Ode to Lloyd
Jack Ottman on Lloyd Doyley
The word ‘legend’ should definitely be reserved for a select few players at each football club and it often gets handed out too easily in my opinion. During the time I’ve been following Watford since the early 2000s I would say there have been two players who have graced the hallowed turf at Vicarage Road who have genuinely earned the right to be called legends.
The first is Troy Deeney – I don’t think I need to elaborate any more on that as anyone of a Watford persuasion would surely agree. The second name might be slightly more controversial (and given away by the title of this article) but as he is the only man to make more appearances than Deeney since I’ve been following the club, I think Lloyd Doyley earns his place on the list.
In many ways his Watford career could be described as unremarkable. Even his first-team debut for the club was overshadowed by Pierre Issa, the man he replaced off the bench, being dropped off a stretcher.
In today’s game, any right-back is expected to bomb forward down the wing and provide an attacking threat, so in many ways it is probably for the best that Doyley played for Watford when he did. He was one of the best defenders I’ve seen at defending one-on-one against a winger but his attacking threat was next to zero. At least this was the case until 7 December 2009, a night any Watford fan who was present will never forget. That evening, Lloyd’s name was etched into Watford folklore when, on his 269th appearance for the Golden Boys, he opened his account by scoring the opening goal against QPR, a bullet header at the far post. It was a relatively unremarkable game in an unremarkable season but the celebrations that night were some of the best and loudest I’ve seen at Vicarage Road. That goal alone is enough to earn his legendary status in my eyes. He was just as surprised as everyone else in the stadium and didn’t even know where or how to celebrate. In some ways his second goal (a mishit cross away to Bolton in 2012) takes the sheen off his header against QPR, which on its own was somewhat more special, so I prefer to pretend he only managed the one.
He was a man of very few words (I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard him in a club interview), and he seemed to be dropped by every single new manager who came into the club but he always made his way back into the team pretty quickly thanks to his dependability and versatility. The vast majority of his Watford career was spent as a right-back in a back four but he also had several spells filling in at left-back (despite being one of the most one-footed players I’ve ever seen – which only added to his appeal). However, for me, his crowning moment came in the 2013 play-off final. During the season he had adapted seamlessly to a new system by playing as the right-sided centre-back in a back three, and despite the failure of the majority of the Watford players to turn up at Wembley at the culmination of that season, he put in a man-of-the-match performance.
The only disappointment for me in his Watford career was that his final appearance came in a drab, uninspiring 0-1 defeat at home to Wolves over the Christmas period in 2014, but at least we did manage to secure promotion that season and he joined in the celebrations and was rightfully showered with champagne by his fellow legend and club captain, Deeney.
You won’t hear his name mentioned very often in all-time Watford XIs thanks to Nigel Gibbs slightly eclipsing his 395 club appearances. However, as a player who was seemingly ever-present in my first decade of following the club, he holds a very special place in my heart.