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End of Term Report Part 7 28/06/2009

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Ha!  Sunshine!  All afternoon! Whilst the skies were emptying further south!  Heartily relieved, I’m ready for everything that the high twenties has to offer…

27. Billy Gibson

Twenty minutes of senior action in the League Cup against Bristol Rovers isn’t a lot to base any kind of judgment on.  Dangerous to try, particularly in the case of young wingers (how many such false dawns have there been over the years?  Chris Pullan against Spurs?  Anthony McNamee against Cov?  Rod Thomas against everyone?).  Nonetheless, for what it’s worth, Gibson looked bolshy and exciting in equal measure during his brief run-out.

Next Season:  Having missed much of the last campaign through injury, Gibson will be hoping to kick on again.  A strong candidate for involvement at Barnet, his versatility could see him a regular on the subs bench if, as seems likely, the summer strips us of wide options.

28. Aleksandrs Cauņa

Whilst not having an in-depth knowledge of Latvian football, I’d guess there are easier things to do than step from the Latvian top flight into the English second tier at the age of 21.  With the reservation that it might therefore have been unreasonable to expect Cauņa’s best in the handful of runouts we gave him firmly in mind, I must confess to having been somewhat underwhelmed…

Next Season: Having originally been a triallist at Chelsea, loanee Cauņa looked very much like one of Rodgers’ coterie.  Of all the candidates to “jump ship” to Reading, one I’d lose less sleep about.

29. Cedric Avinel

Yup, still there apparently, more than two years after his very uncomfortable forty-five minutes of league action, being shredded to bits by Leroy Lita in what nonetheless turned out to be a rare top-flight victory.  Having not threatened the first team reckoning since 2007, even in last season’s League Cup run-outs and subsequent periods of defensive calamity, it can reasonably be assumed that Avinel isn’t long for Vicarage Road. 

Next Season:  Spent the end of last season on loan at Gueugnon, but adding to his Guadeloupe caps seems more likely than further first team action.

30. Mark Tyler

Amongst the many strange decisions that littered Norwich City’s gradual descent to the third tier was the decision to sell Joe Lewis.  £400,000 from a fourth division club for a goalkeeper untried above that level must have been tempting, admittedly, but Lewis was clearly destined for bigger things.  His arrival at London Road spelled the end of Mark Tyler’s long Peterborough career, and Tyler’s loan with us, as non-playing emergency cover, was one of several as he spent the season flitting around in search of games.

Next Season: After having his contract cancelled at Peterborough by mutual consent, Mark Tyler signed for a non-league side from Bedfordshire.

31. Jordan Parkes 

Jordan Parkes has been one to watch since impressing as a fifteen-year-old in the side that got to the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup four years ago.  Thing is, we’re still watching… it’s nearly three years since his excitable senior debut against Accrington, and his Watford league debut against Ipswich was curtailed at 45 minutes this season.   One who’s looked better going forward than defending, you’ve got to be slightly worried about an outfield player being named reserve team skipper…

Next Season:  Turning up on the bench a couple of times in the second half of the campaign suggests that Parkes has still got time.  But probably not beyond this season…


End of Term Report Part 6 25/06/2009

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

It’s Rachie’s third birthday party this weekend.  We badly badly badly need it to be dry on Saturday.  If anyone knows any suitable rituals or chants that might induce sunshine let’s hear them.  Meanwhile…

23. Adrian Mariappa

A year ago I’d have listed Mariappa as one who could go either way.  After arguably his strongest season in a Watford shirt, despite the chaos that often reigned around him, he’s very much a fixture.  Occasionally linked with a move during the season, his penning of a new contract was enormously reassuring… competent across the back line, I still think he’s a far more accomplished centre-back than full-back but like Demerit benefits from playing alongside a senior partner.

Next Season: Ostensibly now unchallenged at right-back, he’s an asset wherever he’s fielded.

24. (#1) Darren Ward

On the face of it, this was quite a sensible loan.  We were desperate for the aerial presence at the back and some height in the side generally; Ward represented a known quantity with seven years’ more experience, much of which at this level, than when he last donned a yellow shirt.  Unfortunately, that experience seems to have done little to develop Ward as a player… he’s much the same defender as he was when he left, and suddenly his sale to Millwall doesn’t rank quite as high on the list of crimes to level at the Vialli regime.  For a big bloke, he still can’t head the ball anything like reliably either – that aerial presence was to be provided by his successor in the number 24 shirt.  Ward, meanwhile, left after a cheekbone fracture, spending the end of the season with relegated Charlton.

Next Season: With one year left on his Wolves contract, Ward is currently a Premiership footballer.  Wouldn’t pencil him into your Fantasy League team just yet, though.

24. (#2) Mike Williamson

Not since Colin Foster 16 years ago (ulp) has a player transplanted into the side mid-season so very obviously solved a problem.  Dismissively dominant in the air, comfortable on the deck, Williamson brought composure where so recently there had been disarray and enabled Jay Demerit in particular to flourish.  His debut against Burnley was a thing of wonder;  the soon-to-be-promoted Clarets blamed an off day, but in reality they looked more expansive and creative than most of the sides that had had far fewer problems scoring against us  in earlier fixtures.  Their attacks broke on the rock in the centre of our defence, and we counter-attacked our way to a 3-0 win.  The rest of the season started there. And yes, mentioning Colin Foster was deliberate.

Next Season:  Birmingham have stocked up on centre-backs in the past week, which should put that rumour to bed.  Unfortunately, having released Michael Duberry and with Andre Bikey looking for the exit, Reading need to recruit in this position.  Yawn.

25. Gareth Williams

Not a lot to say here, quite obviously.  Whether or not Williams would have worked out had he not gotten injured we’ll never know… his few appearances looked promising in a “well that might work” kinda way, but a cruciate ligament injury isn’t really something that can be predicted or planned for. 

Next Season: Good luck to him, but we’re obviously better off for not having him on the payroll.

26. John-Joe O’Toole

It’s the bloody goals that did it.  But for the goals, John-Joe would still be gradually finding his way on the fringes of our first team.  But a young midfielder scoring goals at a rate like that, attacking the box as effectively as anyone you’ve ever seen in that position, was always going to grab the attention.  Given that the rest of his game isn’t quite up to that standard yet, at least not reliably, he’s probably an asset that’s worth trading in in our current circumstances.  And yet… if the better of his home games this season are anything to go by the rest of his game will catch up with his goalscoring and John-Joe will become a quite exceptional midfielder.  There was one game – it might have been Wolves – when the unflustered mastery of possession was extraordinary, suggesting a much older and more experienced player.  There were several others, mind, where the whole thing seemed to pass him by.

Next Season:  It will be interesting to watch John-Joe develop.  In someone else’s team, unfortunately.

End of Term Report Part 5 24/06/2009

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Right then.  Getting into the high teens… could be a bit trickier from here on in.  Still, I managed a paragraph on Stuart Searle, how hard can the rest be?

18. Theo Robinson

Yet another one who prompts a puzzled look.  Back in August, back in the pub before Crystal Palace when everyone predicted a far gloomier (not to mention less turbulent) outcome, we didn’t appear heavy on striking options.  Theo Robinson came off the bench, did OK, and we expected to see more of him.  He’s been one to watch for a while, the unexpected introduction at Loftus Road, aged 17, gave him that label and even his loan at Hereford, where lukewarm reports suggested that he struggled when the ball and goal weren’t in front of him, did little to dissuade that.  As it is, we’re once again looking nervously forward at a difficult season, wondering where the goals might come from, but this time we know that Theo won’t be part of it.  Critics might suggest that he hasn’t had a chance, which is true… but that successive managers haven’t given him a chance says something.  It may be that like Steve Brooker or Wayne Andrews he’ll drop down a level or two and grow back to this division with experience.  It seems he was never going to get that experience with us.

Next Season: Swindon, it would appear, not inappropriately.  We had higher hopes of McNamee and Jerel Ifil, too.

19. Lionel Ainsworth

Deary me.  There was a time when Ainsworth looked like a good catch, an exciting signing.  It didn’t last terribly long.  As we splashed out half a million quid I read a Derby messageboard where the sort of outraged idiot you find on every messageboard exclaimed “Watford just signed Ainsworth for half a million!  typical!  another one we’ve let go too early! “.  Somewhat premature, as judgments go… that Derby had let him go for free just three months before we signed him from Hereford should have said something.   

Next Season:  Ainsworth was arrested and charged with affray in March;  Huddersfield have just splashed out on Robbie Simpson from Coventry… another right-winger.  Ainsworth’s career has some recovering to do.

20. Al Bangura

It’s fair to say that Al’s career isn’t hitting the heights that his first full season suggested.  It’s easy to forget just how significant he was in the promotion campaign… not just a charismatic youngster with a bit of promise, he was reliably and frequently employed to slam the door behind away victories before the victims had realised that their pockets had been picked.  In the memorable semi-final win at Selhurst Park it was Bangura’s half-time introduction for Big Doris that swung the balance and ultimately the tie.  Since then… what little action he’s had has emphasised his limitations rather than his ability. 

Next Season: If there’s scope for a rehabilitation then you’d expect an erstwhile teammate to encourage it.  I hope it happens… there’s a real asset there to be rediscovered.

21. Tommy Smith

There’s not a lot to say here that you don’t already know.  Player of the Season for the second year running, scoring at a previously unsuggested rate and our most reliable creator to boot.  It’s no surprise that other clubs want him.  What surprises me are the occasional arguments that Smith’s age should somehow put him top of a list of assets to be realised, should such be the necessity.  The reality is that whilst we’ve enjoyed similarly talented players in the recent past, it’s difficult to think of many whose obvious affiliation to the club and the area mean that we can probably depend on him not to swan off in search of the best offer going as a matter of course when his contract expires.  That’s a big plus. 

Next Season:  Yer man down the road at Reading would appear to have prioritised Smudger as a target.  One can only hope that he’s disappointed.

22. Will Hoskins

There’s a lot to be said for Will Hoskins.   Industrious, persistent, clever.  And yet… he’s still not quite convinced.  And it’s been a few years now, note… two-and-a-half, I make it, and it’s not as if he was a completely untried youngster when he came here.  Lee Williamson, signed at the same time, took time to establish himself too but finally did so, even if Brendan Rodgers decided that he could do better.  If Hoskins hangs around, this has got to be make-or-break at Vicarage Road.

Next Season:  With Rasiak gone and scope for others to leave, one might expect Hoskins to be in the front line of those to take advantage.  However he was the higher profile Rotherham recruit at the time of his signing, and one might imagine that if Lee Williamson’s wages ultimately proved prohibitive then a manager who dropped Hoskins from his starting line-up during his earlier caretaker spell might be looking to move him on.  You’d need a buyer first, mind.

End of Term Report Part 4 22/06/2009

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Dawdling on 13 doesn’t seem particularly sensible.  And anyway, there’s only bloody tennis on the telly with the boss downstairs.  Onwards…

13. Scott Loach

Loach’s third year at Vicarage Road saw his second full season of senior football and his first for us – all in all, his trajectory has stuck far closer to the plan than that of many of Boothroyd’s other early signings.  For the most part has fully justified his starting berth… and the mistakes he’s made are, significantly, similar to those made early on by his most recent comparator, Ben Foster, which is in itself sort of encouraging.  I’m still kinda surprised at the U21 call – there’s clearly potential there and it’s easy to see why bigger clubs are reputed to be interested, but he hasn’t blown anyone away just yet.  I guess that’s what (good) 21 year-old goalkeepers look like though… were he the finished package, he’d have been off already.  As it is the future looks bright for Scott, and he’s unlikely to “concede” a more peculiar goal than the first he shipped in the League in our colours.

Next Season: Undisputed first choice. Onwards and upwards.

14. Lee Williamson

Well that was very odd.  Amongst the frantic chaos of the first half of the season, Lee Williamson was one of few consistent plusses in the side.  A contender for Player of the Season at one stage, he seemed to have finally nailed down a role in the centre of the park.  Enter Brendan Rodgers… and suddenly one of our hitherto key men is no longer in the picture.  In mitigation, the Cork/Jenkins pairing in the centre looked marvellous, and Williamson’s performances in other positions – out wide, and even tucked in behind the front man – never convinced.  You’d have got long odds on the way things were to pan out after seventy marvellous minutes against West Ham in the League Cup, however, and ultimately his loan to Preston and subsequent permanent departure say as much about our wage bill as they do about Williamson’s ability.

Next Season: Part of the job lot to Bramall Lane, Williamson obviously wanted to go and in the end we needed to sell him.  Based on playing ability alone you’d never have let him go… that’s far from the only consideration at the moment.

15. Jon Harley

At times during the second act of last season, Jon Harley was the only source of venom in the side – almost unthinkable last summer.  And actually, at times he wasn’t even on the bench let alone in the side, which I find a little odd… whilst he probably wouldn’t have been in my starting eleven either, there’s little justification for not having a versatile left-sided option as a substitute, let alone one with the gumption to get on and shake things up a bit when such is required.  Must confess to having been slightly surprised to see Harley top a Burnley site’s poll as their best left-back of the last ten years… never short on endeavour, I’ve never been totally sold on his defensive qualities.  His tendency to lose his rag and pick up silly yellow cards for revenge-hacks when he feels wronged doesn’t do him any favours, but otherwise he’s a good guy to have around.

Next Season: With Smith and McAnuff both candidates for the exit door, it’s wide in midfield where we might expect to see Jon Harley more often, something that I’d be altogether more comfortable with.

16. Richard Lee

One shouldn’t complain.  We’re in the fortunate position of having a very good backup goalkeeper with an obvious affinity for the club.  Someone who comes across as a very decent bloke, someone you want to see do well.  However you can’t help but feel that the smart move would have been to move on… that he didn’t perhaps indicates where his priorities are, but Richard will be 27 in October and whilst he still has plenty of years in him you’d have thought being first choice might have been a priority.

Next Season:  A very able deputy.

17. Stuart Searle

I can’t confess to having ever really gotten the point of this one.  Admittedly Searle was never really touted as a first team goalkeeper – he made the bench once, against Palace in the cup.  And I guess he won’t be on a big wage… but from this distance a solid reserve team goalkeeping option and occasional academy coach – with a goalkeeping coach already on the staff – would appear to be a bit of a luxury?  But then it’s hard enough to come to consensus about people whose work we see every week, let alone those we don’t…

Next Season: Will be interesting to see whether Mackay values Searle’s role as much as his predecessor… or whether Searle too will be heading to Berkshire.

End of Term Report Part 3 20/06/2009

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Rejuvenated and invigorated by kind words of encouragement, we press on….

8- John Eustace

One of the several unpredictable developments of the season was the exclusion and subsequent loaning out of John Eustace. A year ago, Eustace would have probably been cited as the most convincing of the previous January’s recruits, but it seems a long time since both sets of fans derided Rob Styles’ final red card at Vicarage Road as he saw red against Stoke.  By the time Brendan Rodgers discarded Eustace in December his detractors in the stands were growing in number, the widely held belief that his “legs had gone” drawn from performances lessening in authority.  Despite which… Eustace’s showing on returning with an otherwise uninterested Derby side at the season’s end added weight to the suspicion that, wage-bill considerations aside, this was someone who might still have a role.  He’s not even thirty, for goodness’ sake.  Seriously.

Next Season: Minus Jack Cork, probably, and Lee Williamson, definitely, there could still be a role for Eustace.  My guess is not, though.

9- Tamas Priskin

The ugly duckling finally matured into a swan last season, albeit a swan who still got caught offside too often and retained a tendency to aggravate with his diffidence.  The impeccable finishing that had previously been hinted at became a trademark, however, and “dink!” became a text message that conveyed goal, goalscorer and a mental image of the latest developments with supreme efficiency.  The goal against Chelsea, amply decorated by Lloydy’s outside-of-the-foot through-ball and Ashley Cole’s accompanying expression of anguish, was arguably the moment of the season.

Next Season: An asset who would fetch a decent fee, and one of several candidates to be swanning his way to Berkshire.  Kinda hope we hold onto him though… there’s more to come from Tamas, and you can’t teach finishing like that.

10- Grzegorz Rasiak

A very different animal to the previous incumbent of the no. 10 shirt, Rasiak managed to look an effective striker, poacher and line-leader without ever either defining the way we played or imposing himself on games in the fashion of Darius Henderson.  The laziness which Southampton fans in particular grumbled about was never really in evidence, although that Rasiak probably considered himself to be playing for a contract may have been a factor here.  Not someone I’d have associated with spectacular goals before his arrival he nonetheless managed several, not least the Goal of the Season at Charlton, and a memorable curled effort against Palace in the cup… in the end, despite the turbulence of his environment, Rasiak did pretty much what he’d been brought in to do, no more and no less.

Next Season:  Would have been nice to see him back, but that seems to be off the menu;  Malky, in any event, only started him once in four games in his caretaker spell.  Leicester?

11- Jobi McAnuff

Perhaps the most evident beneficiary of November’s managerial change, McAnuff had been a source of frustration and disappointment under Boothroyd. His one outstanding game in four or five epitomised the capricious winger stereotype but at a price tag that demanded far more.  Under Rodgers, suddenly, we had the player that we thought we’d signed in the summer of 2007… potent, consistent, aggressive, and often as big a threat as Tommy Smith;  on occasion (whisper it) even more so.  Like Lee Cook before him alas – although in very different circumstances – we may have seen the best of McAnuff just as he packs his bags.

Next Season:  Having already stated – via his agent – that Rodgers was the only reason for staying at Vicarage Road, his departure seems somewhat inevitable.  A great loss, too, which we wouldn’t have been saying a year ago.  Reading would seem to be candidates, tediously enough.  Sheffield United, too.

12- Lloyd Doyley

If Lloydy has never really exercised the boo-boys at Vicarage Road then there have certainly been a vocal minority who have decried the abilities evident to the rest of us, simultaneously sticking a flag in the same sort of tedious aesthetic high ground that Ipswich and West Brom fans claim to occupy, to the derision of everyone else.  This season, and not before time, Doyley finally seems to have claimed his rightful cult status.  He’s not the perfect footballer, quite evidently… he’d have been in the Premiership long since were that the case.  But he’s a bloody fine defender, a very decent footballer, and long may he man the Vicarage Road barricades.  There are still detractors, naturally… a few will doubtless crawl out from their joyless crevaces in response to this posting.  But last season’s conversion to left back finally swung the debate decisively.  I just want to be there when he finally gets that goal…

Next Season:  More of the same.  Thank goodness.

End of Term Report Part 2 17/06/2009

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Well yesterday’s instalment provoked no end of comment.  Balls to the lot of you, I’m enjoying myself and if I haven’t got proper football to distract me from worky nonsense I can at least think about it…

5- Leigh Bromby

Bromby arrived with Sadler and Eustace in the ill-fated “patch up the promotion push” exercise in January 2008.  Since when… he’s just been sort of there really.  The neatest encapsulation of his time at Vicarage Road came against Wolves at home, when he had a decent go at containing a difficult opponent but failed to do so.  Inconspicuous mediocrity.  It was only on my brother’s resumption of regular attendance mid-season and an early confession that Bromby “worried him” that I remembered that he was in the team at all.  Consequently, every post-match analysis at the top of Occupation Road saw Will run his fingers nervously, involuntarily through his hair at mention of Bromby’s name. Perhaps that has drilled something into my subconscious… but for whatever reason I can’t help feeling that if we’ve needed to shift people on, Bromby wasn’t a bad choice.  His eagerness to return to the subs bench at Bramall Lane suggests that the feeling is mutual.

Next Season: Not sure whether he’s officially gone yet or whether the Blades are just holding off in the hope of a bulk discount (“What, they’re signing Ellington too…?”).  Either way, inconspicuous space-filling on the Bramall Lane bench awaits.

6- Jay Demerit

Like David Holdsworth in days of yore, Demerit is a completely different animal alongside a dominant centre-back.  Before Mike Williamson’s arrival Demerit appeared to be as much part of the problem as anyone in our porous back line.  Since then he’s looked much happier, much more the bullish, confident defender that once partnered his now-manager.  Doubts remain over his suitability as a captain, a role that has always seemed to detract from his on-field performances but there’s no doubt that his heart’s in it and he’d be missed if peddled on over the summer.

Next Season: If he stays, we could do with his new partner in crime hanging around also.

7- (#1) Damien Francis

You don’t need me to tell you that the idea of Damien Francis proved a lot more appealing than the reality.  One of those players who would always look good on a highlights video, he certainly had the Tim Cahill/John-Joe O’Toole trick of timing his runs into the box well, but otherwise tended to disappoint in his time at Vicarage Road.  It may be that had we ever seen a completely fit Damien Francis after his first season he would have proved more than adequate in the second tier, but as a big man in, with one or two notable exceptions, what was a fairly small side he frustrated by his reluctance to employ his stature.

Next Season: NA (retired)

7- (#2) Liam Bridcutt

The first of the heralded flood of young pretenders brought in by Brendan Rodgers, it would be fair to say that he largely failed to make the impact that all parties must have hoped.  His debut against Doncaster promised slightly more than an ignominious drift out of the side via the subs’ bench, being arguably his strongest and certainly his bolshiest performance;  ultimately he’ll be remembered as epitomising the very awkward period at the start of Rodgers’ reign which really didn’t work at all.

Next Season:  Another loan.  Plymouth, perhaps.

7- (#3) Don Cowie

Mike Williamson might have made the most dramatic and evident impact of our January recruits, but Don Cowie’s first six months at the club were no less successful.  A terrific amount of energy combined with a tidy use of the ball and fabulously timed runs, there’s no doubt he’s a big asset;  we missed him after injury ended his season prematurely at the start of April.

Next Season:  Not mentioned in dispatches regarding possible poachings and squad-trimmings.  Bloody good job.  A key man.

End of Term Report Part 1 16/06/2009

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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I was going to start this a few weeks ago.  Good bloody job I didn’t, events having taken a turn and so forth.  Anyways, here’s the school report as I see it…

1- Mart Poom

Much as his departure was one of the less surprising developments of the summer so far, and much as we’re relatively well covered in the goalkeeping department, I can’t help but feel a little bit of regret at the loss of Mart Poom.  His seven games or so at the start of the campaign showcased the experienced, competent goalkeeper that we thought we’d signed a year earlier before injury contributed to some unconvincing performances at the start of that campaign.  Injury took its toll again of course, Poom’s dislocated shoulder and the last of his 200-odd league appearances relegated to a mere footnote by Stuart Attwell and Nigel Bannister against Reading.  The revelation that his day-job was coaching goalkeepers over the fence at Arsenal came as news to me though, I must admit… perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention.

Next Season:  NA (retired)

2- Gavin Hoyte

He came, he saw, he left again.  One struggles to recall a loanee from a big club spending a lower profile loan spell at Vicarage Road.  Agbonlahor, perhaps, if Villa count as a big club.  Anyway, Hoyte blended in just fine by looking kind of ok but no better, and whilst he was a largely competent option when numbers at the back got thin on the ground you don’t really see him breaking into Arsène’s team any time soon.

Next Season: probably a loan at Millwall or some such.  Or cameo appearances in the Carling Cup.

3- Mat Sadler

One of those where you do really wonder what’s gone on.  Whilst he’s never really looked a brilliant use of £750k, he did at times look like a perfectly decent second division left back.  At other times, he looked like he’d just fallen out of the pub and onto the pitch, wandering around in a daze like someone roped into a dance troupe on the basis that his Mum used to own a CD of Swan Lake.  Disappeared from contention around Christmas, and appearances on the vast subs benches demanded by the FA Cup, like an odd sock that you’ve never thrown away in case the other one turns up, didn’t disguise his plummet from grace.

Next Season: There’s a decent footballer in there somewhere.  It may not be us that gets to find out.

4 (#1) – Sam Sodje

One of Reading’s less consequential contributions to our season, Sodje’s Watford career lasted 90 not altogether convincing minutes at Bramall Lane before an injury sustained in the same game saw him returned to sender.

Next Season: released by Reading, he’ll be on the lookout for a new club.  Having spent a successful loan spell at Leeds later last season, Elland Road seems a decent bet as his next port of call.

4 (#2) – Jack Cork

The speed with which he ditched Southampton to spend the second half of he season at Vicarage Road spoke volumes about the regard in which he and our then manager held each other.  It’s a perversely backhanded compliment, but you wouldn’t completely rule out a long-term career for Cork at his parent club… he did extraordinarily well at Vicarage Road, his suave, composed midfield play dropping in standard from outstanding to merely very good only in the wake of being exposed to too many games as part of an extremely young central midfield. 

Next Season:  if he makes it at Chelsea, it won’t be this season.  Would be splendid to see him at Vicarage Road again, but we’d not have a cat in hell’s chance of signing him permanently.  If he slums it in Division Two again, Reading seems a more likely destination.

Rodgers…. over and out 12/06/2009

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Admittedly I’m a week or so behind the times on this.  Never claimed to be at the cutting edge of developments, nor organised enough to respond quickly even if it’s to something that might have been seen coming.  The days of a crack squad of BSaD writers seems a long time ago…

The question of “should he or shouldn’t he” is a moot point, of course, as it was a week ago.  He’s gone, that’s it.  But I have to confess to being a little surprised.  Reading may be a club with which he has an affinity, one with a stronger squad, healthier finances and a more favourable commute (I’m not going to criticise him on that score…).  Nonetheless they’re not that well off… they’re in the difficult position that we were in a year ago, not sure whether to stick or twist in the last season of parachute payments and with plenty of daunting looking competition for promotion places next season.  They’ve got a squad that probably needed freshening up at least a year ago, and as has been made clear since his appointment they need to sell before they can buy.

Most of all the move doesn’t give Rodgers much wriggle room.  If it all goes well for him, fine.  If it doesn’t… whereas at Watford he could have claimed plenty of mitigating circumstances even if we struggled next season, he won’t have that luxury at Reading.  And if it all goes wrong and he finds himself looking for another job in a year or so, he won’t find managers of smaller clubs overly eager to appoint someone who jumped ship as soon as a better offer came along last time around.

Moving on to which… one prevailing emotion is disappointment, obviously.  After a more than iffy start to his tenure, Watford settled into a rhythm and looked a tidy side for much of the second half of the season.  We knew that this season would be difficult, but had seen enough to suggest that we’d cope, with his help.  Perhaps not much more… but we’d cope, and stabilise.  Now… it’s not just that the story’s ended as much as it never got going.  As if you’ve read the first chapter, gotten into the story and then left the book on the train…

It’s not unreasonable to feel let down.  It has been speculated, amongst the accepted demonisation of the previous regime, that the financial situation was more parlous than Rodgers had been led to believe by the previous chairman.  Were that the case, nobody could reasonably blame Rodgers for prioritising his own interests but having stayed on and set the club along a path he’s not punishing those guilty of misleading him by so transparently treating the club as an inconvenient but necessary step on a career path, like a grubby bedsit that he put up with whilst scrounging together a deposit.  We’re all entitled to resent that, I think.

The misguided pronouncements defending his honesty and integrity were particularly unhelpful, quite obviously.  They were also completely unnecessary… there was no need for him to comment one way or another, a dignified silence would have been far more graceful whatever the circumstances at the time.  One doesn’t have to be too cynical to interpret these comments as worse than merely ill-advised though… the rate at which Rodgers’ odds plummeted to an extraordinary 1/6 on in the wake of Coppell’s departure from Reading suggested more than merely someone placing money in the knowledge of who Reading’s preferred candidate was likely to be.  Such judgments are often reasonably straightforward without resulting in the sort of rush on bookmakers that provokes such a retraction of odds – it’s not as if Rodgers was the only strong candidate for the job afer all.

It’s not difficult to read that situation as someone knowing not only that Rodgers would be approached, but knowing what his response would be.  Adding  to that suspicion were the subsequent “negotiations” between Jimmy Russo and John Madejski.  Reading having met a contractual fee that permitted them to recruit Rodgers on his agreement, one wonders what was left to negotiate… and why Madejski would leave his club potentially owing the Hornets more than they needed to.  An investment to avert the risk of tapping-up accusations is one possible interpretation.

It has been suggested that football supporters rely too much on their emotions in such situations;  that it’s unreasonable to judge managers (or players) as if they ought to have the same emotional bond to the club as we do, or to suggest that we wouldn’t shift employers for a better deal in our own walks of life.

The difference is that my employer’s industry doesn’t stand or fall on the emotional buy-in of its “customers” (horrible word).  Neither Rodgers nor any other manager or player serves any purpose in the greater scheme of things.  They owe their employment and viability of choice of career to the fact that people care, to the fact that people have that emotional attachment.  So to treat this attachment with such callous disregard, to expect people not to react emotionally, is plain daft.

And a continued refusal to keep his silly mouth shut isn’t helping.  Telling Watford’s support that they’ll “get over it” (I’m tempted to say “move on”) feels like a red rag to a bull; Vicarage Road will be an unusually intimidating place when Reading visit, one suspects, particularly if this happens early in the campaign.  Rodgers shares with his predecessor a rather wearing tendency to talk complete bollocks, to stage-manage his communication (and in a ham-fisted, sometimes patronising way) rather than telling us what he actually thinks.  Whoever the new guy is, some of Ray Lewington’s candour wouldn’t go amiss.

There are two benefits to the saga as far as Watford’s support is concerned.  The first, as my co-editor would want me to point out, is the provision, at long last, of a good reason to dislike Reading.  That dislike has always been there, but has been rather more difficult to justify than it feels now.  The second, my brother’s point, is something to rally behind, someone to pour venom at without fear of contradiction.   Such exercises can be cathartic, and not since Dave Bassett’s departure in very different circumstances 21 years ago has someone set themselves up for this treatment so comprehensively.

It could yet get worse.  Inevitably one fears the prospect of Rodgers returning to cherry-pick the squad, armed not just with the experience of working with the players but also with the knowledge of their contracts and the sort of offers that we may be under pressure to accept.  Personally I would find it difficult to countenance Smith moving to Berkshire, as their local press seems to suggest, but the pilfering of Ross Jenkins would be even less forgivable.

As for the new guy… well he’s got a job on, to put it mildly.  He’s going to need as much support as he can get.  I would have loved to have seen Hessie and Gibbs come back, managerial and coaching experience, both having helped make silk purses from sows’ ears in the past, genuine association with the club and a banner to rally behind.  Heaven knows we need one of those.  This seems unlikely if today’s papers are to be believed.  Either way, at least we won’t have to put up with any more references to Chelsea and Mourinho… Reading are welcome to those.

Helping Hands 2008/09 01/06/2009

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.


As last year, I’ve ploughed through the match reports (and what little I remember) to summarise goals created, “assists” in common parlance, during the season just gone.  There’s obviously a degree of subjectivity here, and differing possible definitions of what constitutes an “assist”… the Official Site’s assists table awards far fewer assists in total, and appears to disagree with me on the sources of our first two League Cup goals in particular.

But here’s the roster as I tallied it, for what it’s worth.  Note that a few goals haven’t had assists allocated to them, these are listed at the foot and the picture might change a little with the extra information.

You’ll draw your own conclusions, particularly in comparing to last year’s table;  a few things jump out to me.

Jobi McAnuff, first of all.  He managed one assist in 2007/08.  Admittedly he’s taken over much of the responsibility for corners from Jordan Stewart this time around, but I’ve counted a cross flicked-on to feed the goalscorer as an assist for the “flicker-on” only, else McAnuff’s tally would have been still higher.

Interesting also that what was by popular concensus our most successful central midfield pairing of the season yielded one assist between them – that by Jack Cork against Southampton;  he’d played for the Saints in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.

Lee Williamson had a bit of an up and down season, falling out of favour having been amongst our most trustable individuals under Boothroyd.  That said, his last assist came in that same win at Southampton, a good five months before he moved on loan to Preston.

The other point worthy of note is the length of this list.  Lee Hodson set a record in coming on against Derby County, becoming the 39th player employed in first team action this season and breaking the record set in the 2006/07 Premiership season.

  Assists Apps Gls Assists vs
Smith 12 48+1 17 PlA h, ShU a, CaC h, WW h, WW h, SwC a (LC), QPR h, ToH h, BrC h, SwC h, ChA a, DC h
McAnuff 10 39+6 3 IpT h, Bar a, BrC h, CrP h (FAC), CrP h (FAC), Bpl a, Bpl a, ChA a, CaC a, CoC a
Rasiak 7 14+11 10 Bpl h, CrP h (FAC), WW a, CrP h, NoF h, CoC a, DC h
Priskin 5 38+5 14 PNE h, DoR h, CoC h, DoR a, Sot h
Hoskins 4 21+18 6 Rdg h, SwC a, Bur h, Bar a
L.Williamson 4 30+8 3 IpT h, WHU h, Bur h, Sot a
Harley 4 37+6 1 Sot a, Bpl h, QPR h, Bur h
Ward 2 9 1 Bur a, Sot a
Cowie 2 10+1 3 CrP h, ShW h
Eustace 2 14+3 2 Bpl h, BiC a
Doyley 2 40+3 0 NoF h, Che h
Mariappa 2 45+2 1 ScU h, DoR a
Gibson 1 0+1 0 BrR h
Henderson 1 0+6 0 Dar h
Bridcutt 1 5+4 0 NoC h
Poom 1 7 0 ChA h
O’Toole 1 15+13 8 Rdg h
Cork 1 20+1 1 Sot h
Bromby 1 24+4 0 NoF a
Bennett 0 0+1 0  
Hodson 0 0+1 0  
Kiernan 0 0+1 0  
Stepanov 0 0+1 0  
Sodje 0 1 0  
Robinson 0 1+3 0  
Young 0 1+3 0  
Bangura 0 1+4 0  
Parkes 0 2 0  
Cauna 0 2+3 1  
Francis 0 2+4 1  
Rose 0 3+4 0  
Ainsworth 0 4+6 0  
Hoyte 0 9+1 0  
Lee 0 10+1 0  
Sadler 0 17 0  
M.Williamson 0 17 1  
Jenkins 0 36+1 1  
Demerit 0 37+1 1  
Loach 0 37+1 0  

Unaccounted for:

Hoskins’ goal vs Cardiff (H)
Smith vs Bristol City (A)
Jenkins vs Birmingham (A)
Smith vs Norwich (H)
Priskin’s second vs Burnley (H)
Beevers’ own goal vs Sheffield Wednesday (H)