David Watson (footballer born 1946)

David Watson (footballer born 1946)
David Watson
Personal information
Full name David Vernon Watson
Date of birth 5 October 1946 (1946-10-05) (age 65)
Place of birth Stapleford, England
Playing position Central defender
Youth career
Stapleford O.B
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1966–1967 Notts County 25 (1)
1967–1970 Rotherham United 121 (19)
1970–1975 Sunderland 177 (27)
1975–1979 Manchester City 146 (4)
1979 Werder Bremen 2 (0)
1979–1982 Southampton 73 (7)
1982–1983 Stoke City 59 (5)
1983 Vancouver Whitecaps 26 (3)
1983–1984 Derby County 34 (1)
1984 Fort Lauderdale Sun
1984–1985 Notts County 25 (1)
1985-1986 Kettering Town 14 (3)
National team
1974–1982 England 65 (4)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

David Vernon Watson (born 5 October 1946), was a centre half who was part of the Sunderland team that won the FA Cup in 1973.[1]


Playing career

Early career

Watson was born in Stapleford, Nottinghamshire, and started his career in 1966 as a striker with hometown club Notts County, before moving to Rotherham United in 1968.

Rotherham United

Watson was signed by Tommy Docherty for Rotherham United in a player exchange which involved Keith Pring, a Welsh international left winger, going to Notts County and the Millers paying £1,000.

In his debut he wore the number 11 shirt and played on the left wing in a 6-0 thrashing at Queens Park Rangers on 6 January 1968. In his second match he played on the left side of midfield and in his third match, Docherty intended to play him at right back in the Third Round FA Cup match at Millmoor against the top flight club Wolverhampton Wanderers.

30 minutes before the game was due to start Watson told Docherty he couldn't play at right back and asked to play centre half where he would be up against the legendary centre forward, Derek Dougan. Docherty relented and Watson played one of the finest games of his life keeping Dougan completely out of the game in a big cup upset which Rotherham won 1-0. Dougan even drifted over to the left wing to try to get the ball and was followed by Watson who unceremonially dumped him and the ball over the touch line.

Watson then made the number 5 shirt his own and was recognised as a future England international at centre half. He scored so many goals from corners that he was converted to centre forward and scored 12 goals in 20 matches before being transferred to Sunderland for £100,000.


In December 1970 he journeyed to the north-east to join Sunderland and in the 1971-1972 season was their leading scorer with 15 goals. The following season new Sunderland boss Bob Stokoe successfully moved him from centre forward to the centre-back position.

Sunderland were outside the First Division at the time but made a run to the FA Cup final at Wembley to face Leeds United. Leeds were the FA Cup holders and had many international players of great experience, yet on a rainy day at Wembley Sunderland won.

Watson's performances were noticed at the highest level and less than a year later he was given his debut for England in a friendly game against Portugal in Lisbon. Watson – quite advanced in years for a debutant at 27 – was one of six first-timers on show (among the others were Trevor Brooking) in what would prove to be 1966 World Cup-winning manager Alf Ramsey's last game in charge.

Later in 1974, Watson won his second cap in an 2–0 defeat by Scotland at Hampden Park, Glasgow, coming on as a substitute for Norman Hunter. His first competitive game at international level was his seventh appearance in all as England defeated Czechoslovakia 3–0 at Wembley in a qualifier for the 1976 European Championships. Despite this scoreline, England would not ultimately qualify for the finals while the Czech team would go on to win it.

Watson had started to become an England regular, playing in every international match in 1975. He was still a Sunderland player until the summer of that year but with the club, despite its FA Cup success and size, not yet achieving promotion back to the top flight of English football, Watson moved to Manchester City for £275,000. He had 14 caps to his name by the time he finally played a top flight game. The year ended with England losing the return leg of the European qualifiers to the Czechs and then drew in Portugal.

Manchester City

In 1976 Watson had a strong beginning to his Manchester City career, with the side finishing eighth in the First Division and reaching the League Cup final, where they beat Newcastle United 2–1, giving Watson another successful day at Wembley and a winner's medal in the game's other major domestic cup competition.

In the autumn of 1975, Watson sustained an injury to his back which resulted in him having a laminectomy at the end of the season in May 1976. As a result of this he could not play for England during the whole calendar year of 1976. He did continue to play for Manchester City during this period but missed numerous games due to the injury. Despite this, Manchester City still achieved a defensive record at the end of the 1975–76 campaign, which had been bettered only by the top three teams in the final table. In the absence of Watson, England boss Don Revie had decided to look at other central defenders, including Liverpool's Phil Thompson and Manchester United's precocious youngster Brian Greenhoff. Watson was not able to take part in a special tournament to commemorate the United States Bicentennial celebrations, which would have pitched him up against the likes of Pelé and Bobby Moore, both of whom were playing in the NASL at the time. He also sat out three qualifying games for the 1978 World Cup.

At the beginning of 1977, Thompson had suffered an injury which put paid to his whole season (missing Liverpool's first European Cup victory in the process) and Watson, now 30 years old and back to full health, was back in the England side. He played every minute of England's fixtures that year, including World Cup qualifying victories over Luxembourg (twice) and Italy, though after the Italians had earlier defeated England in the campaign and had a better goals record against Luxembourg. England missed out on the finals for a second successive tournament. Watson did not miss another England game until 1980.

The following season, Watson was made club captain after veteran Mike Doyle started to wind down his career, and Manchester City finished fourth in the League with Watson missing just one match. During the same year, Watson's establishment as England's first choice central defender was galvanised by a 4–3 victory over Denmark in Copenhagen which set the seal on a qualification for the 1980 European Championships – England's first major tournament qualification for a decade.

After Manchester City

Watson was surprisingly sold to Werder Bremen in the summer of 1979. He made his Bundesliga debut in a 1–0 win against Bayer Uerdingen. In his second league game with the club, a 4–1 defeat against 1860 Munich, he was sent off for violent conduct against Hermann Bitz, and received an eight-week suspension for the incident.[2] In October 1979, Watson's relationship with the management deteriorated further after refusing to travel to an away game against Schalke 04, claiming he was injured. He returned to England shortly afterwards, signing for Southampton for a fee of £200,000.

Watson continued his England career, earning his 50th cap against Argentina in a warm-up game prior to the European Championships in Italy. Watson duly played in all three of England's group games – against Belgium, Italy and Spain – but a draw, defeat and victory respectively was not enough for England to progress.

Southampton were a strong, experienced team when Watson joined them, with his England friends Kevin Keegan, Mick Channon, and Alan Ball among their charges. However, Watson was now 33 years of age, and it was believed that his career was winding down. Yet he played for Southampton and continued to be selected for England as a result, playing in the first six of the eight qualifying games for the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

Though in the squads for the last two qualifiers, England coach Ron Greenwood looked a little to the future by selecting Russell Osman and then Alvin Martin to replace Watson at the back. England booked their place at the finals thanks to a 1–0 win over Hungary at Wembley in the final qualifier, and in the preparatory friendly matches over the next six months, Watson featured just twice: in a 4–0 win over Northern Ireland in February 1982, and then in a 1–1 draw in Reykjavík against Iceland in June, just a fortnight before England's first match in a World Cup finals tournament for twelve years. By now, Watson had left Southampton for Stoke City and had thus become the first player to be capped by England while with five different clubs. Only Peter Shilton and David Platt have since emulated this achievement. Plus Emile Heskey and David James

To Watson's dismay, Greenwood chose not to select him in the World Cup squad of 22. Thompson and the young Ipswich Town defender Terry Butcher was his preferred partnership at the back with young Brighton centre back Steve Foster getting the nod as cover.

England went out of the tournament in the second phase and with Greenwood leaving the job and new coach Bobby Robson needing to build a new team for the rest of the 1980s, it was obvious that a 36-year-old Watson would no longer be required for England. With 65 caps and four goals, it was over. During the summer of 1982, Watson took part in a disastrous 'rebel' tour of South Africa, organised by Jimmy Hill and managed by John Barnwell. The tour included many other former England players whose best days were behind them, such as Mick Channon, Stuart Pearson and Brian Greenhoff.

As well as the welcome record for being capped while with five clubs, he also holds a less welcome record for winning the most England caps without ever playing in the World Cup finals. At 36 years of age when winning his final cap, Watson is also one of the oldest outfield players ever to play for England.

Watson scaled down his career by playing for Derby County and making a brief return to his first club Notts County. He also spent some time with Vancouver Whitecaps in the NASL in 1983 (26 Apps 3 Goals). In 1984, he joined the Fort Lauderdale Sun of the second division United Soccer League (USL).

Watson has kept a low profile since retirement, concentrating on his business interests. When his England career ended, he was seventh in the list of most capped players, though since then no fewer than 20 players, as of September 2010, have surpassed his total.


As a player

Manchester City


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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