Tuesday, 27 November 2007

It was a nice theory...

A few theories that were disproved by tonight’s beating by Burnley:

1) Under Aidy, Watford always bounce back after a defeat
2) Our poor defensive showings in the last three games have been purely down to Jay Demerit’s absence
3) We always play with extra verve in a midweek home game under floodlights
4) Steve Kabba is a winger

Actually, only Aidy ever seemed to believe that last one - Steve himself certainly didn’t seem convinced.

Monday, 5 November 2007


Before I forget, another candidate for those alternative end-of-season awards. In the ‘Best Strop’ category, Marlon gets a nomination for his reaction to West Brom’s third goal. After everyone had stood stock still for a good 10 seconds, looking at each other, Marlon started jumping angrily up and down on the spot in the manner of a three-year-old who’s just been told he can’t have an ice-cream. And to be honest, you can’t really blame him

Sunday, 4 November 2007

An attempt to look on the bright side

Um... Well, I suppose it’s better to lose one game 3-0 than to lose three games 1-0. And we are still five points clear.

Sunday, 21 October 2007


The Hull game, though generally short on interest, saw an early contender for the alternative end of season awards, in the ‘Most Sarcastic Gesture by a Watford Player’ category: Darius Henderson’s reaction to finally being given the benefit of the doubt, a clenched-hands, eyes-raised-towards-the-heavens pantomime that clearly translated as “Thank you o lord for this benison you have bestowed upon your righteous servant.”

I told you it was sarcastic. A more intelligent referee would probably have booked him for it.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Just once, oh lord…

I know it’s going to look as if I’m obsessed with Lloyd Doyley, but the excellent interview with Jordan Stewart on the official website does highlight once again the remarkable fact that Lloyd has never scored a goal for Watford at any level. Surely this calls for some targeted chanting on Saturday: “Doyley, give us a goal”, perhaps, coupled with a lustily bellowed “Shooooot!” every time he gets within 20 yards of the Hull penalty area.

Lloyd’s predicament reminds me in a roundabout way of my own experiences of playing rugby at school. I was overweight, unfit and uninterested, so it’s not particularly surprising that I managed to get through four winters of weekly games lessons without ever scoring a try. Like the other fat kids, I was always forced to play as a forward, so I spent every game trudging from scrum to lineout to scrum, watching from a distance as slimmer, faster boys scored all the tries.

Still, even though I was aware of my limitations, I did have a slender competitive streak, and in my final term of playing rugby (the point at which the school finally accepted that any dormant stars must have revealed themselves by now, and allowed us duffers to go off and play other sports instead) I started mentioning to anyone who would listen that it might be nice if I scored a try before ‘retiring’.

Nothing came of it for a few weeks, apart from one tantalising opportunity when I managed to grab a loose ball a few yards from the line, only for some obstinate bastard on the opposing team to put his body in between me and the ground, making it impossible for me to touch down. Then, one week, we were playing one of those games that occasionally happened when one team proved far superior to the other - and I was on it. We were already about 60 points up when a teammate intercepted a pass and hared towards the try line. I was jogging in the same direction, just for form’s sake, when I realised that he was calling to me and suddenly understood what he intended. So I picked up speed, took the ball he handed me (he didn’t bother throwing me a proper pass – I’d only have dropped it if he had) and launched myself spectacularly over the line for my first (and last) try. Seconds later I was being mobbed by my teammates, and I can honestly say it was one of the most joyful moments of my sporting career. (Not that there’s much competition, mind you.)

So what point am I trying to make? Well, Darius, Marlon: if you’re reading this, and if at any point this season you find yourself with the ball at your feet and an open goal in front of you, just before you boot it in, have a quick look around and see if Lloyd is anywhere nearby. You know he needs it more than you do.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

The loan rangers

I’ve never been particularly enthusiastic about loan signings; given the choice, I’d rather give one of our young players a chance to show what they can do rather than bus in someone from outside. But occasionally, as with Adam Johnson on Saturday, a loanee makes such an immediate impact that even I can’t find fault with the manager’s decision.

Watford have made full use of the loan system in the past 10 years or so, with mixed results. It would be easy to list the failures – well, I say that, but actually, so many have come and gone without leaving an impression that I’m struggling to remember all their names. Darren Caskey, Trevor Benjamin, Steve Morrow, Danny Hill – there must be dozens more. Then there are those who make a brief, startling impression before returning whence they came: Michael Chopra’s bizarre four-goal burst at Burnley in 2003 springs to mind.

But I’m just going to concentrate on the successes. So here, in reverse order, are my top 5 Watford loan signings:

5) Jermaine Pennant (from Arsenal, 2002-03: 23 games, 3 goals)
Okay, so he didn’t score as often as he should have, and he spent a fair amount of time running down blind alleys. But his twinkle-toed wing play brought a touch of class to a team that was lacking it, and he did lay on a few goals when he remembered to deliver a cross.

4) Tommy Mooney (from Southend, 1994: 10 games, 2 goals)
Obviously, if we were judging Tommy on his Watford career as a whole he’d be higher up the list. But even on loan he made an impact, helping to bring about an unlikely escape from what looked like certain relegation. The battling qualities we were to come to know and love were obvious enough for Glenn Roeder to bring him back full-time at the start of the following season.

3) Marlon King (from Nottingham Forest, 2005: 21 games, 12 goals)
Possibly the shrewdest loan deal we’ve ever done: half a season, with first option to buy, and at a preset price to boot. If Forest had been able to predict how prolific Marlon would turn out to be, they surely wouldn’t have agreed to that last part.

2) Ben Foster (from Manchester United, 2005-07: 81 games, 0 goals)
While Marlon was banging them in at one end, Ben was keeping them out at the other throughout the promotion season we weren’t expecting. Even Ben couldn’t keep us in the Premiership – but think how much worse it could have been without England’s best young keeper between the posts...

1) Dennis Bailey (from Queen’s Park Rangers, 1994: 8 games, 4 goals)
Dennis makes no. 1 because no other loan player I can remember has been so directly responsible for a turnaround in the club’s fortunes. When he and Tommy arrived in March 1994, Watford looked dead and buried, but the pair of them somehow managed to score the goals we needed to win 6 of the last 10 games and finish 3 points clear of the drop zone. Dennis’s contributions usually came off the bench, and his goals seemed all the more heroic for it at the time. But it was Tommy (the younger of the pair by 6 years) who went on to be a Watford legend, while Dennis continued to be a roaming striker for hire; Soccerbase lists stints at 18 different clubs in a 20-year career that only seems to have ended last year. I wonder if he had such a dramatic impact at any of the others?

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Which one’s your favourite?

Yesterday’s endearing interview with Lloyd Doyley on the official site just confirms his status as my current favourite player. He has been for a few seasons, actually, and I hope he will be for a few more to come.

I always have a favourite Watford player, and although I don’t hold formal elections for the post, I tend to review my choice at around this point every season. I should point out that it’s not a scientific process by any means. Sometimes the chosen one has obvious qualities that it’s impossible to overlook – John Barnes’s mesmerising ball skills, Tommy Mooney’s furious competitiveness – but as often as not it’s something to do with an impression you get of the player as a person from the way they play. Does that make sense?

Nigel Gibbs came into that category, and it’s no coincidence that Lloyd has a great deal in common with him. They’re both right backs, for a start, and both manifestly the best defender at the club in an age where such skills are criminally undervalued. Poor Gibbsy would have smashed Duncan Welbourne’s club appearance record if he hadn’t been dropped by a succession of managers in favourite of ‘overlapping full-backs’ who couldn’t defend to save their lives (don’t get me started on Des Lyttle), and Lloyd has similarly suffered from a lack of managerial confidence in his passing and crossing. And of course, both joined the club well before their voices broke (I’m making assumptions here, obviously), and had put in more years in yellow before they even made their first-team debut than most players ever manage.

In Lloyd’s case, apart from his defensive abilities, he’s so obviously a worker, a trier - Aidy said as much early last season, when he explained why it was no coincidence that Lloyd had made more appearances in Aidy’s Watford teams than any other player. Okay, he was found wanting in the Premiership last season and lost his place, and with many players that would have been the last we’d have seen of him. But Lloyd has kept on working and won his place back, and I hope he keeps it for years to come, if only to prove that a proper full-back is always a better option than a winger who puts in the occasional tackle (James Chambers, come on down). And I hope I’m there when he finally scores his first goal in a Watford shirt. The celebration should be something to behold.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Oh well

So much for my powers of prediction. Sod’s law, I think they call it. Though I was right on the first point, at least.

Monday, 13 August 2007

What I won’t be doing tomorrow night

After winning his fourth Olympic rowing gold medal, Steve Redgrave famously said in an interview that if anyone ever saw him near a boat again, they had his permission to shoot him. I feel much the same about the first round of the Carling Cup. And this year, I really mean it.

It’s the sheer mind-numbing predictability I can’t stand. Every year we get drawn at home in the first round of what I still like to think of as the League Cup, and every year I go because, well, it’s the first or second home game of the season and I’ve been starved of live football all summer. And besides, we’re playing some inferior outfit from a division or two lower down the league, so it’s bound to be a goal-fest, isn’t it? Ah, the joys of watching football on a balmy August evening...

Except that it doesn’t turn out like that, does it? At the risk of spoiling your enjoyment of the fixture, here’s what will happen tomorrow evening:

- Aidy will select a side containing no more than four of the team who started against Wolves on Saturday. Several of the squad he picks will not feature again in the first team this season, other than in second round of the League Cup. Oh, and Richard Lee will be in goal. Richard Lee is always in goal in the League Cup. When he finally retires, Richard will be dismayed to discover how high a proportion of his first-team appearances were made in the League Cup

- Watford will start brightly and create a few chances, but without scoring. Then Watford’s blend of youthful enthusiasm and inexperience and Gillingham’s blend of relative experience and lower-division ineptitude will cancel each other out, leading to a bland stalemate that will last for most of the match

- If you’re lucky, Watford will nick a goal in the last 10 minutes and that will be that. More likely is a scoreline of 0-0 or 1-1 at full-time, leading to a mind-numbing half-hour of extra-time and, as likely as not, penalties. By this time you will be so far past caring that you may well decide to leave before the shoot-out - I saw plenty of people doing just that in the tie against Accrington last year. If you stay, you’ll probably witness a victory, but somehow it won’t seem like a great cause for rejoicing

By the way, I know that Steve Redgrave reneged on his vow and returned to the water to win a fifth Olympic gold medal. What a lightweight, eh? He should have been at the Accrington game; then he’d know what real pain is...