Sunday, 23 September 2012

On the other hand

… later in the evening I came across a repeat of the first episode of another sitcom, Gavin and Stacey, and watched that. The writers’ world view here is essentially different from that of The Thick of It. Yes, the world is messy and chaotic, but people are essentially good and things will work themselves out for the best over time, for the most part.

Warmed by this alternative way of looking at things, I found myself looking at Watford’s performance in a different light...

So we’re not getting the results at the moment: they’ll come. The foreign players are still new to this division, and to each other, and it’s unrealistic to expect the team to play like a well-oiled machine straight away. Moreover, Zola is intelligent enough to realise when something isn’t working: the fact that his substitutions yesterday involved three experienced Championship hands replacing foreign imports suggests that he understands the limitations of his squad. He’ll find a way to get them firing on all cylinders soon – and when he does, we’ll start moving up the table.

Two ways of looking at the same situation, then. In the cold light of day, on a rainy Sunday morning, I still find myself leaning towards the Mannion view, but I’m open to persuasion otherwise. If Zola started the next match with Doyley, Hall and Deeney in place of Cassetti, Neuton and Forestieri, that would be a start.

Peter Mannion writes

I’m loving the new series of The Thick of It on BBC2 on Saturday evenings. For those who don’t know, it’s a no-punches-pulled satire that starts from the principle that politics is full of self-serving idiots blundering from one disaster to another. At the centre of this series is a lowly government Minister, Peter Mannion, an old-fashioned, well-meaning politician permanently enraged by the chaos that surrounds him.

Later, I found myself appraising Watford’s performance against Bristol City in Mannion’s exasperated tones...

Where do I start? Okay, Neuton is a disaster waiting to happen: whatever the opposite of an effective Championship defender is, he’s it. Cassetti has the speed of an arthritic turtle – every left winger in the division must be ringing the date in the diary when they get the chance to skin him. How he’s keeping Lloydinho out of the team, god only knows. Forestieri is the world champion at turning in a tight space, beating the same man three times and then either (a) giving the ball away, or (b) blasting it 10 feet wide of the goal. Vydra is too lightweight to play up front on his own. And the whole bloody of lot of them spent half the match standing still – where’s the movement, the urgency? Is it because they’re all so unfit that the only way they can make it to 90 minutes without collapsing is to conserve energy by running around less? And is that also why they tend to huddle together in small groups, so they can spend a couple of minutes passing the ball in neat triangles over a small space before losing it? I despair.

Then again…

Saturday, 8 September 2012

A brief commercial break

Surprisingly, I seem to have neglected to mention that I’m one of the select band who have contributed to an anthology of new writing about Watford FC, edited by Lionel Birnie and called Tales from the Vicarage. It’s out later this month, but it’s available to pre-order now. You can read full details here, including a list of the contributors and a summary of each chapter.

My piece is more personal than most of the opinionated nonsense I write on this blog, and it was challenging, but fun, to write. (Lionel asked me for around 5,000 words, which is about 4,000 more than the longest piece I’ve ever written about Watford before.) It’ll be the first – and almost certainly the last – time I’ve ever appeared in print alongside an England international, and I’m really looking forward to reading DJ’s and the other contributions. If you’re a Watford fan – and I’d be surprised if you’re not, since you’re reading this – it’s going to be essential reading.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

A motley crew

Is that it now? Do we have enough players to get us through the season? Or maybe we should get a few more in on loan, just to be on the safe side.

All right, enough sarcasm. But I can’t be the only Watford fan to find the steady stream of players arriving at Vicarage Road over the past few weeks (so many that the ‘Team’ section of the club website makes no mention of half of them) more dispiriting than exciting. Yes, Vydra, Abdi and Pudil look promising, and have added quality to positions where we needed it. But such a huge influx of new personnel can only be destabilising, surely?

Here are the questions that are uppermost in my mind at the moment:

1) Does Zola have any say in this?
A manager’s priority at the start of a season is to build a coherent, stable team as quickly as possible: it’s hard to do that when your squad is changing on a daily basis. Also, we’re often told that the challenge for managers with large squads is keeping those who aren’t playing regularly happy. I’d have thought that’s a challenge Zola, new to the club as he is, would rather not have to deal with right now.

2) Do we have to play them all?
If I’ve understood the Pozzos’ business model correctly, the point of us taking all these players on loan from Udinese and Granada is to put them in the shop window. That’s not going to happen if the only action they see is the occasional friendly against Wycombe or Stevenage reserves, though, so we should expect to see all the newcomers in first-team action at some stage. How Zola manages that without disrupting the team is anyone’s guess.

3) How do our homegrown players feel about this?
I’ve written before about the dispiriting effect of Sean Dyche’s transfer and selection policy on players like Lee Hodson, Dale Bennett and Ross Jenkins. Now, I would imagine, they must be thoroughly depressed, all chance of a run in the first team extinguished. If I were them, I’d move in the next transfer window, to a club where they’ve got a realistic chance of developing their career. A club like Watford used to be.

4) Why should I care about any of them?
The fact that a player is on loan doesn’t mean that, as a fan, you don’t regard them as one of yours. I still feel quite proprietorial towards the likes of Ben Foster and Tom Cleverley, for example. But when half the squad consists of players who are unlikely to have a second season at the club, you can’t help but wonder why you should get to know them. By the time you’ve worked out who they all are and who plays where, they’ll be gone again.

5) Are there enough lockers at the training ground?
Seriously, it must be chaos at London Colney, like at school when all the foreign exchange kids arrive and none of them knows where they’re supposed to go and what they’re supposed to do. Still, if you’re a translator based in South-West Herts with a good knowledge of a few key languages (Italian, Spanish, French), you must be quids in right now.