Nigel Gibbs made his Watford debut as an 18-year-old in a UEFA Cup home tie against Sparta Prague on November 23, 1983. His final Hornets appearance would come an astonishing 19 years later, against Gillingham in Division One on April 21, 2002.
To add some context, fellow Hornets Ambassador Lloyd Doyley, who started the game against the Gills, was not yet a year old when Nigel was making his bow on the European stage. Anthony McNamee, who scored the opening goal on the day Nigel made his final outing, hadn’t even been born in 1983.
Few players can claim to have played as many matches for the club as the full-back, who appeared 491 times, including 411 in the league, and none can claim to have had such a lengthy playing career at Vicarage Road. Born down the road in St Albans, Nigel made Watford FC his home at an early age and was cheering the team on from the stands when Graham Taylor secured the Fourth Division title in 1978.
In the youth team he was nailing down the right-back position and was part of the young Hornets side which famously won the FA Youth Cup under Tom Walley in 1982, beating Manchester United over two legs in the final. This form also earned Nigel nine caps for England Youth and a further five for England Under-21s.
A diminutive player but by no means a pushover, Nigel soon established himself as a regular member of the first-team squad, racking up 40 appearances in the season he left teenagerhood, scoring his first goal in a 4-1 win against Newcastle United and coming third in the Player of the Season vote.
By 1992 Nigel had passed the 250-appearance mark and won the Player of the Season award. He was then named captain ahead of the 1992/93 campaign but in September a knee injury ruled the defender out for an initial six weeks, which would eventually become two years as further serious setbacks ensued.
The 1993/94 campaign was the only one during a 19-season spell in which Nigel did not make a first-team appearance, and no doubt he would top all of the club’s appearance charts had it not been for his injury troubles.
Upon his return from injury Nigel initially struggled to re-establish himself as a regular starter so at the end of the 1995/96 season, following Watford’s relegation to the third tier and as one of the higher earners, his contract was not renewed.
At this point, aged 30, Nigel has claimed he considered hanging up his boots, but in typically determined fashion the defender continued training with the club through the summer to regain his match fitness and eventually gave the hierarchy no choice other than to sign for his services once more.
With Graham Taylor back at the helm, Nigel had two more years as a regular starter for the man who had originally recruited him as an apprentice. Watford finished mid-table in 1996/97 and then stormed to the Division Two title the following campaign, earning Nigel his first silverware since that FA Youth Cup.
The Golden Boys achieved a second successive promotion in 1998/99, reaching the Premiership via the Play-Offs, and Nigel contributed with 17 league appearances but narrowly missed out on playing at Wembley Stadium for the second time in his career. David Bardsley had won the right-back spot for the FA Cup final in 1984 and it was Paul Robinson whom the manager selected to return for the triumph over Bolton Wanderers – this after Nigel had replaced the suspended left-back for the memorable semi-final win at St. Andrew’s and promptly turned in one of his finest performances in a Watford shirt.
Nevertheless, several appearances followed in the top-flight for Nigel, including a memorable victory against Chelsea, and then a handful more in the second tier before he eventually retired in 2002, having made more starts than any other player for the Hornets. The one-club man continued his association with Watford for three more years as a coach, initially guiding the reserves to a Barclaycard Premiership Reserve League (South) title win before stepping up to first-team duties under manager Ray Lewington before both left in 2005.
Nigel subsequently coached at Reading, Leeds United, Millwall, Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur in various assistant, senior and youth coaching roles. His most recent appointment was as assistant to Head Coach Paul Clement at Cercle Brugge in the Belgian top-flight.
Football League: 388+23 (5)
FA Cup: 39+2
Football League Cup: 25 (2)
UEFA Cup: 2
Full Members Cup: 8
Associate Members Cup: 3
Anglo-Italian Cup: 1
Total: 466+25 (7)
Profile written February 2021.
'Join date' refers to first-team debut for former players.