My Best: Graham Stack
By Kevin Affleck
Hornets goalkeeper coach talks through his best players, matches and more in a quick-fire interview...
Best player you have played with?
“Dennis Bergkamp. He was the ultimate pro, not just in terms of how he prepared for big games, but how he trained every day and looked after himself. He had this aura about him. He didn't say a great deal but he had this presence and carried himself unbelievably. He then went and delivered week in, week out against the best teams and the best defenders. He was a pleasure to play with.”
Best player you have played against?
“Juninho when he was at Middlesbrough. We played them in the semi-final of the League Cup in 2004 and he was outstanding in the game at Highbury. He scored in the first leg and had so much quality. He was a really intelligent player who could find a pass, who could spot runs and who had an eye for goal. He was always a danger.”
Best player you have seen live?
“I'm not sure it was necessarily the best player I've seen live, but the best performance I've ever seen live was [Juan Román] Riquelme. It was Barcelona v Club Brugge in 2002 when I was in Belgium. I went along with a couple of Dutch lads and Riquelme just ran the game from start to finish. He never gave the ball away. That was single-handedly the best performance I've seen live.”
Best captain you’ve played under?
“That's a tough one, but I'd have to say Graeme Murty when I was at Reading. You don't win the Championship with 106 points if you don't have a leader that everyone buys into. He was so professional, he was a good player, a good organiser and a good leader.”
Best character in the dressing room?
“I've been lucky to come across a few. David Bentley was a character but I'd have to say Ben Chorley. I came through the youth system at Arsenal and he ended up being the best man at my wedding. He was the heart and soul of his group, really charismatic, loud, funny but he also has a big heart.”
Best game you've played in?
“I have to say my debut for Arsenal in in 2003. I was lucky to play for an unbelievable club in Arsenal and made my debut at Highbury against Rotherham in the League Cup. It was a very special night, with all my friends and family there. I scored and saved a penalty and we went through 9-8 on pens and I got man of the match. You don't get more special than that.”
Best coach you've worked under?
“Easy one: that's Don Howe. He was a special man and I didn't realise at the time, coming through at Arsenal, how good a coach he was. Now I've got a bit of experience, I can look back and value coaches and see the reasons why they did stuff in certain ways and how they spoke to people. Don Howe was an absolute gentleman, very, very knowledgeable, super enthusiastic and energetic, He put demos on and was in his 60s and he was leading the demo, flying down the wing and overlapping full-backs. I've got huge respect for him.”
Best friend in football?
“It's very difficult to name one. I've been very fortunate that I've played with so many great lads and got close to so many. You end up being like brothers at times. I've got on well with so many but Steve Sidwell, David Noble, Ben Chorley, Jay Bothroyd and Allan Dunne are my five closest mates in football. I'm in regular touch with them, we play golf and I have beers with them.”
Best game you've been to?
“I'm going to say the semi-final against Wolves last season. I brought my kids and, wow, what an incredible day. It was such an event, I met family and friends, had a drink, we got the result and we had a right party afterwards. It was a special day.”
Best atmosphere you've been involved in?
“That would have to be split between two. The first is the Hibs-Hearts derby when I was up in Scotland playing for Hibs. It was an incredible atmosphere whether you are playing at Tynecastle or Easter Road. More recently, I played in the Indian Super League final for Kerala and there were 80,000 inside for the game against Kolkata. We lost in sudden death, but there were drums, whistles and all sorts. The noise was something else.”
Best game involving the team you support?
“I support QPR and the one that sticks out was when Trevor Sinclair scored the overhead kick from outside the 18-yard box [against Barnsley in 1997]. Me and my dad were sat right in line with it. Sinclair was one of my heroes growing up and that was a moment, at 15, that captured my heart, really.”
See inside a Watford FC goalkeeper training session with our exclusive Mic'd Up and GoPro footage of Ben Foster and Graham Stack with Heurelho Gomes and Dan Bachmann...