THE VISIT of Andre Villas-Boas` Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday to celebrate Lloyd Doyley`s 10 years at Vicarage Road brings the return of the final glamour friendly of the summer. In years gone by Watford have seen the likes of Inter Milan, Chievo and Willem II rock up the Vic` for the final pre-season friendly, this year though, it`s all about one man.
Villas-Boas brings a strong Spurs side to WD18 this Sunday to help versatile full-back Doyley celebrate a decade with the Hornets. Gianluca Vialli didn`t do much good for Watford but only September 26 2001, the Italian handed Doyley his league debut as a substitute in 3-3 draw with Birmingham City. Replacing South African international and career-blagger Pierre Issa at the heart of the ‘Orns defence, Doyley and Watford were denied all three points by an 85th minute equaliser from Martin Grainger.
Doyley made his full debut for the Goldenboys just four days later in a 1-1 draw at home to Preston North End, partnering legendary Italy centre-half Filippo Galli in defence. The 2001/02 season saw the Whitechapel-born defender go on to establish himself as a first-team regular, making 21 appearances in the first-team.
Since his rookie season, Doyley has gone from strength to strength, making a grand total of 338 first-team starts for the Hornets in the Premier League, Championship, FA Cup, League Cup and the Play-Off campaigns of 2006 and 2008. A further 32 appearances have come from the substitutes bench for the 29 year-old stalwart.
Of course, the moment we will all remember most fondly came on Monday December 7 2009, live on Sky Sports, against Queens Park Rangers. Off-loading the ball to Jon Harley down the left, before taking up a position in the Hoops penalty area, Doyley lurked with menace before throwing himself full-pelt at Don Cowie`s hooked centre, crashing the ball home with a textbook diving header. It had taken 269 first-team appearances, but the cult figure had finally opened his professional account.
It hasn`t always been a smooth ride for Doyley who looked like he would be moved on when Aidy Boothroyd attempted to clear the decks at the end of the failed Play-Off campaign of 2008. Transfer-listed along with seven others, Doyley quickly fought back and re-established himself in the side.
Brendan Rodgers arrived in late 2008 and had similar ideas about moving Doyley on, however, the Ulsterman soon found that a Watford team without Doyley was lacking something and accommodated him at left-back, where he immediately thrived.
There will always be Doyley detractors who cannot comprehend the value of a solid, reliable, committed, understated, versatile professional like Doyley, simply because his offensive and technical prowess fails to match that of his team-mates. However, if there is one thing Doyley has worked hard on to improve, it is his contribution going forward, and whilst we might never ever another goal from the Hornet`s number 12, he is unquestionably more comfortable going forward nowadays than he has ever been.
Thanks for the memories Lloyd, it`s been a hell of a journey.
Gianfranco Zola looks likely to include as many of his new signings as possible, with Manuel Almunia certain to start between the sticks. Almen Abdi should continue in the centre of a midfield three, whilst Daniel Pudil looks a shoe-in at left back. There are however fitness concerns over Matej Vydra and Steve Leo Beleck, whilst Britt Assombalonga, Connor Smith and Stephen McGinn all have niggles.
It`s been a hectic summer at White Hart Lane, with new boss Villas-Boas arriving to the chaos left behind by predecessor, Harry Redknapp.
With Ledley King since retired and Luka Modric on strike/doing his best to force a move to Real Madrid, Spurs have lost the services of two of their key men.
Emmanuel Adebayor is yet to officially become a Spurs player on a permanent basis, but one addition that has been made is former Reading and Hoffenheim playmaker, Gylfi Sigurdsson. The 22 year-old set the Premier League alight during the second-half of last season as he helped Swansea City to maintain their top-flight status with seven strikes in 18 games. A set-piece specialist, the Icelandic international rattled in a peach against Stevenage in pre-season to notch his first goal for his new employers.
Kick-off: 12.15 for Legends match, 15.00 for Testimonial game.
Next up: Wycombe Wanderers (Capital One Cup) August 11.