Questions and Answers
Alec Chamberlain has been a professional footballer since 1981 - a remarkable 24 years. And he's still going strong! So how has he done it? What's been his most memorable moment? His most difficult opponent? Here Alec answers some of the questions he's regularly asked by supporters...
Q. So how have you lasted 24 years at the top of your game?
A. Firstly I have been very lucky with injuries which can seriously curtail people's careers. I have tried to look after myself, kept in good shape and have obviously played well enough to be offered a contract which will take me to 42.
Q. At 40, how much is it about experience, and how much is the need to keep fit?
A. Both aspects play a part. My agility will be different from that of a younger player, but my experience will help with communication and reading the game which play an important part in a match situation.
Q. How long can you realistically keep going for?
A. I have to take it one year at a time and at present I feel that I am still able to perform to the level that is needed.
Q. You could have played professional cricket, so why did you chose football?
A. Football chose me to be honest and offered me the contract first although I had had trials with Middlesex County Cricket Club.
Q. When Ipswich released you back in 1982, did you think that was it, or were you confident you could still make a living from the game?
A. Yes, I thought I was on my way back to Ramsey to continue my studies and play locally again. After the disappointing year at Ipswich my confidence was low so to get a chance at Colchester was a real bonus and I must thank Allan Hunter for giving me that chance and for believing in me.
Q. Do you remember you league debut for Colchester? Who was it against, were you nervous, and how did you get on?
A. It is a long time ago now!! Mike Walker had been injured over the Christmas period in 1982 but I did not know this (no sub goalies on the bench in those days so I did not travel with the first team you see). I arrived at the ground at 1.45 pm, to be told that Mike was having a fitness test which he subsequently failed. So, I did not have too long to get nervous but my heart was certainly pounding by kick-off time!!!
We went on to win the game against Hartlepool at Layer Road 4 - 1. The team looked after me well I am pleased to say.
Q. In your first season at Colchester you played against Manchester United in a Cup match. That must have been an exciting experience at just 19.
A. Yes, it was a big occasion with Layer Road full to capacity. It certainly gave me a taste of playing in front of bigger crowds, more tension and the atmosphere that it creates.
Q. When you signed for Everton did you ever think you could take over from Neville Southall?
A. No, not really but the experience I gained from working with him every day was invaluable. He was extremely supportive and helpful.
Q. Do you think a season as an Everton player helped get you a move to a First Division club?
A. Yes. It gave me more credibility coming from the former League Champions and having spent a year in that environment. The fact that Luton paid nearly double the transfer fee for me a year after leaving Colchester United speaks volumes.
Q. When you finally established yourself as first choice at Luton, it must have been a great thrill, playing against some of the best players in the world every week?
A. It was a perfect setting for me. A small friendly, family club, much like Colchester United, but playing in the top division. I had many busy games and was able to show everyone what I could do against some unbelievably talented players. Again, this helped me gain experience playing under pressure as Luton were always struggling to stay in this league.
Q. Did you ever have sleepless nights worry about certain players - for instance, worrying about how many goals Gary Lineker might put past you, or whether you'd play Liverpool at Anfield on a day when they were firing on all cyclinders. After all, about that time Liverpool put 9 past Crystal Palace!
A. No not sleepless nights. You knew away from home particularly, we were in for a tough time but as I said before it was a good chance for me to perform well and a great challenge.
Q. Do you - did you - ever do research on opponents before games?
A. Only on things like penalty takers - which way they prefer taking their penalties etc. Although sadly with my record you would not believe that I did look into this!!!
Q. So, who were the best players you played against at this time?
A. The Liverpool side of that era were superb, - Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, John Aldridge, John Barnes, Craig Johnson. Gary Lineker, Gazza, Ian Wright , Paul Merson, David Platt, Peter Beardsley, Glenn Hoddle, Chris Waddle, Trevor Steven, Graeme Sharp were some other names that spring to mind and kept me busy on a number of occasions!
Q. What was it like playing for Sunderland - did you feel under more pressure given the passion for football that they have in the North East?
A. Yes, the supporters were very demanding and it is fair to say they did not really take to me to start with. The pressures for all the players in the team were greater because of the expectations of the north-east supporters. However, when things went well (I was fortunate enough to experience success with Sunderland), it is a fantastic feeling and a great place to play football.
Q. When you arrived at Watford, did you ever imagine you'd play in the Premiership?
A. When I joined we had just got relegated to division 2 so it was difficult to imagine getting two promotions to arrive in the premiership. (Bearing in mind I signed for Watford when I was 32). I do not think any of us would have envisaged what was about to happen over the next few seasons.
Q. That promotion season to the Premiership must surely rate as the highlight of your career?
A. The first year in the team when we won the 2nd division was very special for me personally because I got voted "player of the year" by the Watford supporters and also got in the division 2 team of the year as voted by my fellow professionals. However, the end of that next season from easter onwards will certainly live with me forever. The highlight of my career undoubtedly happened on 31 May 1999. The whole occasion at Wembley was just fantastic and the stuff of boyhood dreams.
Q. How did it feel to be playing at Wembley?
A. I'd been involved with three clubs at Wembley but never actually played so to finally get the chance was great. The whole day was so special but made all the better by the way the game went. Wrighty's goal will go down in history as one of the best ever in that stadium, and at the end going up the steps to get the trophy-Magnificent!!
Q. How did it feel to win at Wembley?
A. We were very focused that day and felt it was our destiny to win. As I said in the last answer, the end of the game, getting the medals, having the photos done, celebrating with the fans-just an unforgettable experience.
Q. When Watford were in the Premiership it must have been a long, hard season, given the quality of opposition, and the fact that you were always fighting relegation.
A. It started badly in pre-season when I dislocated my finger! After all the hard work in getting into the Premiership it was a shame we didn't do better. The early season form was hard to sustain and it did become a slog at times.
Q. Did it affect your confidence?
A. Getting beaten most weeks and conceding goals is definitely the recipe for loss of confidence. I think the whole team suffered and it is fair to say I did not have the best of seasons.
Q. When Graham Taylor signed Espen Baardsen, did you think your days at Watford were numbered or were you confident you could win your place back?
A. I was disappointed but not totally surprised that they signed another keeper. Espen came with a very good reputation and certainly had a very good start in an unbeaten run early season. However, at no point did I feel I was being pushed out. I just did as I have always done in these situations - got my head down, worked hard and waited for my next chance.
Q. Did you feel let down by Graham?
A. No, he had to do what he felt was best for the Club.
Q. How disappointing was it when you became Lenny Pidgeley's number two last season - through circumstances rather than any loss of form?
A. The sending off was very dubious so to lose my place because of that was hard to swallow.
Q. And you must have been disappointed when Ray Lewington signed Paul Jones earlier this season. Did you think he was trying to tell you something?
A. This was a situation that was difficult for Ray and me. He had to get somebody with experience on loan but in doing so Wolves insisted on Paul playing so Ray had to explain to me the situation. It was not a case of not wanting to play me, but just circumstances.
Q. Apart from the two promotion seasons, what other special memories do you have of your time at Watford?
A. The two player of the year awards were very special times as it shows that you have been consistent and the fans have acknowledged this in their votes. The friends I have made through the Club both on and off the field. The special games we have won and enjoyed the celebrations, like the Civic Receptions and Open Top Bus ride through Watford - what a day that was!
Q. You've always got on well with the supporters at Vicarage Road! They've obviously forgiven you for playing for that team further down the M1 based at Kenilworth Road!
A. Once I had won over Nigel (Mr Watford) Gibbs I think I was OK! He calls me a "born again Hornet!"
Q. And finally - what about the future. Are you hoping the role of goalkeeping coach will become a permanent and long term role with Watford FC?
A. I would love to stay at Watford and help develop and improve the goalkeepers of the future. However, at present I am very happy to be playing as well and feel confident I am combining the two roles successfully.
Written by Peter Jones, of the PR consultancy Red Alert Media.