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Watford 1 Doncaster Rovers 1 (29/11/2008) 29/11/2008

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Five Thunks from the draw with Donny Rovers

1- I want to get my counterbalance out of the way quickly.  First game of a new regime, unreasonable to expect to see the finished article.  Every educated account cites Rodgers as a great coach, but the best coach in the world isn’t going to get it all dancing to his tune in between press conferences in the space of three days…

2 -…but I think we have a right to expect better than that.  After a week in which we’ve pulled in four points and two decent performances from two awkward looking games under Mackay’s caretakership, what’s the sense behind making SEVEN (count them) personnel or positional changes to your starting eleven, only one of which (Ward) enforced?  Having a clear idea of how you want your team to play is one thing.  Turning it all upside down within the space of three days such that the good bits – and there were clearly good bits – of the side inherited were chucked out with the bathwater smacks of blind arrogance.

3 – Liam Bridcutt.  Clearly a cut above anyone else on the pitch.  But didn’t he know it, though?  And here again, the new man’s hand has to be questioned.  If you’re going to rebuild a team in three days, why rebuild it around a guy signed for a month on loan?  Who’s only going to last an hour anyway?  You’re not managing Chelsea’s reserves any more, Rodgers.

4- The result was a team painfully uncomfortable with how it was being asked to play.  If there weren’t problems with the side we wouldn’t be near the bottom of the table, and wouldn’t have needed to replace our manager.  But gone was any semblance of the attacking verve and energy that have characterised much of the season’s performance.  Gone was Ross Jenkins’ steadying role in midfield in place of a nervy shift at right back.  Gone was Lee Williamson’s stamping all over the middle of the park.  In fact the only relic of the side we’ve watched all season was the still shambolic defending in the second half. 

5- Had the purposeful Steve Brooker been on the pitch for the entire 90, Donny would have won the game.  They almost deserved the three points on the basis of the second half anyway – and yet they weren’t great themselves, very much there for the taking.  And tellingly, an opponent that wasn’t set up to chase and harry still made one hark back to the worst of the Vialli days, lazy though the comparison is – nobody around at the time can fail to shudder at the sight of the side passing it around until the weakest footballer is finally closed down and hoofs it into touch.  If we play the same way against a side that actually denies us space, and has a forward line worth speaking of, heaven help us.


1. Richard S - 29/11/2008

Matt – your comments sum up my my feelings exactly and its somewhat ironic writing this a week after witnessing a similarly hapless attempt at the ‘passing game’ by QPR.

Speaking of which I cringe when managers talk about playing the ‘right way’. Played without tempo, the ‘passing game’ is as ineffective and as ugly as anything football. Especially so when you add shambolic defending to the mix.

Please god this isn’t too much of a glimpse of what’s to come but the post match comments about ‘promising signs’ aren’t making me feel any better tonight.

2. tet - 29/11/2008

Blow the expense at least we’ve now got some plywood by the turnstiles.
Things are looking up by easter we’ll have 6’x4 shed to host the press conferences.
On this showing we’ll fit in well with the paupers of division 3.
Maybe Rodgers was looking to see how the rest of the squad performed before bringing in the Chelsea reserve team and Frank Lampard jnr for the occasional cameo performance.

3. Lesley-Anne - 29/11/2008

I agree entirely with your thunks, Matt.

Today it just seemed that all the good work Malky’s done over the past few matches has been undone. I’m quite sure that if he’d picked the team, it wouldn’t have been the same 11 players and building on the results against QPR and Bristol City, I believe we would have beaten Doncaster.

Instead we got players trying to play the way they had been told by the manager when really they would’ve been happier doing it another way. We cringed every time Loach rolled the ball out to the defenders and they were put under pressure almost immediately.

The most worrying thing is Brendan Rodgers comments that the signs are encouraging. Last Saturday against QPR was encouraging, a draw away at Bristol City was encouraging. Hanging on for dear life in the last 20 minutes for a point at home to Doncaster is not.

4. Tapps - 29/11/2008

Five short thunks:

1) crab
2) mishit shot
3) why’s he playing there? (x’s 4)
4) fortunate
5) Vialli

5. Matt Rowson - 29/11/2008

tapps. very good.

6. derry pigweed - 29/11/2008

all a bit disapointing after last week and maybe a tad naive to change the formation and style of play so soon on the back of four points earned deserverdly so

7. Matt Lovett - 29/11/2008

Matt – first class commentary. However, don’t agree that Bridcutt was a cut above. He strikes me as a spoilt little sh1t who thinks he’s now a big fish in a small pond at Vicarage Road. His constant bickering at the ref was ridiculous, even by the standards of the culture that has nurtured him. For one who is allegedly so talented, I don’t really recall him doing much more than running around a lot before fouling someone, or if in posession passing backwards or sideways. I’ll reserve judgement on the new gaffer for now, but I think he’s barking up the wrong tree trying to play ‘total football’ in the Championship…

8. Pete Bradshaw - 29/11/2008

I didn’t go today – couldn’t be bothered as I had been away for a couple of days and it was too foggy to drive down the M1. But by all accounts it was turgid. I am rapidly losing the will to engage with my club anymore…. of course as I’m moving to Luton next year maybe that’s no bad thing!

9. Nigel - 29/11/2008

Firstly i now live in Oz so don’t get to the games anymore however this must surely be a record. 3 days into a new job and the honeymoon period is already over. So the first game wasn’t wonderful, so he’s changed the players and their usual positions around, so he’s attempting something new. Yes we are all aware of Vialli’s legacy but listening to Roger’s post match conference he is at least saying that players need to know when to pass it and when to play direct. So it wasn’t the greatest performance but come on people we are Watford, we’re supposed to encourage and nuture.
If i was a teacher i’d be saying Matt rewrite your article. Have one negative and four positve thunks. By all means slate him come May when we realise he is worse than Vialli and we are bottom of the table but until then…

10. JohnM - 30/11/2008

Just a few short thoughts

Remember thinking about two seconds after Vialli was appointed ‘What the hell does he know about Championship Football’.

Aidy’s initial success was due to his Championship knowledge.

Know little about Brendon Rodgers, but his experience appears to be restricted to Premiership coaching. Interview on radio Five today seemed to be mainly name dropping (Lampard, Morinho, etc. (sorry about spelling)) and his Premiership contacts, plus Watford Board grovelling..

What the hell does he know about Championship football?

was worried about Malkie as manager—more worried about Rodgers. Hope he is a very quick learner.

11. Tim Turner - 30/11/2008

I can’t add much to your assessment, Matt. I’m just clinging desperately to the hope that today was the result of Rodgers trying to put 15 years’ worth of theories and ideas about football management into practice in five days. With a bit of luck he’ll come to his senses soon. Possibly after we’ve lost 5-0 to Spurs, which is a racing certainty if we repeat today’s half-arsed performance on Wednesday.

12. MartinG - 30/11/2008

After the positive approach of the games under Malky that was a real let down. Turgid. Reminded me of the Plymouth match where we had lots of possession but went absolutely nowhere. I can’t remember Sullivan being stretched, and our goal came from a mishit shot. Let’s hope they go up a few gears for the Spurs game.

13. JohnF - 30/11/2008

Matt, absolutely spot on. The only thing that I would rather disagree with is the comment about is Bridcutt and I agree wity matt Lovett. He was closed down quickly much of the time and rushed unloading of the ball put team mates under pressure. Bringing in a 19 year-old reserve team player with zero league experience to be the ‘captain’ smacks of breath taking arrogance. He says he wants to change the Watford philosophy and make it more entertaining but much of this was like watching paint dry. As others have said, we lost the speed of build-up and lost our way. Pleased with a point against a team who have struggleg more than we have, I don’t think so.

I fear the board have made another massive mistake but one that could lead to our going the way of Luton.

14. DP - 30/11/2008

Thanks Matt (and others) for saving me the time – you’ve already pretty much said it all (and particular thanks to Tapps for doing it so succinctly).

The only caveat is the toss written about Bridcutt who was superb – worked his arse off, always looking for the ball, never wasted a pass, got stuck in. Arrogant ? When ? Spoilt ? How ? Just because the new manager was a fool making seven changes (Tapps might have added a 6th thunk – “Bassett” – for that) and building the side around a short-term loanee doesn’t mean the player should be given grief. He was head and shoulders above any other Watford player (apart from Priskin perhaps) and doesn’t deserve any of the abuse on the basis of yesterday

15. JohnF - 30/11/2008

Sorry about the typos in my post. I am so angry I just wanted to add to the excellent posts already there. More haste, less accuracy.

16. Matt Rowson - 30/11/2008

Nigel – doesn’t the fact that there’s pretty much consensus from everyone who was at the game (surely a first) tell you something? Of course it was only one game, and I’ll be delighted if all the concerns highlighted prove unfounded. But on the basis of yesterday’s evidence alone, I’m really worried.

DP- I thought Bridcutt looked very good, but he WAS behaving as if he was the dog’s bollocks, brought along to show all these oiks how to play football. A gobby little twat, as someone said on the way out.

17. Dan - 30/11/2008

Agree with the general mood on here. I can’t believe it’s a week since I was feeling positive after watching the energy and positive drive of the side against QPR. This was Doncaster, for god’s sake! I’ll bet their back four breathed a huge sigh of relief when they realised we were going to pass backwards every time we got a free-kick in the Donny half.

It is early days, and things may improve, but it was disturbing to see the players so constrained by the ‘style’. The roll outs from Loach were a case in point – a couple of times he found someone in space, in a position to take the ball forward and start an attack. And that’s ok. But more often, he threw it to someone who was immediately closed down and put under pressure. That’s just stupid, and suggests he was explicitly told to roll it out whenever possible.

The substitutions were as baffling as the initial team selection.

The generous interpretation is that Rodgers and co tried to do too much in too short a time, and the players therefore were confused about how to put it into practice. I hope so, because better sides that Donny will slaughter us if we play like that again.

I did think Bridcutt was excellent though.

18. DW - 30/11/2008

1. AAARRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH. God that was frustrating.

2. I except every ones aforementioned caveats but we have just been outplayed by a team who score one goal per two games.

3. Bridcutt having a good game does not compensate for us having to re-shuffle the whole pack. A pack that on the last 3 performances looked purposeful and more than the sum of it’s parts.

4. playing Smith out on the wing was criminal, maybe not as a bad as playing H @ left back but criminal none the less.


19. DM - 30/11/2008

Tapps – Superb.

Liam Bridcutt – yes, he looks a player, but as stated above, if you’re going to bring in a 19 year old and totally re-shuffle the team to accomodate him, why in the name of god do you SUB him just after the hour ? What sort of message does that send ? If Brendan Rodgers wants to carry on nurturing Chelsea’s reserve players then I suggest he clears off back to Chelsea and gets on with it.

In case it escaped his attention, we are near the bottom of the league. We have a team that was starting to move in the right direction, all they needed was a fresh voice and some tightening up at the back. This is no time for a cocksure newcomer, whose press statements this far utterly reek of the foul stench of Chelsea arrogance, to completely abandon the good things we’ve seen since August, re-invent the wheel and “stamp his phillosphies” on a football club that needs a bit of flipping stability and old fashioned pragmatism. Seven changes to a team that’s just recorded arguably it’s best back to back performances this season ? Barmy – just plain barmy.

Learning curve ? Yeah, sure. He’d better learn bloody quickly on this evidence. Championship players are Championship players for a reason – they are not as sharp passers and movers as their top flight peers. Yes, they can and should still play a bit of football, but this tippy-tappy sideways and backwards stuff only works in the footballing stratosphere – that’s why its so hard for Championship teams to adapt when they get promoted. It will not work here. Get the ball forward with pace, either along the ground or in the air – that’s the way to succeed in this league.

Unfortunately I am now very, very worried that the curve is pointing directly towards league one and for all we’ve been though this season, at no time have I thought that.

20. Johnny Boy - 30/11/2008

Tend to agree with all the comments both good and bad ( better get those splinters out my arse ) but to try and make some positives it was BR’s first match so lets hold off till about Xmas before crucifying him. Also, I liked the look of Bridcutt and hopefully we can get him for the season because we deseperately need a ‘gobby little twat’ as the current team has not got a natural leader on the pitch.
OK – now the negatives. It was dire especially as the team on paper looked quite attack focussed. Also that with all the back-passing etc the impression left was that the new boss would have been happy with a 1-0 like Mourinho – his obvious hero.
Finally, if that was Malky’s Range Rover that went past me on the A41 bypass at 5.45 on Saturday I would suggest that things were not happy back at the Vic.
Anyway, enough of the rumour spreading and lets hope on Wednesday we get a performance like against West Ham rather than what we saw yesterday.

21. graham - 30/11/2008

5 Thunks – yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. Whilst wishing to be positive and not damn Clodagh on the basis of just one game, all the stated reservations and anxieties from yesterday are legitimate.

As for the gobby little twat, around which the team was built (!), yes, he has talent, his timing was exceptional. However, free kicks in the opposition half……. – he doesn’t play it sideways, he plays it backwards !! I thought My God, it’s Butch Wilkins !”

As for playing it from the back, yes that was a clumsy and awful glimpse of the Viallian past. Did we have a shot in the second half ? If so, I don’t remember. It was a waste of Smith and Priskin’s good form, a passionless and anaemic performance which left me colder than cold.

McAnuff – why ?

22. Apperley 'Orn - 30/11/2008

Aidy’s arrogance was, in many ways, quite endearing.

Clodagh’s, however, I find completely irritating. He must be the biggest name-dropper in the history of the game – just waiting for him to make the mistake of naming Vialli as one of his role-models…

Still, I will sit quietly and wait for the “revolution” to happen. I’m sure we will be top 6 come March/April, after all playing tippy tappy sideways football works so well in this league (good grief).

I was planning to be in Watford for this game plus an old school reunion yesterday – glad my basketball injury prevented me from getting there now after reading the feedback on here!

23. Esp - 30/11/2008

Very much a game of style over substance and having seen our style of play under Malky getting better with every passing game (despite the fact that QPR didn’t turn up last week) it does seem very unfair to both the fans AND the players to throw everything out with the bath water.

I know I’m not alone in thinking that it was incredibly insulting to our outgoing caretaker when Rodgers stated that he now wants us to play football. What the feck were we playing before…baseball?

Four attempts in the whole game (and one of those was the goal) simply isn’t good enough of course and very few of us were entertained apart from the brief respite of Tommy’s 10th goal of the season; surely though the truth must have beeen drummed into Rodgers when he took the job on that we really don’t have much time to put things right. That does NOT mean wholesale changes to EVERYTHING just to stamp his authority (an arrogance surely up there with Birdcutt’s posturing) and I do agree with those above who despair that we are changing our formation just to suit a player who may only be with us until Christmas. I never ever wanted a bloody Transformer for Christmas, this year is no exception!

I am prepared to give BR some time and of course the board have no frigging choice but I don’t blame him completely for the failures on the pitch

The passing “fre-flowing” football that many of us want Watford to play instead of hoofball IS attractive when applied correctly and many know we have the players to play that way but BR wasn’t on the pitch and the 11 players out there KNOW that after the neat, tidy attractive passing of the ball over the park there HAS to be an end product. If they don’t know that a goal has to result from it then they don’t dserve to be professional footballers let alone Watford players

My last word is a direct quote from Brian Clough “Tactics don’t lose you football matches, players do”. And by god we nearly lost that one.

24. Weymouth 'Orn - 30/11/2008

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!!!
The last two games under Malky showed that things were on the up.
Replacing Ward with Bromby yesterday was all that was needed – and we would have strolled it.
We saw tippy tappy with Vialli and look where that got us.
Big clogging Championship sides – especially those at the bottom – will close us down in no time and we are going to get stuffed on a regular basis.
The rest of the season is going to be tough and that is putting it mildly!

25. Stuart - 30/11/2008

Didn’t go to the game, and haven’t commented on anything much for a wee while, but reading all this and hearing feedback from others I’m shifting uncomfortably in my seat here. The amount of times Vialli has been mentioned already is enough to make anyone squirm.

26. DM - 01/12/2008

One other thing – can we drop this Clodagh nonsense ? Surely the best nickname for BR is Gianluca ?

27. Nigel - 01/12/2008

Matt, fair point and anything which brings the fans together is surely a good thing…
As i said i didn’t see the game but thinking back i have witnessed an awful lot of dirge from Watford in the past 20 odd years. in fact in some ways, over the last few years watching Watford has been a lot like watching England (I know, not an obvious link but bear with me) Remove England v Holland (96) and perhaps the games against Germany (5-1) and Croatia (this year) and the majority of time spent watching Englands has been one of frustration and exasperation (more along the lines of ‘he’s getting how much a week and still can’t pass a ball to a team mate (Lampard, Terry, Doley et al).
Once in a while we get a Watford team who are exciting to watch and get us out of our seats and who make having to sit through all that tedium and turgidness worthwhile, but over the last 20 odd years those sides have been few and far between.
Now i know we aren’t Arsenal and we never will be, but here is the start of a brand new (possibly Golden) era with a new young manager who wants his team to pass the ball on the ground. Isn’t that a worthwhile quest? If (God fordbid) you had to watch West Brom or Stoke on a regular basis (regardless of the fact that West Brom are bottom) who would you choose to watch?
It was his first game in charge and he made some mistakes and now it seems everybody is slating the young man. I am just amazed that everybody is already sticking the knife in.
Personally i think he has a cunning plan. He knew the Spurs scouts would be there watching so he deliberately made a pigs ear of his team selection just to confuse them.
Luckily the Watford game is live on tv in Oz Thursday morning so i can watch a glorious Hornets victory. Or, i will be apologising and promising never to write such rubbish again.
And look Stuart, didn’t mention Vialli once…

28. Johnny Boy - 01/12/2008

Nigel from oz makes a good point – after the negatives we have given mister rogers, myself included, after just one game he is going to have deliver the title playing brazillian style football before we all believe. Hopefully we will experience the ephinany that struck Piers Morgan in his column in last Sundays Mail on Sunday ( don’t worry Matt – I get the Observer aswell!). He wrote how the previous week he had written a column saying Wenger must go, a column he admits he wrote within 1/2 an hour of seeing his beloved Gunners beaten 3-0 by Man City. He then woke at about 3 in the morning in a cold sweat realising what a pratt he had been. Hopefully we will all feel pratts in a couple of weeks.
P.S Is the proper spelling of pratt or prat?

29. Harefield Hornet - 01/12/2008

I actually felt more depressed on Saturday evening than I have done at any point so far this season. Not so much with the result – I actually thought Doncaster looked a reasonable side despite their league position and its obviously their lack of goalpower that will see them back in league One at the end of this season – but with the comments after the game. Instead of “Its early days yet and its going to take a while to sort this out” we got a ” ooooohh I’m so pleased with a point and everyone was marvellous” type summing up.

The thing is it was already some way towards being sorted out and after painstakingly climbing a few ladders in recent games we seem to have gone down another snake.

I admit I was conned into thinking this could be a good appointment but all this was undone over 90 minutes on Saturday. Surely this guy can’t be naive enough to think we can survive in this division playing like that. A lot has been said about the style of play but we all know there has to be a balance and the similarities to the Vialli fiasco, immediately emerging due to the Chelsea connection, were there in spades already. I actually felt for the guy, standing on the touchline, trying to look like a manager. Its a huge challenge becoming Manager of a professional football club and you have to admire anyone with the balls to even attempt it, let alone be a success. The only comfort I have at present is that those around him will push him in the right direction and he listens – Come on he can’t be that naieve – can he????? At the end of the day we are all mug punters and we can see whats wrong – this blokes getting paid a substantial amount of money and others are getting paid to advise him. This is a big step up from experimenting in empty stadiums where results dont really matter – I suppose we have no option other than to give the guy a chance. Sadly, the F**cking board make the decisions, not us!

30. JohnF - 01/12/2008

I was at the EGM this morning at which Graham Simpson dropped his bombshell resignation. This creates further uncertainty in the club while a new board is put together. Whatever anybody says or however they feel, this is a business with shareholders and the best the fans can hope for is that we have a board that reasonably have the best long-term intersts of the club at heart. A number of the major shareholders have put a great deal of money in and as Graham pointed out he has potentially lost a lot of money.
Nigel, the overwhelming feeling of the fans was concern. A new manager is fine but when we are next to the relegation zone pratting around with the team, who have just started playing well, against relegation rivals at home is not the cleverest move. This was emphasised when we gifted them 2 points. Graham Simpson admitted that he thought that if Malky had been in charge we would have won. For us relegation would be a very serious financial blow and could jeopardise our solvency. Although I pointed out the need for long-term strategy above, unfortunately there are also short-term issues.

31. simmo - 01/12/2008

MR- we have had our disagreements on this site over the last few weeks but you and the majority of the contributors have summed up precisely how I feel. Excellent thunks and comments.

I have just returned from the EGM which was attended by about 500 shareholders. Usually at AGM’s we get about 50 people attend but the strength of feeling about the club was clear from the turn out. Much will be written about the EGM and GS’s resignation but afterwards GS held an impromptu Q&A. No clear answer was given as to whether players will be sold (especially Smudger) and GS seemed to lay the blame for our failings wholly with him placing faith in Aidy who, to use GS’s words, he considered “to be a god”. However GS was most appalled by the booing of BR at the end of the game. He pointed out that BR only had 2 days to work with the players and that he feels he will prove to be one of Watford’s best managers.

While I didn’t agree with the booing at the end I didn’t feel it was directed at the manager but at the performance. I agree with the posts above which say that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I am not suggesting that things were going well but we could all see improvement over the last few weeks and regardless of the results we all went away entertained. And that must be the point. Yes I want us to win but not so that the enjoyment is taken away of attending matches. I will reserve judgement on the new manager but if this is the type of game we can expect to see in the future I fear that attendances will fall and as a result the club will move down the leagues as we are not able to compete financially. I hope I am wrong but I may not be especially as new financial backing is unlikely to be forthcoming.

32. derry pigweed - 01/12/2008

Scunthorpe at home in the FA cup could be very embarassing,Spurs at home will be awful and Birmingham away will not be any chance of a result after Brendon’s tactics to take us to league one

33. Sequel - 02/12/2008

He’s going to have to be more of a Buck than a Clodagh if we’re to get out of this mess, although right now, I’d settle for Ginger.

34. Weymouth 'Orn - 02/12/2008

Never mind Ginger…… I’d settle for Roy so that in the unlikely event of a shoot-out he can pull the Trigger……….aaarh did I really write that???????
Another fine mess……

35. Stuart - 02/12/2008


I don’t think even Biggles could get us out of this one.

36. NickB - 02/12/2008

Derry – your leading edge negativity is a big enough pain on the WO site; please don’t infect this one.

If you’ve ever said a single supportive thing, it’s certainly passed me by

37. derry pigweed - 03/12/2008

Sorry to hear that NickB
Hopefully we have something positive from tonight’s match to comment on.

38. markymark - 03/12/2008

Already I am fed up with Rodgers’ name dropping of Mourinho as if he was some sort of God.IMO Mourinho’s Chelsea were boring to watch chistling out 1-0 wins and they had world class players on £50k plus a week so God help us!
Lloyd Doyley trying to play the Chelsea way is just so ridiculous if you think about it!
Based on the Donny match,Rodgers does not have a clue about the championship.If we play like that we’ll go down,guaranteed.I’d actually put money on it!!

39. DM - 03/12/2008

Ted Rogers. Settled.

40. Ian Lay - 03/12/2008

All the comments from people who saw the game make sense to me. I followed the game on and off on the BBC website. Looking at the stats, the possesion and the shots on goal, the first word that came to mind was “fanny football”. I can hear Rupe even now muttering the words under his breath! 🙂

So the comments that have been made came as no surprise.

I agree with Nigel that maybe we are putting the knife in a little early but it just seems that the new manager has come in and tinkered too much too quickly.

You fix what’s broken. You don’t break the things that are working and then re-build them. Not when you are sitting just above the relegation and playing at home against a team that would have trouble scoring in the red light district in Amsterdam with 10,000 in cash in their wallet.

Hopefully it was all a cunning plan to lure Spurs into a false sense of security. Hey, I’m feeling glass half full today! 🙂


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