Hi Marcus, thanks for talking to Watford Legends. How did your move to Watford come about?
I had a spell up at Glasgow Rangers and it didnít really work out too well. Dick Advocaat told me I didnít have a fighting chance of making the squad or even get close to being in the team. He wouldnít even let me compete to be in the squad, he just didnít fancy me. I was 30 years old and I was happy enough to see my contract out as I was at such a massive club, but if the opportunity came up to leave then I would look at it as I didnít have many other options given what he was saying to me. Then one afternoon he told me that they had agreed a deal with Watford and that the deal was going to happen. I was happy to come down and talk to the club, meet the manager and have a look around and I liked what I saw.
Were there any other clubs in for you at the time?
No it was just Watford that were in for me. The deal was done quite swiftly and it suited me well anyway. I had played at Watford a few times previously so I knew what the club was about, that it was a well-run club with strong community links. I also knew plenty of the people at the club such as Ray Lew and Ray Wilkins so I was hardly going into the unknown, and of course it was back near London which was great for me. So there were no other clubs on for me and once I knew Watford were interested I doubt I would have gone elsewhere anyway.
How did you find working under Vialli?
It was great, really good. He was a very focused manager. He instilled a good level of discipline and his attention to detail was very sharp. Every now and then he used to train with us as well almost to show that he was prepared to lead from the front. He always showed a lot of passion in everything he did but again that only showed how committed to the job he was. It didnít work out with the results and some players didnít work out very well for the club as we know now, but as for Luca himself he put his heart and soul into it. I had a bad spell for a time at Watford but even with that in mind I would say my time under him was enjoyable.
As you mentioned, you went through a spell when you took a bit of stick from the fans.
Yes I did but thatís part of the game. When I first arrived at the club I felt really good in both mind and body but then after a short time I got my first injury. I say injury but it wasnít an injury Ė I actually had a really bad bout of flu. I donít mean a cough and cold but full on flu and I was totally bedridden for three whole days. I remember my son was about six months old at the time and all I could do was crawl the same as him Ė I just couldnít walk or take my own weight. It messed up my back as well with some really intense sciatic pain. I tried to shake it off but I just couldnít and when I got rid of it I found it had taken a bit out of me and I lost a bit of movement and sharpness. But regardless of that I always gave it everything I had when I was training and playing. The fans did have the hump with me, maybe they looked at my pedigree and where I had been before and were expecting more from me.
In the end I decided I was in control of what the fans thought of me by trying to align my performances with what they expect. If I wanted them to feel better about me then I needed to feel better about myself. I tried to make sure I was displaying the work ethic they expect, and always remembered that you can win people over and change their perception of you. With the modern world everyone can share their opinions instantly and it is an opinions game. I started off scoring something like five goals in 12 games and then didnít score for a while after that which didnít help.
Vialli left and Ray Lew came in, did you enjoy working with him?
Ray is the nicest and most honest manager Iíve played for. He does exactly what he says he s going to do and you always know where you are with him. If he said you were training for an hour and half then that is what you would do Ė he wouldnít cut it short but he wouldnít tweak it up 15 minutes either Ė he is straight as a die.
It was under Ray that you moved from a forward player to a defender.
Yes it was a mutual gamble between the two of us to move my position. It all came about by chance really. We had to come in for a week during the summer break and we were playing some five a side games. We were short of players and we needed to sign some defenders. During that week we only had Coxy, Robbo and Doyley as defenders so I said I would fill in. by doing that it also gave a young forward a chance to step up and do a bit more training and I didnít want to block a youngsters route so I was happy to help out like that. I remember there were a few comments from the other players saying that I was actually doing a good job as a defender and that I could possibly do a job as a defender. Ray didnít say anything at that point though, he just monitored it. In fact that summer the club offered to pay me 40% of my contract and I could walk away early but that was the easy option, so I chose to stay and fight for a place. I didnít like the idea of just walking away.
It turned out that I took a 12% pay deferral the following season anyway but I was OK with that, itís just one of those things but I am pleased I stayed an implemented this change into a defender. It helped that Ray and Terry Burton, who I knew from Wimbledon, came and spoke to me in the end properly and they told me they believed I could do a job as a defender Ė having their confidence in me to be able to do the job allowed me to go ahead and do it. It was a calculated gamble from me to do it, and I know I had a few people in the press mocking me, but I remember warming up in one pre-season game and telling Stephen Glass that I would have the last laugh by making it work and I did.
Did being a former striker help in knowing what strikers would try to do to you as a defender?
Yes definitely, I knew when forwards would run and what touch was required. I relayed what I knew as a forward and transferred that to the mind-set of a defender. I allowed them to have first touch but then I would have the second touch. I knew when they would try and take me in a channel and I would get there a yard ahead as I wouldnít always win a race so I had to read it a bit quicker. Because of the different game I was playing my body was changing as well. I had some terrible pains in my hips mainly due to you having to do a lot of jockeying and shuffling as about to short forward sprints. They are hugely different body movements, even down to the way you kick the ball.
I was used to smashing or whipping the ball, whereas at the back I tried to guide a ball out wide to a full back which again makes a huge difference to what you do with your body. I remember picking up a groin strain which Iíd never had before. I also lost half a yard of pace as well as you never really run flat out when you play at the back, the only time you really have to sprint is if you are caught out of position. But it was a good transition and I enjoyed playing at the back.
Are there any games that stand out for you from your time at the Vic?
In first season we played Norwich at home and that was the game I felt I won the crowd back on to my side. It is a game of opinions as you know but it is better to stick together and so I was pleased they were back on my side. I was taken off towards the end and I got a really good receptions o that was a big turning point for me. I got on well with most of the fans anyway, when I was getting some moans it wasnít from everyone and it never turned personal Ė most were really hospitable and welcoming to me but that Norwich game was significant in getting on with each other again.
Also, the cup semi-final in 2003 stands out for me. I nearly didnít make the game as I was injured, I had damaged my knee ligaments. I had blocked a shot with my right foot when I should have used my left and it caught my toe enough to turn my knee out. I thought Iíd miss the semi which would have been gutting as it was the biggest game of the season. I worked hard with the physios but the week before the game I was nowhere near ready. Then the Monday before the game I went for a little run with the physio and after that I felt about 50% better. I had a little run the next day and felt better again, the same on the Wednesday, and then on Thursday Ray named the team and he was starting me. I played the full 90 even though I was on my last legs, and that was a nickname that stuck!
Yes Ė there was a Watford fan that used to do all of the stats and what have you and after one game he was in the players lounge. He mention quite loudly that he thought I was on my last legs, a few of the other players heard it and were in stitches and so the nickname stuck. I saw the kit man from Watford, Terry Ellis, about two weeks ago for the first time in ages and he is still using the nickname even now!
Why did you end up leaving when you did?
In pre-season I had some problems with both of my Achilles and I had bad swelling in both. I was going through the pain barrier each day and every morning I would be walking like a mummy as I was so stiff. As pre-season went on it got worse. Jay DeMerit was on trial at the time and was doing great Ė he learnt so much in a short space of time and was a more than adequate back up centre half. Ray was great and kept me involved but as ever Ray was really straight with me and explained that Coxy and Dyche were his first choice centre halfs and that Jay was next in line behind them. I only made four appearances by about March time, Brentford had come in for me and Ray had lost his job so it seemed a good time to slope off quietly and see if I could have a run of games at Brentford.
Were you surprised when Ray got sacked?
Yes I was a bit surprised. He is a great manager and the nicest fella in football. He was never miserable even though I am sure he was hurting at times when performances werenít as they should have been but even then he always backed us. My decision to leave wasnít based on Ray going, I wasnít getting a game under him anyway and it was doubtful I would have done under the new manager. I was ready for my next move anyway; the timing was just a coincidence but was Ray is a top fella and a top manager.
What is the day job for you now?
I am the full time manager at Staines Town in the Blue Square south. We are on a terrible run of form at the moment and we need to turn it around soon. We are paying the price for every mistake at the moment so we need to turn it around. The results have been good overall this season but we do need to stop the bad run we are on. Itís my first full time appointment having been the reserve team manager at AFC Wimbledon for a while. This year we are just looking to stay in the league and then build on that next year and see what we can achieve.
Good luck for the rest of the season, and thanks for talking to us.
Thanks fellas, all the best.