If anybody deserved to lift the FA Cup for Everton in
May 1995, it was this man. Nine years of impeccable service to the club had
brought him scant reward in terms of trophies; a 1986/87 League Championship
and assorted cup loser's medals amounted to very little for a player of his
calibre and loyalty.
He has pretty well seen it all at Goodison Park: the highs, like the Championship Title in 1987 and the 1995 FA Cup win; the lows, such as the 1989 FA Cup Final defeat by Liverpool and the slow, painful decline of Everton which followed it and culminated, paradoxically, in another brief moment of ecstasy with the famous 3-2 Escape To Victory against Wimbledon in 1994 (see THAT GAME); and Europe he has the odd distinction of being the club's oldest European debutant, at the age of 33, in 1995.
Though he is now Evertonian to the core, the Watson career started with his boyhood heroes half a mile from Goodison Park, at Anfield. He was unable to make an impact on the successful Liverpool first-team, and moved on to Norwich City without ever making a senior appearance. There he started to prove himself, before long assuming the captaincy and forging a solid central-defensive partnership with Steve Bruce. At the tender age of 23, he lifted the Milk Cup after a 1-0 Final victory over Sunderland in 1985. The previous season he had won the first of twelve England caps in the famous 2-0 win in the Maracana Stadium, a game remembered for John Barnes's incredible solo goal.
In August 1986, Norwich manager Ken Brown accepted a £900,000 bid from Howard Kendall having already refused one of £700,000 and Watson came home to Merseyside. He was signed ostensibly as cover for the injured Derek Mountfield, a player the Everton fans idolised. Given this, and Watson's initial difficulty in adapting from Norwich's more straightforward man-for-man marking to the zonal system employed by Kendall, it was not surprising when he was soon out of the team.
However, after getting to grips with the Everton defensive tactics and reclaiming his place, he began to impress with his courage, commitment and aerial ability. That season his new team were Champions, and Watson has been more or less a fixture in the side ever since. He seemed born to lead, and in January 1992 inherited the captain's armband from Kevin Ratcliffe when the Welshman was released. Unfortunately his captaincy included the lowest spell of the club's recent history in the years before Joe Royle took over as manager and then, when Royle left in March 1997, Watson was appointed caretaker-manager.
Not bad for an ex-red. Nobody can be in any doubt as to his commitment to Everton now, though, as was demonstrated after that landmark Wimbledon game. Director Bill Kenwright found the skipper in the Goodison car park, and asked if he was okay, and where was his car? Watson replied: "I'm not taking the car, I'll be doing cartwheels all the way home!"
|Lge apps 414 (3), total 518 (4)|
|Lge gls 23, total 38|
|Caps 12 (England)|
|(Statistics at end of 98/99)|
This page © Richard Pike & Marko Poutiainen 1999.