RAY LEWINGTON has no immediate footballing concerns after being put in charge of first team affairs following the dismissal of Luca Vialli.

The reserve team manager, who stressed he is only "filling in" as caretaker boss until Vialli's successor is found, said: "There is not a great deal going on. It's pretty quiet at this stage, and I don't suppose it will liven up until training begins.

"If we go back and a manager still hasn't been appointed, I will make sure training is organised and get the players fit, but that's not until three weeks time.

"On the team front there is going to be no buying or selling, but if there was, I don't suppose it would involve me."

All the fit players returned in good shape for the recent mid-summer training stint, and Lewington does not expect any problems when pre-season gets under way next month.

"Modern day players look after themselves very well," he said. "They're body fat and weight is good, and they are better educated."

Reflecting on his year at the helm of the reserves, the 45-year-old, who turned down the chance to link up with Glenn Roeder at West Ham United after promising close friend Ray Wilkins and Watford that he would come to Vicarage Road last summer, does not have any regrets about making the move from Brentford, but admits it was not an easy season.

"It's been new to me because I've only done it (reserve team manager) once when I joined Crystal Palace.

"Obviously, the way Luca ran things meant I was dealing with a very young side. I think it is a very young league anyway, but we were particularly young, which meant, from the results point of view, it was tough.

"I have been pleased with the progress of some of the kids, and Luca was never afraid to put them in.

"It's been enjoyable, but hard to get the results, which people always look out for."

Although the current financial crisis is the deepest Watford have arguably ever experienced, Lewington is no stranger to being at clubs in troubled times. In fact, he is relatively used to it.

"When I first took a manager's job I was 28 and Fulham nearly went out of existence twice in the first year.

"Nothing surprises me. I was at Palace when they sold it to (Mark) Goldberg; that was difficult.

"I think, in general, football is tough now. With the TV money, lots of clubs are finding it very difficult.

"I think we have been very spoilt over the years, but a touch of reality is coming back into it now."

Lewington began his career in the same youth team as Wilkins at Chelsea, but after seven years at Stamford Bridge he moved across the Atlantic to join Vancouver Whitecaps.

A season later he was back in London with Fulham, where he spent five years, before moving to Sheffield United.

But within a year he returned to Craven Cottage to become the youngest player-manager in the Football League, later hanging up his boots to concentrate on managing and then coaching at Fulham.

By 1992, Lewington had moved across London to join Palace as reserve team manager, but within a year he was promoted to first team coach.

Either side of a spell with Dave Bassett, he linked up with director of football Steve Coppell to lead the Eagles to two Division One play-off finals, the second of which, in 1996, saw Sheffield United defeated to gain a place in the Premiership.

A knee infection brought an end to Lewington's career at Selhurst Park in 1998, but he was soon back in football at Brentford.

After leading the Bees to the Division Three title in the 1998/99 season, he spent two further seasons establishing the Griffin Park outfit in the Second Division, climaxing in an LDV Vans Trophy final appearance in 2001.

Meanwhile, sacked Watford coach Ray Wilkins was given the opportunity to comment further on his dismissal by The Watford Observer, but he declined.

June 21, 2002 12:30