Wednesday, 22 August 2012

One out of three ain’t bad

For all the many uncertainties of professional football, some things never change, and the first three fixtures of this season threw up three of the most reliable of eternal verities where the Hornets are concerned:

1) In the 1st Round of the League Cup, Watford are always drawn at home against a lower-division side who we struggle to beat in a horribly dull game
2) When we play at Selhurst Park, it is always cold and wet and we get tonked
3) We never lose to Ipswich

All right, so some things do change after all (though at least we can rely on the League Cup). I can just about accept winning at Selhurst: Watford have occasionally won there – just not when I’ve been in attendance, and I couldn’t make it on Saturday, so I can practically take credit for the late winner.

But losing to Ipswich is against the natural order of things. I really thought we were going to get away with it last night, having been outplayed for most of the match – as if our status as Ipwich’s bogey team would somehow keep the ball out of our net. Still, if the Pozzos and Zola are going to revolutionise our club, they might as well start by destroying everything we know for sure. Yay.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Dear Mr Zola

Having suggested what I’d like to see Watford’s new owners do, I’ve been thinking about how Gianfranco Zola might best keep me happy (which will, obviously, be one of his priorities). Here are five points he might like to ponder:

1) Do your homework
No, not on the opposition – on Watford FC, its history and traditions. Reading Oliver Phillips’ centenary history of the club would be a good start, and Lionel Birnie’s books paint a good picture of the high points of the modern era. I don’t expect the manager to be able to answer trivia questions on Watford, but equally, I’d like to think his knowledge extends beyond the reductive ‘Elton John’s money + long-ball game = success in the 80s’ view of the club.

2) Give (our) youth a chance
This ought to be a no-brainer, given the Pozzos’ stated business model, but the huge influx of exotically named loanees from our new ‘sister clubs’ is a little concerning, and rather reminiscent of Sean Dyche’s scatter-gun approach to squad building. The reinstatement of the seven subs rule ought to help, but I hope that our Academy graduates are given a proper chance to show what they can do this season – not just the occasional five-minute cameo.

3) Find a decent penalty-taker
This is one way in which Zola could distinguish himself from every one of his predecessors over the past decade or more. Watford must have one of the poorest penalty conversion rates in the league, to the point where I barely bother celebrating any more when we’re awarded one, knowing that it will be wasted. It shouldn’t be that difficult: identify a couple of players who are good at taking penalties and make sure they practice at every training session, until they can score with their eyes shut.

4) Keep us up
I suppose that should have been the first point, really, as it’s the minimum requirement for any Watford manager. The last few have done a good job in this regard, probably because (despite public pronouncements to the contrary) this was their main focus for the season. Now talk has shifted to the possibility of moving up the league rather than down it, and though there’s no immediate reason to worry, plenty of clubs in this division have found that ambition can be a prelude to relegation.

5) Don’t drop Doyley
Really, don’t even think about it. Most Watford managers over the past 10 years have dropped Lloyd at some point, only to see the error of their ways. So what if he’s not a marauding wing-back? He’s the best defender at the club, and one of the best in the division, and we’re a better team with him than without.