||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (December 2009)|
|Full name||Gordon William George Watson|
|Date of birth||20 March 1971|
|Place of birth||Sidcup, England|
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
Gordon William George Watson (born 20 March 1971) is a retired English football player whose career was almost ended when he suffered a double fracture in the right leg in a tackle with Huddersfield Town defender Kevin Gray on 1 February 1997.
Throughout his career he was known as "Flash", a nickname he first acquired at 4 years old, after the comic book hero, Flash Gordon.
Born in Sidcup, he was playing in local tyro football when he was spotted by scouts from his local team Charlton Athletic. He joined them as an associate school-boy in June 1985, signing as a trainee in July 1987 and as a professional in April 1989. He made his debut for Charlton against Derby County, who had Peter Shilton in goal. After a two years spell at the Addicks, in which he scored eight goals in 23 starts, the headstrong Watson made the brave move to uproot to South Yorkshire and join Sheffield Wednesday in February 1991 for a fee of £250,000.
Although he was never a regular fixture in the Sheffield Wednesday side (making a total of only 88 appearances in 4 years, of which 46 were as substitute) he enjoyed some good times as Wednesday were promoted to Division 1 (the top level) at the end of his first season and then achieved third place in 1991–92 and a place in the UEFA cup. In the UEFA Cup Watson appeared in 3 of the 4 games played by Wednesday, who reached the second round going out to Kaiserslautern.
Wednesday also reached both the FA Cup final (lost to Arsenal after a replay) and the League Cup final (also lost to Arsenal) in 1993, although Watson did not play in any of the finals, being behind Mark Bright, David Hirst and Paul Warhurst in the choice of strikers.
His best season for Wednesday was 1993–94 when, with David Hirst missing much of the season through injury, Watson scored 12 goals in 23 league appearances. In the following season, Wednesday struggled for goals generally but Watson made only 5 starts coming off the bench a further 18 times.
He made his Saints debut at Nottingham Forest on 18 March 1995 and scored against Newcastle United in his home debut 4 days later as the Saints came from a goal down after 89 minutes to snatch an unlikely 3–1 victory. Watson went on to make 12 Premier League appearances (scoring 3 goals) in the 1994–95 season as Saints lifted themselves to a 10th place finish.
According to Holley & Chalk's In That Number, Watson was "an effervescent,never-say-die forward, the sort the crowd always love and, although not the most skilful of front-runners, he had a swashbuckling style that unnerved defences."
Alan Ball left The Dell at the end of the 1994–95 season, to be replaced by Dave Merrington. The 1995–96 season was a poor one for both the Saints (finishing in 17th place, just above the relegation zone) and Watson, with only 3 goals from 25 league appearances, with the goal-scoring being shared by Matthew Le Tissier and Neil Shipperley, with 7 league goals each. For 1996–97, Saints appointed a new manager in Graeme Souness who brought in Egil Østenstad as first choice striker to play alongside Le Tissier, leaving Watson to make only the occasional appearance. His final appearance for The Saints was in a humiliating FA Cup defeat at Elm Park, Reading on 4 January 1997.
Two weeks later, Watson was sold to Bradford City for £550,000 and was the club's then record signing.
In only Watson's third game for the club he suffered a double fracture of the right leg in a tackle with Huddersfield Town defender Kevin Gray on 1 February 1997. The tackle was described by football pundit, Jimmy Hill, as "late, dangerous and violent" and was the worst he had seen in fifty years of football. The fourth minute tackle during a 1–1 draw at Valley Parade led to Watson undergoing emergency surgery in which he required a 6-inch plate and 7 screws inserted into his leg.
Following five further operations, he missed the remainder of the 1996–97 season, the entire 1997–98 campaign and he only managed a handful of starting appearances in the 1998–99 season before his contract came to an end.
In a landmark case in the High Court, in October 1998, Watson successfully sued Gray for negligence and was awarded £50,000 in interim damages as well as a latter £900,000, the bulk of which was to compensate for the loss of anticipated earnings.
On expiry of his contract with Bradford City (now promoted to the Premiership) in June 1999, Watson declined the offer of a new contract explaining that he was not "fit enough or good enough to represent Bradford City in the top flight".
In August 1999 he signed for Bournemouth in an effort to rebuild his career but only made 11 league and cup appearances in the 1999–00 season. When his contract expired in June 2000 it was not renewed and he spent the next year out of the game with his career seemingly at an end.
In September 2001 he was signed by Hartlepool United (managed by Watson's former Sheffield Wednesday team-mate Chris Turner). In just 31 starts in 2001–02, Watson's goal haul of 18 helped the side off the bottom of the table and into the Third Division play-offs. Watson was easily the club's top-scorer in 2001–02, with double that of his closest "rivals".
The 2002–03 season was another frustrating one for Watson. He started brightly with five goals in the first eight games, but in the 4–1 victory over Darlington on 14 September 2002 he broke his left leg after a sliding challenge with Matthew Clarke. This ruled him out for much of the club's successful promotion campaign. Although he returned in March, he was never fully fit and failed to add to his goal tally. Even so, Watson clearly enjoyed his swan-song at Hartlepool as did the club's fans with many fan sites describing him as "Hartlepool's best ever striker".
His Hartlepool contract expired in June 2003 and was not renewed as Watson sought to move back South. In August 2003 he had a trial with his former club Sheffield Wednesday but, after suffering a further knee injury in training, this came to nothing and Watson finally ended his playing career.
Despite leaving Southampton in 1997, Watson and his family continue to live in the city where he runs a property renovation business. He is also involved in coaching his son, Callum, in junior football and hopes eventually to move up to coaching at a higher level.
In January 2007, he began working for Southampton's in-house radio station "The Saint", subsequently Radio Hampshire, taking over as a match analyser from Jimmy Case when he was unavailable. He also worked for G-Sports, an African PPV Sports channel as a pundit for Premier League & Serie A coverage.
- Duncan Holley & Gary Chalk (2003). In That Number – A post-war chronicle of Southampton FC. Hagiology. p. 595. ISBN 0-9534474-3-X.
- ""Hard Cases" in Court". www.le.ac.uk (Singer & Friedlander Football Review). Archived from the original on 2 June 2007. Retrieved 14 June 2007.
- "The tackle that cost £959,143". www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk. Retrieved 14 June 2007.
- "Watson: I'm Not Gordon-Ough". www.4thegame.com. Retrieved 14 June 2007.
- "Hartlepool 4 Darlington 1". www.hartlepoolunited.premiumtv.co.uk. Retrieved 14 June 2007.
- "Gone in a Flash – Watson on his way". www.thefootballnetwork.net. Retrieved 15 June 2007.
- "Emotional Watson bids sad farewell to Pool". www.hartlepoolunited.premiumtv.co.uk. Retrieved 14 June 2007.
- "Cooper's call saved the day for Strachan". groups.msn.com/WEARETEESSIDE. Retrieved 14 June 2007.
- Watson and Pearson back together again – The Daily Echo (27 September 2008).