Defender Wayne initially signed for the club on loan from Ipswich Town in 2002. After returning to his parent club, he signed permanently the following season but struggled to establish himself in the side, and after a couple of loan spells away, he joined Colchester United in 2004.
Now coaching at Colchester United, Wayne spoke to Watford Legends in 2012.
Hi Wayne. Thanks for talking to Watford Legends. Tell us how your move to the club came about.
I didn’t really get a sniff at Ipswich for about seven years, albeit five of those were as a scholar. I made my debut when I was 19, but the first real season I had was the year we won promotion to the Premier League. In that season I played around 29 games. So I felt I had made a contribution to the team, but I was told that I was not going to feature in the Premier League.
I’ve never been the type of lad who wants to sit in the stands or on the bench. So that season I went to Wimbledon on loan. I had a fantastic time and played 17 times. Terry Burton was my manager there and I was playing alongside a lot of players who had a lot of experience. I went back to Ipswich and George Burley kept me in the squad but not in the side, so I wanted to go back out on loan again. And it was at this point I was told that Watford had enquired for me and I came over.
In the two and a half months I was at the club I enjoyed it immensely and enjoyed working for Luca. As soon as my loan ended I wanted to sign straight away on a permanent basis. But for whatever reason it didn’t happen. I think what didn’t help was Ipswich’s valuation of me which I thought was too high at £750,000.
I really liked working for Luca. I respected him for what he had done in the game and he was very personable, as was his assistant, Ray Wilkins. I felt that Luca got the best out of the lads, and I learned a lot from the experienced pros such as Neil Cox and Filippo Galli.
The fans are very critical of Vialli, yet many of the players recall how they liked working for him. Would you be one of those?
Vialli was a gentleman. He was a manager who knew how to treat players both as a group and as individuals. And not all managers can do both. I thought his man-management was exceptional. I think this ability was due to his own upbringing and where he had been in his career.
I think, and this is no disrespect to Luca, that he spent a hell of a lot of money on players that weren’t good enough. But these players had come from big teams so they were expensive. And these were not the sort of players you wanted to get promotion out of the Championship. I’m sure if he could have his time again he would have bought top Championship players to help get Watford out of the division.
You made the move permanent in the end though.
Yes I was offered a three year contract at Ipswich, but as I said before, I’ve never been the type to sit on the bench, so I sat down with George Burley and told him that unless I was going to play, I would not sign. So I didn’t sign the contract, but went on to play the first dozen games that year. After this time George got the sack and Joe Royle came in. He told me after 10 days that I wasn’t going to be in his plans. I was thankful for his honesty, and it then gave me the opportunity to sign or Watford.
Were any other clubs in for you?
Yes there were but I wanted to go to Watford as I knew the lads there, and I knew Ray Lewington as he was the reserve manager under Luca. And I knew Terry Burton from my Wimbledon spell.
How did you find it when you came back as a permanent player?
It was totally different. Luca had the respect of everyone at the club, as did Ray Wilkins, but the feel for the place was completely different.
One of the things that was happening was that they were trying to get rid of Paul Robinson. So they had Marcus Gayle at centre half, who was a striker, and me at left back. I didn’t really like playing at left back. I could do a job there for the odd game but it wasn’t my position. My attributes didn’t really suit that position and I felt like a square peg in a round hole.
To be honest, if I had known that this was going to be the case, I would never have signed. I feel that I was put there just because they were trying to ship out Paul Robinson.
Why was everything so different?
I think it was due to the fact that the manager had gone. He had a persona and created an environment at the club that was no longer there. I think also that even though Luca’s team was not immensely successful, Ray’s side was near the bottom of the league, which is never as nice. So it is always hard coming in to that type of environment.
You played around 25 games on a permanent basis. Do any stand out?
I think in those 25 games I only played four at centre half. I think in those four games we won more than we lost. I’m not saying this is due to me but they stand out as I was in a position where I felt comfortable, as I had done when I played centre half when I was on loan.
So when the opportunity came to leave Watford for a permanent deal at Colchester, I guess it wasn’t a difficult decision.
I said to Ray Lewington that I wasn’t going to play at left back. It wasn’t my position. I respected the fact that Marcus Gayle was immense at centre half, but to play me at left back wasn’t working.
In the end Ray brought in Dychey as a centre half and Ray had me running round the perimeter of the training ground with Paolo Vernazza, another lad that Ray wanted out of the club. So I think anyone in that position would have wanted to leave.
I was offered opportunities at Plymouth, Gillingham or Colchester. I had been on loan at Colchester and really liked playing for them. So when the opportunity came along to go there I was very happy to.
So what is the job situation now?
I was offered a chance of a year at Plymouth, but I turned it down as I knew the baby would be arriving, and I did not want to put my career ahead of my personal life. You don’t want to miss the early days and months of your daughter’s life so I decided to knock football on the head. I also had so many niggly injuries in my last year at Preston that it helped the decision. I didn’t see eye to eye at Hull with Phil Brown, so when he became the Preston manager it cemented my decision.
So I knocked it on the head to spend some quality time with the family.
Day to day now I am a property manager for my mother in law’s rental firm in Ipswich. We have just over 500 properties on the books and my work is to look after these properties in terms of inspections and tenants and so on.
I must admit I have found it hard. Going from training with 30 lads each day to working with three middle aged women in an office has been tough. It’s been a tough transition but I accept you have to earn a living.
I’m also doing a little bit of coaching so there may be an opportunity to get back involved with the game a little bit next year.
Well good luck with everything Wayne, thanks for your time.
No probs, thanks for inviting me on to your website.
Quick Fire Round
|Favourite Ground (apart from the Vic)|
|Best Ever Player|
|Team you supported as a boy|
|West Ham United|
|Favourite Holiday Destination|
|Favourite TV Show|
|All reality shows|
|Never happier than when|
|...I was at the birth of my daughter|
|Desert Island Woman|