Matty Hayward – @mattyhayward96
In what is becoming something of a tradition, Gary Johnson’s most recent signing was announced within an hour of a game kicking off. The addition came somewhat out of nowhere, but as we had heard on Tuesday that Louis Britton’s loan had been ended, the introduction of a new forward was welcome.
Billy Waters is the name of the new Yellow. You’ve heard of the phrase “taking to something like a duck to water”, well Gary Johnson is taking a Waters to Gulls. (I am acutely aware that this, in no sense, works as a joke. If you have any complaints, I ask you to tell it to someone who cares).
Now that that’s out the way, let’s find out about Billy.
Billy Waters is 26 and was born in Epsom, perilously close to Woking. He began his career, though, at Crewe. He made his Football League debut as a second-half substitute, replacing former Gull Mark Ellis and his first professional goal came the following season in a 2-1 defeat to Barnsley. Despite this, he was released at the end of the season with a year left on his contract.
Guess who he signed for next? That’s right. Like almost every single one of our current squad, he joined Gary Johnson’s Cheltenham. His nine goals helped the Robins win the National League at the first time of asking, and he went on to play 55 more times in League Two, netting a further 16 times and winning Players’ Player of the Year.
Billy poured cold water on the idea of a new deal at Whaddon Road. Instead, Northampton turned on the taps and Justin Edinburgh signed him for an undisclosed fee. The Cobblers lost their first four games, Edinburgh was sacked, and new manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink didn’t rate Waters so played him out of position. In January 2018 he joined Cambridge on loan, where he scored twice in 18 games.
He returned to Cheltenham on loan in 2019, bagging four times in 18 matches. His loan spell at Newport was cut short by Covid, but he failed to trouble to scorers in five appearances. As far as I can see, he’s been without a club since, so may take a while to get up to speed.
YouTube is a funny place. If you want crackpot conspiracists or cute cat compilations, it really can cater for you. I, however, want to see League Two goals. It’s got that too.
Here’s an ominously silent video (until the sound starts working about 2 minutes in) of Waters’ goals in the 2016/17 season. The biggest takeaway, here, is that he is a pure poach. His typical goal is a close-range, tidy finish and rely on him being in the right place at the right time. Him scoring this sort of goal is undoubtedly a good sign.
I couldn’t leave this out. Billy is not only a lethal finisher, he’s an accomplished singer. Type his name into YouTube and numerous videos come up of his initiation performances, but here he is adeptly performing Angels (my personal favourite karaoke song, which he sings nearly as well as I do) and Don’t Look Back in Anger at an end of season dinner.
And, for even more fun, here’s a (Facebook) video of Waters bundling one over the line in front of the Big Bank at St James’ Park to the wonderful soundtrack of Grecian silence.
Playing Style and Where He Fits
Crouch and Defoe, Rush and Dalglish, Sills and Benyon. If we are to play 4-4-2, one classic configuration of that front two is a big-man-little-man strike partnership. Someone to win the headers, with someone to run onto the flick-ons. Someone to stretch defences, someone to bully them. We’ve got Danny Wright (and Josh Umerah who is currently seen as his deputy), and now we’ve got wee Billy Waters.
We create a decent number of chances as a team. Wrighty has never been an utterly lethal striker, and his role in the team goes far beyond sheer goals output. Waters – from what I can see from an admittedly limited repertoire of footage – is a diminutive forward whose currency is finding the net.
With Nelson seemingly out for a while yet, we certainly needed reinforcements up front. Waters joins having only ever been in this league for one season. He clearly hates the fifth tier, because in that season he scored crucial goals in a side that won the league and got the hell out of here. We have to hope he hasn’t lost his nose for goal.
This assessment is based on very little, but I’m confident. If only there were an appropriate saying for intuitively thinking something. I can feel it in my…?
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