the weary writer to come up with new ways of saying the same old things.

Here, the difference is to be found in Alexandre Bonnot's sheer popularity. Really, only Stuart Slater - lovely bloke, smashing player - can claim to have had a Good Egg Rating as high as that of the Frenchman in recent years. For the ladies, his charm was built upon dashing good looks and flowing locks, yet with little of the well-groomed poncy stuff for which some other French footballers have become famous. For the chaps, he had a reputation as an open and relaxed chum, a distinctly continental companion. If team selections were based on character references, he'd have been ever-present.

It doesn't work like that, of course. While there are many who'd maintain that Alex Bonnot's sporadic appearances in the first team were never less than excellent, there is an element of wishful thinking at play. Undoubtedly, he was a player of some quality, well capable of making a dynamic contribution to a match. He proved that in his last game for the Hornets, with a driving, potent performance against Coventry.

Equally undoubtedly, he was unfortunate not to get more chances to prove himself. During the long run of poor results in the Premiership, when neither Richard Johnson nor Micah Hyde were in spectacular form, he still broke into the side only rarely. Then, when Johnson was sidelined for twelve months and midfield vacancies did become available, he also found himself paying frequent visits to the treatment room. Unlucky.

I remain unconvinced about the extent of his brilliance, though. While Alex Bonnot certainly "did nothing wrong" in his handful of appearances, it's perfectly reasonable to demand more than that from a central midfielder. Yes, he was sometimes fabulous...yet he was also capable of being thoroughly anonymous, following the peaks and troughs of the team itself rather too closely for a player in a pivotal position. To argue that his sixteen performances demanded a permanent place is wrong, to my mind. Rather, they politely requested further opportunities.

It takes more than that, especially when you're in a long queue behind established regulars. A ruthless, nasty streak, stopping short of outright arrogance, comes in quite handy sometimes. Being charming is perhaps a luxury.