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Gone but not forgotten:
Barrie Matthews
Position: Defender
From: Watford FC Academy
Record: Played: 0 Scored: 0
To: ??? - Free transfer - February 2003
He was: A victim of Vialli's Reserve team policy.

When you get a job on a who-you-know basis, I suspect there must always be that extra pressure to prove that the bloke batting for you in the token interview was right.

Such was the problem for young Barrie Matthews - a product of the country's most successful non-League, and first ever, 'Football Academy' at Cirencester Town FC. It was run by David Hockaday, a vastly experienced ex-professional, who is now a respected Academy coach with Watford.

Barrie joined the club's Academy half-way through, so to speak, in summer 2000 with David Hockaday speaking in glowing terms about him and Cirencester colleague Nick Williams. No doubt the pair had talent, but there's a difference between an impressive youth team charge and a successful first-team candidate (Kevin Belgrave, anyone?).

All the reports were of an industrious and even over-committed youth team defender who would go on to achieve much greatness. But Barrie fell foul of Luca Vialli's insistence upon grinding young professionals into submission in a Reserve team which, in 2001/02, rarely had the luxury of a player with any first-team experience.

The niggling injury syndrome began to affect the Cinderford-born full-back towards the end of that season - and who could blame him. Surely none of the younger lads were looking forward to another season of ritual humiliation at the hands of various Premiership cast-offs and wannabes.

If only he'd stayed fit in 2002/03, things may have been so different. Nigel Gibbs has enjoyed a wealth of experience this time round, and Barrie might have flourished - but, with his confidence shot, the treatment table seemed a happier home.

There's a player within Matthews...but, like others, Vialli saw to it that any hope was crushed.