Midfielder Derek signed for Watford in the same deal which brought Tommy Mooney to the club from Southend United. He spent two seasons at the club, scoring one memorable goal against Sheffield United.
Currently working in the media covering Watford games for Three Counties Radio, Derek spoke to Watford Legends in 2009.
Hi Derek. Thanks for talking with Watford Legends. How did your move to Watford come about?
I joined Southend from Barnet and then Tommy Mooney went on loan to Watford for the last two months of the season and Glenn Roeder was interested in signing both of us. I’d come across Glenn Roeder when he was at Gillingham and I was at Barnet and he obviously knew me from that and we played Watford a couple of times that season. I found out about the interest from the club that summer.
Did you enjoy your settling in period at Watford?
I found the first couple of months quite hard as Watford was the biggest club, in terms of size and pressure, I’d been at so I didn’t do myself justice on the pitch and it took me a while to settle.
I think you got on pretty well with the fans early on though…
Yeah and the settling in from the other players was excellent, they made me feel really welcome as well as the coaching staff and the fans. The fans were superb from the start and all the way through, I never felt not wanted there.
Do you remember the chant that the Watford fans had for you?
Was that the one about Fred West? Yeah I remember.
I remember you doing the digging action!
At the time when people asked me about it I said it was nice as it was better than being called something horrible. I used to love it when the fans sang that to me as it made me feel a million dollars and six foot tall and I’m only five foot! It was great.
You were at Watford for two seasons so were there any players that you knocked around with?
Craig Ramage, David Barnes, Kevin Miller, Geoff Pitcher and Kevin Phillips when he joined. I tried to take Kevin under my wing as he had come from non-league and I‘d done the same so knew what it was like. That was our little crowd although I got on well with all the lads.
Where Kevin Phillips is concerned, have you been impressed how he came from Baldock and has had a really successful career over the years?
It’s been excellent for Kevin. I was lucky enough to play in the first game with him where it was a reserve game and I was coming back from injury. We played at Millwall he scored one and he got a foul for a penalty and I remember saying to him at half time that they must sign you. It was great the way he took it all in his stride and he was a brilliant player.
So it’s not really been too much of a surprise how he’s gone to do so well over the years?
We were all surprised at first how he took to it all so well being at a bigger club. He just came in and straight away started scoring goals and to do that was very impressive.
Knocking about with Craig Ramage you must have a few tales to tell on him?
Yeah Craig was a character! He was a great player who loved the crowd and the crowd loved him and that was what he responded to. I roomed with Craig a lot and sometimes he wouldn’t be so confident before the game but once he got out on the pitch he was brilliant. He was a pleasure to play with.
Are you still in touch with any players from your Watford days?
I sometimes speak to Craig. I could speak to all of them as you have their numbers but you grow apart but if I were to speak to those players I played with it is like you are still mates, it’s not like you haven’t spoken to each other for years. I know I could speak to Gary Porter, Nigel Gibbs, Andy Hessenthaler, any of them, and I’m sure we would all be fine but I don’t really speak to them much as you all go your way but if I needed to it would be ok.
As I’m involved in non-league football now, I’m sure if I wanted to speak to Andy Hessenthaler as he is at Dover now it would be like we were back at training again as we all got on really well.
Were there any games that stood out for you at Watford in terms of a best game or most exciting game you were involved in?
Personally I enjoyed scoring a goal on the opening day of the season against Sheffield United. It was great to score at home in front of the fans and to win as well as we won 2-1. That was a game I’ll always remember.
We played Tottenham in the League Cup and that was a good game at home because they had a really good side, Klinsmann and all them, and that one stays in memory because of how good they were. There are other games at home, like when Kevin Phillips came in and started scoring.
We had a lot of good games at home, Sheffield United and Tottenham where I scored and the game against Burnley where I got sent off and I don’t think I deserved it.
In terms of Watford you played under Glenn Roeder, how did you find him as a manager?
He was a good manager, tactically good and always good to you but there was a feeling about the club in the summer that we needed to go out and buy two or three more players just to make us a stronger squad and everyone was waiting for Glenn to do it but it didn’t happen and we weren’t happy with that. Apart from that I haven’t really got a lot to say against him, I just feel that he stayed safe where he should have taken a chance. He didn’t really build on us coming seventh in the first season I was there and we just went backwards.
You did two seasons with us then you moved on to Peterborough, what made you leave the club?
I didn’t want to leave the club at all as I was really happy but in my last season there I had two months out with a groin injury, came back and played, then a few games later I broke my toe and I only came back right at the end of that season. I think Graham Taylor looked at my injury record and didn’t want me there so when you’re not wanted there isn’t much that you can do.
I loved the club and really didn’t want to go. Obviously I hadn’t played much while he was there and we discussed this and I would of run through a brick wall for him but he didn’t want me there so there was nothing I could do.
Did you play in that game at London Road which was a bit of a relegation battle between Watford and Peterborough?
I was at Peterborough but I was suspended for that game, there’s a shock! I had played back at Vicarage Road when we beat you in the cup but I didn’t play in that game.
What are you up to nowadays?
I’ve been assistant manager at Bracknell Town and I also had a little time as assistant manager at Hemel Hempstead. I’ve also done some coaching with kids at a couple of schools for nothing because it’s my old school. Really I’ve been in non-league since I left Peterborough at 33 still playing even at 41.
I’m trying to get more involved in the management side of things which is a learning process and I’m still learning as it is different to playing and it takes time. That’s why I spend a lot of my time being an assistant manager so that I can learn and gain experience, as I really want to be a manager some day.
Do you have any business interests outside of the game?
I do financial stuff with shares which keeps me busy but apart from that not really.
If we were to fast forward ten years, what would your ideal job be?
I’d love to be managing QPR, as that was the club I supported as a child, Watford or Barnet. I would love to get back in the league at some point. Barnet is very close to my heart because that is the first club that I went to. I imagine it would be hard to get in at Watford although Adrian Boothroyd, who I played with at Peterborough, did it so it’s not impossible.
I would like to start non-league and make my mistakes and gain experience and then move up into the league.
What was Aidy like as a player?
Very fit and enthusiastic and when he came to Watford I could see that with his side. He made them quick, fit and strong and that was what Adrian was like.
Thanks for your time Derek.
No trouble lads.
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