In English football history there are not many full backs who, amongst their footballing souvenirs, can boast ownership of a match ball – the prize typically awarded for scoring a hat trick. Steve Watson, however, is one of the very few. His day of glory came in September 2003, when Everton met Leeds United at Goodison and Watson, playing as an auxiliary midfielder, dispatched a treble with the aplomb of a centre forward – including a superlative 30-yard lob.
Such a goalscoring flurry was not too surprising to watching Evertonians. Anyone who had seen Watson’s brilliant overhead kicked goal from the edge of the Bolton penalty area the previous January knew that he possessed rare composure in the penalty area. But Watson was more than merely a goal-scoring full back. He was a supremely versatile footballer who always played with commitment, verve and a smile on his face no matter what role he was asked to fill.
Signed from Aston Villa for £2.5 million in the summer of 2000, Watson had previously turned down a £4million move to Goodison from Newcastle in 1998. Tall, powerful and calm in possession, Watson was a fine attacking right back whose slight lack of pace occasionally saw him exposed defensively. For a defender he possessed a fine footballing brain and was called upon to fill a variety of roles across the Everton defence and midfield and once, also, as centre forward.
His best form came following the arrival of David Moyes in March 2002, when he was pushed forward to right midfield and permed alongside the more athletic Tony Hibbert. His experience and Hibbert’s pace made them a formidable barrier down the Everton right.
During the 2004/05 season Watson was edged out of contention by Leon Osman, but was regularly called upon to deputise in a variety of positions. Never was he better than as an auxiliary left back when Everton played Manchester United towards the season’s end, almost entirely subduing Cristiano Ronaldo, as Everton secured a famous win and effectively sealed Champions League qualification. Late on Ronaldo theatrically threw himself to the ground in the Everton penalty area, but it was as much a show of frustration at being overshadowed by the veteran as an attempt to cheat a way back into the game.
At the season’s end, Watson, now aged 31, was offered a year long contract extension, but instead chose to join West Bromwich Albion on a three year deal. In 2007 he joined Sheffield Wednesday and was later appointed club captain.