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Who are the Style Council? 26/10/2006

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

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.


1. Stuart - 26/10/2006

Good article Matt, I totally agree with you on all points. Reading that article in the Telegraph has made me hopping mad though! I’m starting to get really cheesed off with all the negative Watford vibes in the media at the moment. It’s awfully frustrating, but I suppose we’re used to it over the years.

2. Geoff McPherson - 27/10/2006

Brilliant and well summarized as always. We have to keep things in perspective, 18 months ago we were looking over the cliff at Division 3 with financial issues, here we are in Division one with our financial issues having being addressed and proactive development plans on the horizon.

Yes we could have purchased 2 or 3 more players in the summer but we may look back in 18 months time being glad we didn’t sell our future as so many clubs in our position have done before us.

If direct football is the stepping stone to greater things thing bring it on.

3. DM - 27/10/2006

I don’t view it as frustrating. That’s excatly how it always used to be in the glory days of the 80’s. I’d rather there was a lot more carping going on, as it would mean we were winning games. Bottom line, that has to start happening. And now.

4. Paul Wiggins - 27/10/2006

Great article. As soon as we start winning games the criticism from outside will really start just as it did after we won at Tottenham in 82. It isnt just about style of play it is also ‘how dare that poxy little team from Hertfordshire take on us big boys’
Don’t be incensed by criticism – enjoy it as it means that we are getting there!

5. Matt Rowson - 27/10/2006

Agree about criticism from outside Paul. The criticism from the home support, fuelled by inflated expectations or mere stupidity, is what winds me up.

6. billyo - 27/10/2006

Indeed. Well summarised as always Matt. Being a hornet in exile I’ve not noticed the in house snide comments. I have though, been subjected to the usual ribbing and jibes from my “established premiership (not, not) team” supporting friends. I was out for a meal last week with a couple who are lifelong Pompey fans, they were mocking the long ball game. I repeat these were Pompey fans. What has happened to the world.

7. Stuart - 27/10/2006

Yes some of the criticism from the home support is really pathetic at times, you only have to visit the messageboard on the club website to see some of the idiots that don’t know a good thing when they see it (don’t ask me why I go on there sometimes, possibly it’s an annoying habit I’ve stumbled into). I just get frustrated at the narrow minded attitude some of these so called ‘experts’ or pundits show towards Watford. You see my main trouble is, when Watford were beating Spurs in 82′ and taking English football by storm in the early 80’s I was in the process of a) being born (83) and b) learning to walk/talk etc….! Therefore I’m new to this bashing we get at the top level from all corners (I suppose I have a little experience from 99/00), thus I’m easily frustrated! Anyway let’s keep everything crossed for a victory tomorrow!

8. Simon Marchant - 29/10/2006

Fear not, you loyal Horns, in being derided for our team’s so-called, “Direct Football.” There is a parallel universe called Australia, where I live and support the local Sydney FC, managed this year by Terry Butcher who has experienced terrible injuiries, suspensions and international call-ups along with serious belt-tightening after last year’s profligate money spending.
The results have been poor but defensible.
This has not spared Terry from being derided as an “English long-ball merchant” by the local press and especially by TV pundit Craig Foster (a Venables favourite who played, sort of, for Portsmouth and Palarse in the late 90s).
I’ve just got back from a game which Butcher, according to the press, HAD to win to keep his job. How daft! It was 1:1. Perhaps he’ll keep it part-time?
MEMO FROM OVERSEAS: Support Aidy and the boys to the hilt. It’s tough for them now but help, help, help……and bugger the style (as long as it isn’t violent a la Leeds in the 70s)

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