Position: Right winger
From: Real Zaragosa - £950,000 - September 1999
Record: Played: 42(28) Scored: 3
To: ??? - free transfer - May 2002
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: A small, burrowing creature
For those of us who don't live in houses and flats with unlimited storage capacity, an occasional clear-out of
accumulated stuff is inevitable...and sometimes a bit heart-breaking.
Obviously, most of the stuff that ends up in that black bin bag and is destined to be greeted with a slightly depressed
"thank you" at the charity shop is not even of sentimental value...just Christmas presents from years ago and other
unwanted bric-a-brac. Sometimes, though, you really do need the space that's being taken up by something that
retains great spiritual significance but no longer has any specific purpose. A favourite toy from childhood, perhaps,
a full set of programmes from the 93/94 season, or an incomplete collection of early Bolt Thrower records. And
it's going to be a bit of a wrench.
(For the sake of honesty, I should point out that these are merely examples. I still own a full set of programmes
from the 93/94 season and an incomplete collection of early Bolt Thrower records, and I will probably do so until
my dying day. God help my next of kin, then....)
It's hard to escape the same indistinct, foggy sense of loss when thinking of Nordin Wooter, whose Watford
career began so illustriously and ended up, like that favourite childhood toy, in a black bin bag destined
for the local charity shop. Because, although he might've been shoved into an available space at the back of
the wardrobe in the end, we loved him once. Oh, yes.
Back in September 1999, Nordin Wooter was the club's record signing, and his capture was an attempt to build
upon a promising - and remarkably cheap - start to the Premiership campaign. He made his debut in the
triumphant one-nil win over Chelsea, without doubt the high water mark of Graham Taylor's second era and
therefore of the last fifteen years. He was instantly fantastic, a frantic bundle of mischief and mayhem and
flapping dreadlocks, and we were brimming with confidence.
Of course, it wasn't to be. We didn't win another match for what seemed like several decades, and were
thoroughly relegated with a considerable chunk of the season still remaining. And Nordin Wooter, rather than
being the surprise weapon of the under-estimated underdog, was simply a pleasant distraction for the supporters
of a doomed team.
Nevertheless, he was still fantastic on a fairly regular basis. While his fantastic-ness might have failed
to contribute much to the pitiful points total, it was still cause for some celebration. Apart from anything
else, the sight of Nordin Wooter in full flow - that is, dribbling his way in and out and in and here and there
and there and here and far and wide and near and wide and far and forward and back and back and forward until a sufficiently
large crowd of opponents had gathered to rob him of the ball - was an entirely necessary reminder that football
could still be fun, that things weren't entirely bleak. A quick, brilliantly skillful player with an
eager, bustling style, Wooter was capable of making quality opponents look like village idiots...which was a small-scale recreation of what we'd hoped
that the whole season would be about.
But it went no further, really. The problem was this, more or less - a winning side, or a losing side wishing
to make the transition, requires its wingers to provide crosses and occasional goals, while a losing side can
make do with a few tricks and treats to lessen the misery. On the way out of Division One, Watford
had had Nick Wright and Peter Kennedy to provide crosses and occasional goals. On the way back, they
had Nordin Wooter...who, all too often, provided neither. Those, including me, who expected the wee Dutchman
to make a significant impact were to be severely disappointed.
You can still pick out fabulous moments, not least a goal of scything magnificence against a static Norwich
defence...which was, in fact, precisely the goal that he'd been promising to score for more than eighteen
months. But Nordin Wooter's complete lack of consistency - of passing, of timing of crosses, of quality of crosses, of finishing - began to
frustrate as the team lost its way and, as First Division defenders began to learn that he could safely be left
to dribble himself into a corner, even his value as an instigator of panic began to fade. Quite simply, we
needed a dependable, punctual supply line to the forwards...and Nordin Wooter wasn't it.
He lost his magic, then. Unable to win a regular place in a side lacking a natural right winger, he was made
available by Luca Vialli prior to the expiry of his contract. There were no takers. Which is a great shame,
as there ought to be room somewhere for players as wonderfully imaginative and plain fun as Nordin
Wooter. There ought to be...but you wonder whether there is.
Having first appeared in that joyous victory over Chelsea, he made his final appearance as a substitute in a shambolic,
hurtful home defeat to Millwall. Actually, he was one of those who emerged relatively untarnished...but still,
it was a sad, depressing context for his curtain call. Somehow, the journey completed was so very, very different
from the one that we were intent on travelling back in September 1999.
Nordin Wooter was - is - a star. He'll go to a good home, I hope.