Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Help me, I’m a Watford fan

Graham Fisher in Editorial, English Championship 10 Apr 2008


One of the many privileges of being a football writer is that occasionally you can be totally self indulgent and write something just to get it off your chest. Today I am going to abuse my position and do just that.

Hello everyone, my name is Graham and I’m a Watford supporter.

I’m thinking of setting up a support group for people just like me. WSA. Watford Supporters Anonymous. I might actually call it Hornets oblivious of Football. HOOF. That’s more appropriate.

You might think that a glance at the Championship table showing Watford in fifth place only two points behind the automatic places and almost guaranteed a play-off place being seven points ahead of the field, would put all us Hornets in a jolly frame of mind. We should be singing, “We are going up.” Instead, the Golden Boys left the Vicarage Road pitch after Wednesday night’s humiliating 3-0 defeat to relegation threatened Barnsley to a chorus of, “What the fuc**ng hell was that?”

My very first article for Soccerlens bemoaned the life of a Watford supporter having to watch the dire football served up by Aidy Boothroyd’s team this season. At that time I didn’t think it was possible for things to get any worse. How wrong I was.

The Championship this season is a very strange league. It is still possible for Watford to go up, although I would be more shocked about that than about anything I have previously experienced in my forty-six years on this Earth, despite the fact that they have won just eight of their last thirty league games. That’s right. Eight. Unbelievable.

We won eleven out of the first fourteen games this season. The fact is that we played terribly in many of those games but somehow came away with three points. Since then, other teams have realised how to play Watford and have coped with their one dimensional, boring, soulless, skill less, mind numbing, embarrassing and frankly disgusting football, very easily indeed.

Last season in the Premier League we won five games out of thirty-eight. Not quite as embarrassing as Derby but not too far short. Many people say that last season wasn’t too bad for the Hornets. They say that we weren’t ‘stuffed’ by too many teams. True enough, but our tactics of keeping the ball high in the air for at least half of every game narrowed down the opportunities for the opposition considerably.

Also, of course, we had the excellent Ben Foster in goal who won the player of the season award by a landslide and without whom we would have indeed been ‘stuffed’ on many, many occasions.

So if you take out the very strange blip at the beginning of this season Watford have won thirteen games in sixty eight. Even if you include the blip, we have won just twenty-four in Eighty-Two.

Four games in to last season’s Premier League campaign it became clear that Watford’s tactics of hitting the ball forward, behind the opposition in the hope of getting a throw-in, corner or free-kick so that we could load up the area with big men and hope for the best, wasn’t going to work.

What did Aidy Boothroyd do to change things? Nothing. We continued with the same tactics all season and never looked like surviving. After January, Mr Boothroyd clearly started looking towards this season in the Championship and set about building a side to go straight back up. He said as much.

Mr Boothroyd has spent an awful lot of our Premiership parachute payment on players. Most notably he has brought in striker Nathan Ellington and winger Jobi McAnuff. Now I don’t particularly like the West Brom fan comedian Frank Skinner but after we had taken Ellington off their hands I heard him on TV saying, “I’d just like to thank Watford very much for giving us some money for Ellington.” We all now know what he meant.

McAnuff is a tricky winger who shows signs of brilliance but couldn’t command a regular place in the Crystal Palace side. Why should we have expected anything from him at Watford?

Other signings made last season were Lee Williamson and Will Hoskins from Rotherham who went on to be relegated to League Two. Hoskins has hardly played and Williamson has commanded a regular place in the centre of our midfield. I really don’t have to say any more about that.

I could mention a few other signings. Cavalli, Rinaldi, Avinell, Poom, Ainsworth and Collins John. Never heard of some of them and didn’t know the others were at Watford? Well that’s because they never play in the first team. Collins John has come in on loan from Fulham after Mr Boothroyd had chased him for over a year. Now he would rather put big centre half Danny Shittu up front rather than play John.

In January, Boothroyd bucked the trend and made three signings that improved the side. Left back Matt Sadler joined from Birmingham, centre-half Leigh Bromby came from Sheffield United and midfield man John Eustace joined us from Stoke.

Eustace in particular is the first ball playing, passing central midfield player at Watford since Matty Spring left us for Luton last season. With him in the midfield and Nathan Ellington up front who desperately needs the ball played to his feet and with Tommy Smith and Jobi McAnuff out wide who love to run at the opposition, what tactics do you think Mr Boothroyd employs? Yep. No change. Hoof it forward.

I have supported Watford man and boy through thick and thin for forty-years. I will always do so but, and I never thought I would hear myself say this, I actually don’t think I want us to go up. There are two reasons for that. Firstly, I think we would undoubtedly have another season of failure and defeats and secondly, the football, if that is the right word, that Watford play is simply not worthy of the Premier League.

Rant over. Thank you for listening. If you wish to join HooF, please contact me via my website.

Graham Fisher writes at Views of a fan.


Graham Fisher



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