James is now living in Doncaster.
Hi James. Thanks for talking to Watford Legends How did your move down to Watford come about?
I was at West Brom and had come through the ranks there. I had played a few first team games and was in and around the squad. We then got promoted to the Premier League for the second time and I found myself surplus to requirements quite early on in the season. I then had the opportunity to come down to Watford, I think it was a loan move at first. A lot of the move was down to Mark Ashton. He was involved in the community side of things at West Brom and he knew me from there. He then put my name forward to the manager, which was Ray Lewington at the time, and the move came about from there.
Did you have any reservations in coming down?
Nothing more than what you would expect. I was only about 21 at the time and it was my first loan move and so it meant moving clubs for the first time so I was a little unsure of what to expect but I think that is only natural. And of course being away from my home area for the first time took some getting used to.
How did you enjoy your time at The Vic overall?
It was great. As I said it started with a loan move for a month and I went straight into the team as there had been an injury to someone, though I canít remember who it was now that was injured. I completed the loan, went back to West Brom and then managed to sort out the permanent move shortly afterwards. The loan move and then the permanent move were the best spells of my career what with the paly offs and the promotion, they were very enjoyable times.
What would be your stand out games from your time at the club?
The first one that springs to mind would be the play off final down in Cardiff. That game is well known as being the biggest game in the world in respect of financial rewards for the club so it is a huge game to play in. Also the cup semi-final against Manchester United was great to play in. And another I have just remembered is the Carling cup double header against Liverpool! There are plenty to choose from though; we had some great games during my time.
What was it like to play at Anfield on that night? I remember it being a great atmosphere in amongst the 6,000 or so Watford fans there that evening.
It was brilliant, really superb. It is great to play at that ground at any time though and I think we played quite well that night. We lost 1-0 but with the way we played I still think we did very well to be honest and the atmosphere was brilliant.
You mentioned the play off final just now; you scored a bit of a screamer in that game as well didnít you?!
Ha ha yes it was a great strike! Funnily enough I am now playing with the keeper I scored that against up here at Doncaster - Neil Sullivan. I regularly remind him of that goal! Apart from the five deflections and going in off the back of his head it was quite a good strike!
Did you get credited with the goal or did it go down as an own goal?
I donít know if it was officially given to me. Some papers put it down as me and some others put it down as a Sullivan own goal but I donít know what the official records say.
What was that period of time like at the club when Aidy Boothroyd was in charge?
His spell at Watford was obviously very successful. He was actually at West Brom in charge of the youth squad when I was at the club and there were a lot of reports coming from the young lads in his squad about how his techniques were different and his coaching style was very good.
When he got to Watford he brought a freshness to the place first and foremost. To be honest he is a man that is a born winner and he demands the same of the people he is managing as well.
You speak highly of Aidy Boothroyd as do a lot of the other players we have spoken to from that era. So what do you make of it now where Coventry paid good money to get him from Colchester, then sacked him and now he is rumoured to be applying for jobs at League Two level?
Football is a difficult game as a player in that one minute you are hot and the next you are not and I think that is even more the case when you are a football manager. You also need to consider the availability of jobs at the time. As a player you can be signed to bolster a squad but as a manager you are limited to what jobs you can go for. On the back of what he achieved at Watford you would have thought he would have got a crack at a bigger club but a lot of the time it can come down to managerial style and the style of play you develop at a club. Sometimes that counts for more than what success you have had. Overall though I am surprised he hasnít managed on a more regular basis in the Premier League.
We are big Aidy Boothroyd fans and the promotion season was one of the best of recent years, however some people have said they believe him to be a one season wonder or just a motivator. He certainly got players playing for him, but did you ever find that he might be inspiring one week but then after a period of time that inspirational talk maybe wasnít quite as effective?
Out of all the managers I have played under, when it comes to inspiration and getting players playing he is the one I have learnt the most from. In my opinion one of his best attributes is that he employs people around him that all give different angles, opinions and ideas so the methods are always evolving.
I remember one day he brought in one of the New Zealand All Black captains to talk to us about successes and motivational stuff. Little things like that make a difference and Aidy was always getting people in from all walks of life but all who were successful people so he certainly isnít a one hit wonder in terms of the motivational side of things as he is always looking at new methods. If you are looking at promotions then yes he has only one in his locker so far but some managers donít even get that, but that isnít what successes are all about.
You also got to play in the derby game against L***n at their place during that promotion season. As a midlands lad how did you find it to play in that game?
I always remember the game played at L***n because of the pitch. It is a really small, tight pitch and in terms of quality it was one of the worst in the league. With it being a local derby it was a game that the players really wanted to win for the fans, and obviously it means a great deal to the fans as well.
To be honest there were so many good games I played at Watford and a lot of that comes down to the camaraderie we had at the club which was superb. Another game that stands out in terms of team spirit is the Palace game at home in the play offs. Even though it was 0-0 I remember that the team spirit at the time was just unbelievable.
You first left Watford in a loan move to Cardiff, what prompted you to leave the club?
It all started really during the Premiership year. I was playing out of position in right midfield. I had played there before but not on a regular basis. I then found myself out of the team and out of favour with Aidy and it got to the stage where I couldnít see myself getting back in the side anytime soon. Funnily enough it was Ray Lewingtonís assistant when he was at Watford, Terry Burton, who was at Cardiff at the time and they needed a full back as cover. It was a good month for me. Cardiff were top of the Championship at the time and I got a good solid months football under my belt.
And how are you enjoying your time now up at Doncaster Rovers?
Itís good, Iím happy here. I had a year at Leicester after Cardiff and I played a lot of games but it wasnít a great year in terms of football as we got relegated from the Championship which wasnít helped by playing under three or four managers that year. I then came up to Doncaster where they were playing total football which was a breath of fresh air compared to what I had done previously in my career. Itís not the biggest club I have played for in terms of size and expectation but the football is as good as it has been anywhere else.
Is the style still the same now that OíDriscoll has gone and Dean Saunders has taken over as manager?
To be honest Iíve been injured so I donít know exactly the style of play the manager has been after but I think it has changed a bit. Sean OíDriscoll played out and out total football but I think the new manager has different ideas to that though he does still want to pass the ball well.
Are you out injured for the big game on Saturday then?
Yes I am unfortunately, Iíve been out for a while and I still have a while to go yet before I am fit again. I had an operation on my knee. With the type of injury it is it makes it difficult to put a time frame on but I do think it will be into the New Year now. It is an injury where I have to go along with how it is feeling if that makes sense. If it feels good and strong I will try and push on but if it is straining then I will ease up a bit. I am still in every day with the physioís which is quite strenuous in itself with the hours I am putting in and the exercises I am doing. Iíve managed to do a bit of running recently which is a good mark of progression and gives me a good benchmark to work from.
Will you go to the game on Saturday or will you be doing your Christmas shopping? And what is your prediction for the game?
I will be at the game, donít you worry about that! And as for the resultÖitís too close to call!
Sitting on the fence! Good luck with the injury, and thanks for talking to us.
Thanks lads, good talking to you.