Spotting great players, at club level anyway, is not all that difficult. Visit the club website of any team and find a list of most appearances, most goals etc. It would be a safe bet that many of the players listed feature in the all time XI's. Finding the real dross is a much harder affair. It is, after all, much more subjective.
Figures wont help you much either. There have been plenty of players who've played just one game and been pretty ordinary too, but the mere mention of their name does not necessarily make your blood boil. Take Tony Meola for example. One game in an insignificant cup competition. He was pretty dreadful and never played again, but one bad game can happen to anyone and it's hard to get too worked up about him.
The really bad player, one not fit to wear the shirt, is the one who starts off badly and manages to maintain that standard week in week out whilst still getting picked. Such players deserve a feature all to themselves. Ladies and Gentleman, with nearly one hundred and fifty games over five years, I proudly present Jason Drysdale.
One of the first graduates from the FA School of Excellence at Lilleshall, he was clearly marked as future England material. With the genius of a master tactician he presented himself as a left back, one of the hardest positions of all to fill. As previous attempts to replace Wilf Rostron had failed miserably he was easily able to get a chance to play. Better still he was able to disguise his complete incompetence in his chosen position behind an ability to cross a ball. It is a very strange fact of football life that good wingers are always being criticised with regards to their ability to "track back". Yet a full back who bombs up the wing and delivers the odd good cross or two is seen as an attribute, even if he has a compete inability to defend. This was Drysdale to a tee, a player who loved to attack and cross the ball, but simply hated to tackle anyone. If you were lucky and the opposition was far enough from the ball you might get the odd interception tackle. More likely would be the tactic of standing off your opponent desperately hoping that the rest of the defence would get into position before the inevitable cross came in.
He even managed to get himself a nickname - "Milky" after the boy(s) in the Milky Bar adverts. Ridiculous really as I seem to recall that the Milky Bar Kid was said to "Strong and Tough". I suspect that the Milky Bar Kid may have been a better bet at left back too.
It culminated in one of the worst, most insulting, displays by a defender I've ever seen. In 45 minutes against a Swindon side tearing the Hornets apart and taking a 2-0 lead to boot, Mr Drysdale failed to even attempt a single tackle. For me it was just too much. Even now his name is likely to send me into an apoplectic fit! He is the epitome of all that was bad in a pretty depressing period of the club's history. We actually got a draw in the end, but I won't let that spoil a good rant.
Yet his complete disinterest in things defensive seemed to go unnoticed in favour of his attacking qualities. It was fitting, therefore, that the grand master of defensive football, Kevin Keegan, should acquire him for his Newcastle side. He took the opportunity to have a parting shot at his old club. You know the drill "lack of ambition", "need to move to further career" - the usual stuff. £425,000 for such a player must represent one of the greatest rip-offs of all time; how Watchdog failed to get involved remains a mystery even to this day. But even KK couldn't be fooled for very long. After a couple of friendly matches, during which he missed a penalty in a shoot out, he was into the reserves and never played a competitive match for the first team.
Before the season was out he'd been shipped off to Swindon for a significant loss. Described as "One of the worst players to play for the Robins in 20 years" on one website, he did at least get a few games in. He also spent significant periods out injured though. I can't recall the injury but feel confident that it didn't come from making a robust tackle! He did manage a comeback at Vicarage Road though it was a low key performance in a low key match. Having won the first leg of a League Cup tie Watford just strolled through a 1-1 draw. Drysdale cut a forlorn figure and most of the home fans didn't even seem to notice that he was on the pitch. From Swindon it was off to Northampton and then very quickly out of the league.
Even then he couldn't manage to be the best ex-Hornet in Non-League as his Forest Green Rovers side had both Stuart Slater and Tony Daley in it. From there it was on to various teams in the West Country and Wales always one step further down the football pyramid. I've no idea where he is now and frankly I don't care except to pity the fans of who ever he's playing for.
So he was easily the worst left back I've seen at the club and boy I've seen a few (at least you always knew Keith Dublin meant well when he played there). But I'll pose you a question. Was he the worst full back in that Watford side? Ah but that's a tale for another day…