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Helston Athletic 0 Hayle 1 (21/10/2006) 30/10/2006

Posted by Ian Grant in Match reports.
9 comments

As away trips go, this is a fairly hefty one: Helston is more than three hundred miles away on the Lizard, and we set off at not-much-past-six in the morning to reach the end of Cornwall in time for kickoff. As it happens, we’re a little early, and there’s time to park pitch-side and watch the players warm up; Aidy Boothroyd’s innovative and entirely bewildering “all bump into each other and then run away” drill has yet to reach these parts, I can reveal.

This is the first round of the League Cup – not that League Cup, clearly – and cup fever brings out the usual crowd of family and friends to greet the visitors from Hayle, up north. Almost certainly, we are the only people here not to know at least one of the players personally. “Which one’s dad?” squeaks one of the marauding toddlers upon momentarily noticing that there’s a football match going on over there. We gather in the semi-shelter of the terrace that fringes the clubhouse, a terrace more in the sense of patio furniture than of swaying thousands.

The weather is never far from conversation in this part of the world, and it plays a fulsome part in proceedings here. The wind sweeps across from right to left, sending the Hayle keeper’s kicks skidding deep into the Helston half; attempts to launch the ball in the opposite direction are less successful, steepling upwards and then finally admitting defeat well short of halfway. Thus, Hayle – a tidier passing side anyway – dominate from the start, although the linesman’s flag saves them from a rare and incisive counter-attack around the quarter-hour. The Helston keeper makes a fine sprawling save to deny the opening goal before the inevitable: a tidy header from the visitors’ number nine. His celebration is incongruously theatrical, parading with fists aloft to embarrassed silence from the terrace; justice is duly served when he balloons an absolute sitter over the bar five minutes later, and a few amused jeers break through the idle chatter to commemorate the moment.

Sarah potters off in search of refreshment and returns with welcome, warming tea…albeit that the wind whips the liquid into an uncontrollable storm, making it undrinkable without crouching down behind a wall for shelter. Sarah potters off again and returns with two Mars bars and a Crunchie, a pound “for cash” from the bar; that’s only ten pence more than Arsenal charge for a single Yorkie. This is a different world, of course. A world where money still has some meaning. A world where winning a free kick involves a stumbling belly-flop rather than an elegant swallow dive. A world where football exists for its own sake, even in a perpetual howling gale. It’s a rather pleasant world, all told.

Aided by the wind, Helston give it their best in the second half, but they lack the quality to take the half-chances that they create and they compete with spirit more than genuine belief. They have the look of a side that’s not quite getting the breaks. (Yes, I know.) Suddenly, the gusts have spikes, piercing rain that drives everyone but the managers on the touchline further under cover and leaves behind an arcing rainbow for Helston to aim towards. They keep plugging away, yet the result is decided with plenty of time to spare.

The final whistle is greeted by…well, nothing at all. The players shake hands among themselves, the spectators continue to talk among themselves…and we wander off to leave them to it and head south past RNAS Culdrose and onwards, to the Lizard Point for the rest of a week’s holiday. Hundreds of miles away, Matt is composing a text message with the final score from the Valley…but we’ll have left mobile phone signals behind by the time that he sends it. And we’ll have left the Lizard, Helston and all, behind by the time that you read this. But only for now.

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Watford 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0 (28/10/2006) 29/10/2006

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
18 comments

Today’s one-word match report is:

Never.

Who are the Style Council? 26/10/2006

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
8 comments

As our performances have, to quote my co-editor, “become less and less scary with every game” and as, despite one defeat in seven, we still await our first league victory of the season, attention has been drawn this week to Watford’s somewhat direct style of play.

Managerial veteran Stewart Robson (record: two defeats and one win as caretaker at Southend in 2003) has let rip in the Telegraph, lambasting Boothroyd and suggesting that the style of play that Robson sees him proposing could “set the country back twenty years” (where have I heard that before?).

Meanwhile Boothroyd has been quoted in the Daily Mail as saying that critics of the way we’re playing within the home ranks can “stay at home” if they don’t like it.

As occasionally happens when his strident public face is slightly battered, Boothroyd comes across as defensive in the article, perhaps understandably. As he observes, complaints amongst the Watford support were few and far between when a no less direct style of play propelled us unexpectedly to the top flight. No less direct, but executed more successfully and with no little panache.

And this is the nub of the matter, as far as Watford fans are concerned. The individuals involved might argue otherwise, but ultimately the sticking point is that we haven’t won a game. As such a style of play which was always going to be direct has degenerated further as the failure to win games has battered confidence. It was always thus… the “passing game” of which Stewart Robson probably sees himself as a proponent is no less unattractive when executed ineffectively by players short on confidence or motivation (witness the Vialli season). Failure to win is the bottom line, style of failure a lazy hobbyhorse to fall back on.

As for critics of our style outside of the Hornets’ ranks… well they are likely to multiply in number as soon as we win a game. Bring it on, I say. A big part of me would enjoy us reverting to sub-Wimbledon Route 1 tactics if it got us results, just to see the likes of Robson, Paul Merson (another with a fine track record), and other self-styled defenders of the game explode with indignation.

More likely is that whatever success we achieve in this division will come about from direct football that will look less spartan for the confidence that it will bring about.

Criticism from outside is tiresome but inevitable. Criticism from inside, from people too stupid to watch Chelsea or Manchester United and see a direct style of play executed by exceptional players, is nigh-on unforgivable.

Boothroyd has suggested that pretty football comes later in the grand plan, that establishing ourselves by whatever means is an essential first step. There are certainly any number of clubs in the top half of the table (Blackburn, Bolton) who have grabbed a foothold based on an aggressive, direct style and added the frills later.

Whatever. Boothroyd has earned the right to make these decisions and forgiven a lot more mistakes than he’s already made (and a failure to strengthen the squad adequately is only arguably one of these). Above all he shouldn’t be pilloried for achieving so much more than anticipated last season and struggling with the consequences; had we narrowly missed promotion, and had another season in the top half of the second division, he might have been treated more realistically.

Watford 2 Hull City 1 (24/10/2006) 24/10/2006

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
1 comment so far

Today’s one-word match report is:

lumpy

A Chilli welcome at Charlton 23/10/2006

Posted by Matt Rowson in Five-a-day Awaydays.
6 comments

The football?  Bollocks to it.  Here’s the veg…

Yours truly, a chilli, and Pierre le Belge.

 

Dee Lesley enjoys Chilli and chips.  Steward less impressed.

Nick and Edward Corble gain extra points for growing their own…

Fuzz and Fran just had to go one better.  The “Chillibabes”, apparently.  You gotta worry.

Charlton Athletic 0 Watford 0 (21/10/2006) 21/10/2006

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
2 comments

Today’s match report is:

Marlon?

Another pivotal game at the Valley… 20/10/2006

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
4 comments

It’s another one of them at Charlton tomorrow… a game whose outcome will again colour much of what follows.  Just as the Fulham result destroyed our confidence at a critical time, the difference between winning and losing tomorrow is colossal in terms of how the rest of it looks.  Even a draw, away point or otherwise, would be a disappointment… whereas a win would see us out of the relegation zone and everything looking rosy, for a day at least.

And a win is not impossible… the Addicks have lost seven of eight this season to our four, and what started out as teething problems of a new manager coupled with a few unhelpful injuries has picked up a bit of downward momentum – momentum that would, one suspects, be hyped to insufferable levels if they capitulate to us tomorrow.  

Chris Powell and Dan Shittu return to their old stamping ground, albeit in Dan’s case his spell at the Valley was never much more than a watching brief.  There are no ex-Orns in the Charlton line-up, but Iain Dowie, who is finding replacing Alan Curbishley a predictably sticky task thus far, is a recent adversary, and Bryan Hughes was in the Birmingham side that we beat in the play-offs in 1999.  Star turns thus far, such as there have been, have been Darren Bent, who seems to carry much of the goal threat, and loanee keeper Scott Carson.  The highly rated Jerome Thomas is back in contention tomorrow though, as may be two of Dowie’s summer recruits Omar Pouso (he of that goal for Uruguay against England) and Souleymane Diawara.

Chillies to Charlton 18/10/2006

Posted by Matt Rowson in Five-a-day Awaydays.
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With Saturday’s trip to the Valley undoubtedly the hot ticket of the weekend, the five-a-day rollercoaster moves on to chilli peppers to mark the occasion.

You know what to do.

A load of Lemons at Arsenal… 16/10/2006

Posted by Matt Rowson in Five-a-day Awaydays.
8 comments

Much as fare on the pitch continues to disappoint, there’s evidence of a growing momentum behind our fruit’n’vegathon.  On top of further assurances of future participation (sort it out, Fuzz), the following contributions…

  

Your editorial team, plus lemons.

 

Some vagrant, who said he’d go away if we took his picture.

  

Pete B, and friend.  Like the arty use of light.

  

“Spot the Lemon”, says Toddy.  Harsh.

 As an aside, it’s worth mentioning that any future attempts to smuggle pics into this section by taking multiple photographs with the same fruit or vegetable (John Clayton, Graham Walker…) will be identified, rooted out (!) and stamped upon.  Even if you don’t tell us.  We knows our fruit’n’veg here, see…

Arsenal 3 Watford 0 (14/10/06) 15/10/2006

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
3 comments

Today’s one-word match report is:

comfy