From: Watford FC Academy
Record: Played: 1(1) Scored: 0
To: ??? - free transfer - May 2004
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: Captain of the reserve team!
The reserves mean different things to different people. I suppose it boils down to your level of interest. This is not an implication that those not interested in the reserves are not committed fans - just that some see the reserves as an insignificant stepping stone for younger/injured players whilst others, myself included, read the reports in the WO and discuss the score with fellow supporters.
For many far-away fans, a reserve team trip is a great chance to see their beloved team. Although I am a season ticket holder, the annual trip to see the reserves locally is an exciting one. I get to see why Gary Fisken hasn't come back to the first team or who the "next best thing" is. When Anthony McNamee broke onto the scene in March 2002 I was able to say mystically - "Ah, I knew he was good...."
This brings us, on a rambling sort of way, onto Sam Swonnell. Signing professional terms in August of 2001, Sam soon established himself in the reserve side and, indeed, became the captain. Surely a player earmarked for success?
Or perhaps not. If one looks at it logically, you're not going to give the reserve team captainship to some stalwart who's going to break into the first team straight away. No, you're going to give it to someone who's regularly there, knows the squad he's going to lead. Which reflects well on Sam's level of maturity, but not on his chances of getting on in the game.
Indeed, he only ever made two appearances - at the end of the 02/03 campaign when we were safe with a few games to go and Ray felt confident to give a few youngsters a chance to prove their worth. Sam actually got a start - a 4-0 drubbing at Brighton of all places. He also got four minutes at the end of a home win against Derby, where I had a vague memory of him of doing something - possibly passing the ball.
Nevertheless, he captained a reserve team to the FA Premier Reserve League South, which was an impressive achievement. But in the end, he wasn't quite good enough. Still, being the captain of a reserve team could impress some teams. I hope it does.