How do you value a goalkeeper? In 8 seasons of producing FTRE we’ve got to interviewing a good chunk of the men who have guarded the Watford goal over the last 30 years.
The youngsters, who, as a club, were dependent on as we started the podcast. Lads like Jonathan Bond (Pod 4.4) were the great hopes for the club’s future and, in Scott Loach’s case (Pod 1.5), a future England star and pay day for the club. The transfer fee can only have been the reason he started for so long.
Then there’s a squad player like Rene Gilmartin, still the only man to drop an F-Bomb on the podcast, and one of our favourite podcast guests ever. We’ve talked to a few ‘heroes’. The young goalie who went on to better things David James (Pod 1.9) Clean-sheet Kevin Miller (Pod 1.13) from the dark ages of the 90’s.
Luckily, we’ve also got to talk to a few proper legends. Of course The big man, Tony Coton (Pods 7.15 and 7.32) who you’d find it hard to argue against when debating the greatest goalie in the clubs history. It would also be hard to argue directly with the hard man as to whether he is the greatest goalie in the clubs history.
Then there’s the calmest and loveliest shot stopper we’ve met was Steve Sherwood (Pod 8.17). The Rocket Man, whose story you can read in the latest edition of Tales from The Vicarage, played for Watford from Fourth to First divisions and was between the sticks for all the big games in Watford’s history. Then there is
And under the Pozzo reign we’ve had two fantastic goalkeepers. Manuel Almunia (Pod 3.9), the best smelling player we’ve ever had on the podcast (I won’t mention the worst smelling), and whose double save against Leicester, that led to THAT goal, has already written his name in the clubs history, and in our hearts as fans.
So we come to the incumbent of the No 1 shirt and now in his 4th season as an Orn. Heurelho Gomes (Pod 6.1) continues to show his why, on and off the field, he is the most valued goalkeeper in Watford’s History.
Let’s start with his key skills and the reason he was probably given a professional contract his shot stopping. How many times has he kept us in a game, how many times has he made a save that won us a game. I know, technically, a save doesn’t get the team the points, but his crucial saves are as good as a goal. If we total them up we’ll probably get a number higher than many of the strikers we’ve had play for the club in recent times.
His connection with the fans didn’t take long to establish. Whenever Watford are kicking towards the Vicarage Road End, you can feel distant from some goals, but with Gomes his celebration you feel the passion from the pitch. His home debut against Bolton gave us 3 chances to see him jumping for joy!
Then there’s his leadership. You can see the role he plays after every game. Troy and Heurelho walk around the pitch thanking the fans and setting the tone. Since his return from that extended summer break at Her Majesty’s pleasure, Troy has been the figurehead of the club, the shouter of orders, the man in the ear of the referee. And every team needs a character like Troy who is going to lead them into battle. They also need a leader that unites them. A strong character like Troy can split a team. Deeney’s like an older brother, but Gomes is the Dad, the calmer one and one who I’ve always assumed who steps up when you need to to recover after a lose. I can imagine being slumped in the dressing room, head down, wondering how a game was lost. Then there’s an arm on the shoulder, it’s Gomes. He might not even have to say anything, he’d look at you, nod and you’d know that things were going to be alright. I suspect he would have done that a lot last season under Walter.
And that caring and courteous part of his character has been vital this season. Our exciting start to the season has been because of many players and our manager. One of the real joys has been Richarlison, He’s taken this month’s cover star, under his wing. There trips into London or out for a meal on instagram look so amazing. The boy is 20 years old, in a foreign country, playing in the world’s most competitive league, week-in-week out in intense matches. And we’ve seen many player like him come and miss the mark. Ricky hasn’t. Gomes’ role as a mentor and guiding figure for his countrymen can not be overlooked.
That’s why he is the most valued goalkeeper in Watford’s history.
There’s something very frustrating in modern football, where football fans are in constant need for change, to change managers and to make another signing. And the calls for Gomes to be replaced are wildly off the mark. However, we do need someone to succeed the him. He’s already said this will be his final contract as a professional footballer, and on 30th June 2019 he will stop being a Watford player. He’s said that he will go on to be an agent, to guide even more players through their careers. I only that he is there celebrating, supporting and mentoring many Watford players in the future.