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Adios Smudger 27/08/2009

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Well that took a while… but finally it’s all over. It’s been an awfully long time coming, but a chapter has closed, a new one begins. Eight years since Pompey lost to Palace at the end of the season sparing the Eagles from relegation to the third tier, eight years since my co-editor spat into his beer “why do bloody Portsmouth always manage to f*** things up?”, we finally have closure. It would appear that Pompey have, finally, decisively, not f***ed up.

It’s a peculiar passage of events that sees the departure of our standout player, our one reliable source of wit and invention and safest source of goals, result in so many Watford fans chuckling themselves silly as pictures appear of yer man in his new shirt.

Such has been the impact of Brendan Rodgers and Reading’s magnificently ham-fisted handling of the whole saga. A good proportion of Watford’s support appeared to treat his departure to Berkshire with more generosity than I found myself able to, but this relative goodwill was soon dissipated by Rodgers’ attempts to first unsettle our star player, and then to pinch him on the cheap. Having derided an offer of £1.6m from Cardiff as Watford manager at the start of the year, Rodgers saw fit to offer £750,000 barely six months later, presumably with a straight face.

Sheffield United obliged by weighing in with a more sensible £1.8m within days, setting Reading’s bid in its proper context… terribly convenient from our point of view, particularly as Smudge turned them down. Since then Reading have shown a distinct lack of both class and intelligence… drawing out the exercise by slowly upping their offer, giving us maximum opportunity to talk up a bidding war whilst antagonising further by Rodgers claiming that Smith “wanted to join Reading”, despite not having been given permission to speak to him. One wonders whether Reading have such a thing as a press officer, such is the unmonitored and counterproductive garbage which Rodgers continues to produce…

I don’t need to tell you what happened next. Reading finally do what they really should have done earlier in the summer and make a sensible offer. And with comic timing, Pompey steal in with a better one, a Premiership offer. There are safer ships in the top flight than Pompey, but obviously Reading weren’t as tempting as Rodgers believed. I won’t have been the only one killing themselves laughing at the mental image of the awkward press conference that Smith blew out at the Madejski Stadium, or punching the air when he finally confirmed his destination.

All of which, as already suggested, rather clouds the fact that we’re somewhat stuffed without Smudger. Our one source of creativity, comfortably our most dependable player, Player of the Year for two years (and one could argue a case for him deserving the Premiership season award also), he’s a massive loss. We’ve lost iconic players in the recent past to a similar sense of desolation… King, Helguson… and recovered. But it’s difficult to see the attacking verve suggested by the last couple of performances and much of last season being sustained in Smudger’s absence. It’s also difficult to imagine that any Watford supporters wish him anything but the best with his new club… few footballers are simultaneously so ferociously effective and instantly likeable as people.

Reading follow this up by signing Jobi McAnuff; it’s tempting to suggest that this is a double whammy, they’ve been done twice in two days, particularly having given him a long contract and presumably on wages not less than the reported £13k a week he was on with us. It will be interesting to note whether the electric form and hitherto unsuggested level of consistency McAnuff achieved at the end of last season really were down to his new manager; Watford supporters will now be cheering rather than deriding every diffident performance but if Jobi’s savage showings against former club Palace are any guide, we shouldn’t expect one of his limper outings against us in September.

As for Portsmouth… just when they’d manage to earn forgiveness for the crimes of May 2001, they whack in a bid for Mike Williamson. At the time of writing that offer has been knocked back, along with Williamson’s disappointing transfer request, but it’s all pointing in a horribly inevitable direction.

A stern test of all of the new manager’s ability awaits. It looks like a rocky road ahead… we can but hope that our friends at the Madejski continue to provide comic relief.

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Comments»

1. JohnF - 28/08/2009

Great read Matt and important points. Sad about Tommy who has eventually turned into the fantastic player he hinted at during his first spell with us. Often players mature so let’s hope we can hang on to some of the current crop of promising youngsters until they do mature, and let’s hope the fans show some patience as well and not get on their backs after every mistake. Tommy behaved as a professional and a gentleman and perhaps Rogers’ behaviour as a prat and not a gentleman finally tipped his move to the South Coast.

McAnuff is a drain on the resources of the club because he hasn’t been worth the money. I’d love to see him and Rogers be in the team to take our place for the drop. Reading fans are not impressed so far and feel the club’s good name has been damaged.

Mike Williamson has not behaved particularly professionally, although I have some sympathy for players trying to cash in on high wages when the career is a short one. However, even the current wage structure is generous by the standards of ‘normal’ people. My feeling is that his departure would be a more significant blow in the short-term simply because we will not have time to bring in a replacement to what has started as a somewhat brittle back four. The propect of Mariappa and DeMerit being out jumped for every high ball into the box does not fill me with joy.

Having said that, one door closes and another opens. We do have some good players and this an opportunity for players such as Hoskins to deliver consistently what they have hitherto only hinted at.

2. Anders - 28/08/2009

Very nice piece Matt.

Did I dream that BR stated that Rasiak wasn’t his kind of player when he took over from Boothroyd?

3. Simon in Oz - 28/08/2009

Yes. Good luck Tommy. Thanks for everything.
Re; Willaimson. Can anyone out there recall an example of when a player was bid for, wanted to go but was rufused, and then carried on regardless, playing well and so on.
I fear it usually works the other way. Way back in the 70s, young scoring sensation Billy Jennings was coveted by a bigger club (could even have been Portsmouth – my memory fails). Permission to move was refused by WFC and his next ‘display’ was described by the great Oliver Phillips as “one of the most inactive displays ever by a player with two unbroken legs.” Sometime later he went to West Ham (a division above the other potential buyer) so everyone was a winner in that case.
However, my point is, if a player wants to go, and isn’t allowed, will he ever really PLAY for us a again

4. Matt Rowson - 28/08/2009

Anders – yes, that’s exactly what he said

Simon – yes, it was Portsmouth. When Watford turned Pompey down they promised Jennings that he would be allowed to go if a higher division club made an acceptable offer.

5. Johnny Boy - 28/08/2009

Have copy and pasted my Point 13 from the previous ‘thunks’ as it is probably more appropriate under the ‘Adios—-Smudger’ heading and because I am lazy.

“13. Johnny Boy – 27/08/2009
Well Markymark you got one of your wishes – McAnuff off to Reading and good on Tommy choosing Portsmouth. Old Brendan seems to lack a bit of imagination in buying Jobi – a player who only performed spasmodically for him – and showing an interest in Rasiack – ditto. Think he needs to pull his finger out or he won’t be at Reading long.
More worrying is the dreaded ‘club statement’ on Williamson because once we start losing our defenders we really are up ‘ rue de merde’.(See my thoughts under ‘Season Preview’)'”

I believe that Tommy has secured a 4 year deal, not bad for a 29 year old and should hopefully set him up for life and allow him to return for a swansong at Vivarage Rd.

6. Simon - 28/08/2009

Williamson’s on a long contract with wages within the current pay structure. As a result, there’s no way we should be selling him in the absence of a bid well in excess of £2m, particularly as Wycombe have a reputed 25% sell on clause.

Much as I understand Williamson’s position with regard to a step up and increased wages, he got given the security of a long deal when he signed for us and the drawback of that security for him is that we don’t have to sell – it works both ways, after all.

I think it’s harder for a centre half to turn in selfish, half hearted displays than it is a flair player (Lescott seems to be a bit of an oddity in that regard) and, provided he’s with us on Wednesday morning, Williamson will be aware (or made aware) that his reputation isn’t strong enough to allow him to sulk and still have a chance to move up the divisions at a later date.

The Williamson situation though is something of an acid test for the strength of the manager, the resolve of the new board and the true financial state of the club. Williamson is the first player for which we have received a bid where there is no obvious reason for a sale unless we really do need the transfer fee.

As for Smith – his silence and performances through this whole episode is something the vast majority of people in football would be wise to emulate. Fans are slowly coming round to the idea that for players, for all the badge kissing and everything else, it is their profession and livelihood. Professionalism cuts both ways though !

7. Lanterne Rouge - 28/08/2009

Reading’s management of the whole affair has indeed been embarrassing. One should never carry out unfinished business in public and once Pompey are in for a player, there can only be one destination. Smith will be a big loss but at least they have cleverly ensured an optimum price – and it’s one that will look good a year from now, because although Smith is good, he’s unlikely to be good enough to arrest Portsmouth’s likely slide into the Championship.

8. Harefield Hornet - 28/08/2009

Good Luck TS.
Don’t really care about Mcanuff or Priskin. but………..

The problem with Williamson was that he was recruited and contracted after the shit had already hit the fan, so its extremely unlikely he’s on decent money as opposed to some of his inferior team mates who had earlier signed more lucrative contracts. His heads obviously been turned by the prospect of a big pay day and I can’t see any possible outcome other than him buggering off – despite what the club says.

If this money keeps the club afloat then fair enough but I fear we will be watching out football in the lower divisions before too long. A lot of us have been there before – but its still bloody hard to stomach.

9. rous man - 28/08/2009

The three that have gone TS JM TP was what we all knew would happen from the clubs point of view it had to otherwise they would have walked for nothing. The Williamson bid (it is reported at 2m) even with Wycombe’s reported 25% sell on might prove a poser for the board. He has stepped up 2 division’s and has been impessive but Premier league ? not sure about that. Does any player that hands in a transfer request still peform to the same level ? All things that have to be considered. I belive that we only want players at the club who want to be there.

10. Ian Lay - 28/08/2009

There has been a lot of debate about this on the Watford Observer website which I have been observing (sorry for the pun) over the last few weeks. A certain Holly posted a rather good piece detailing some of the financial bits and bobs at the club recently. I reproduce it below… I’m sure she wouldn’t mind. I’m not saying in any way that I beleive it one way or the other. But it makes sense and ties in with what has been happening. I’ll leave you to decide for yourself and would welcome comments. It is reproduced unedited:
—————————————————
I cannott believe the naivety of some posters or the negativity …

The club had an £8M black hole left by the previous regime, plus was losing money, week over week ….

The Russo’s have invested and lent (both) their own personal cash and there business cash, without that we would be IN ADMINISTRATION and minus 10 points. We have sailed close to the wind ……..

The Board (inc GT) have set a 3 year business plan to have us trading on an even keel (money in equals money out), in order to achieve that plan they have set a wage cap at £5K per week, whilst this is painful it is the only way to keep Watford ALIVE !!! (we attract 10K to 14K fans, couldnt even sell out in the Prem, so we must get realistic)

Priskin wanted to leave, he refused a new £5K a week contract, only had a year left, he got double that at Ipswich.

Smith was on £12K per week, was worth it but with one year left he would not of accepted reduction to £5K, so had to be sold for maximum price. £2M (inc add on) is a good fee, plus he has got himself a £20K a week 4 year deal …

Macnuff was next highest paid £10K a week, firstly was he worth that much, plus Reading have offered him £13K a week

Mike Williamson is on about £4K a week, so even if we offer him a new deal, how can we compete with Pompeys potential of £15K – £20K a week, so he has sniffed the life changing pound notes, put yourself in his shoes, wouldnt you want that ?? It is not personal against the club, he wants the dosh, ultimately most footballers are driven by the cash, he could break his leg next week and be worth jack all …… Yes he will probably leave, the Russo’s have to get the best fee, I hear £3M is what they value MW at ….

All this money helps fill the black hole, keeps us from admininstration, reduces the wages and accelerates the 3 year plan into maybe an 18 month/2 year plan when we are able to move forwards again … !!!

The Russo’s paid Man U the loan fee for Tom Cleverlay out there own pockets as we didnt have any cash ..

this season is going to be a challenge, the club need our support more than ever, players come and go, we the fans remain, therefore we have the biggest role to play to make sure our great club gets ALL OUR SUPPORT to gain every priceless point 🙂

I am also hearing there may be a couple more young gems on the way from Man U
—————————————————

Dave Hart - 29/08/2009

Thanks Ian.

Holly does has a reputation for claiming insider knowledge, only to be proven wrong on numerous occasions. In fact, he/she stopped posting on the 606 forum when the regulars there caught onto this. Holly has a habit of mixing truths with half-truths.

When it comes to insider knowledge, particularly transfer rumours, fees and salaries, one should take what Holly says with a pinch of salt.

Having said that, this seems to be a little more accurate than most comments I have seen Holly write, but then most of this is common knowledge anyway.

11. Apperley Orn - 28/08/2009

Smithy – absolute legend and all you could ever want from a player. I wish the lad all the very best of luck, even if his departure did leave my little girl in tears…

As for MW – long contract, no need to sell, leave it there. If the lad sulks, I am sure that the combination of Malky and Dychey growling at him on a daily basis will be more than enough to convince him that he had better try his best at all times!

12. derry pigweed - 28/08/2009

Good luck Tom you deserve this contract!

Goodbye Powderpuff I am sure there is a Macdonalds close to Reading’s training ground if not it could be an enigma ,very much like your watford playing career!

Thanks to Homer and Ca$hton we are having to assett srip the playing staff! but we are left with the high maintenance signings they sanctioned eg ellington,sadler,hoskins and eustace that no other club wants!

I do think of the four named above Eustace is a decent player and worth his place in the team

C.O.Y.H.

13. Nigel - 29/08/2009

Matt is right about it all pointing in a horribly inevitable direction. So bearing that in mind I too have decided to ask for a transfer from Watford. I first saw Watford play in Jan 1978 and after 31 years i have finally realised that Watford will never have the glory and success that we deserve.
The thing is, i’m getting on in age and I want to win some trophies, i want some glory, and I’m therefore looking for a free transfer to another club. I don’t think anyone can hold it against me and so the big question is who should i change my allegiance to? Do i go with the obvious like Man U or Chealsea? Do i go with a team like Arsenal and the attractive style of footy or do i think medium term and go for the new money and pick Man City? Maybe i should embrace Europe and pick Barcelona, after all they are currently the best team (and i do like their shirt sponsorship and the fact they are owned by their fans).
Or should i just pick a new team every season depending upon how they’re all doing, or even a new team each week?
Having never done this sort of thing before i would appreciate some advice.

14. Hornetboy84 - 29/08/2009

The plan is easy really.

We value MW at £3m+ and if Pompey match that we sell.
If they dont we tell MW to knuckle down and coach him by saying his time will come and see what Jan brings … maybe then he is worth

We then buy the next MW or JDM for £250k -make sure his is on a 4-year deal and then sell him for £1.5-£2.0m in 2 years time

We also develop the youth and sell some of those for millions in the future. (or 500k in the case of JJOT).

We are then a well run club selling 1-2 prize assets a year but with a gravy train of youngsters or good-spot-buys to fill the gap… The money keeps us going and we have some funds to get a few good older pros in to balance the squad – welcome John Harley, Cresswell etc…

we survive and progress and we have some fun watching the youngsters and occasionally it all gels and we get Play-off fun and maybe sometimes promotion.

Then when we do get promotion – we take the Sky money – give it to a nice builder and build a stadium to be proud of…. we reward the players for one year with some bonus money and ensure all new contracts re-balance when we come back down.

Sounds a bit like Burnley / WBA … oh and WFC of yesteryear – not a bad life…

then we can all watch the Horns with glasses half-full … rather than half empty….

Its not bad being a top 30 club !!!

HB84

15. Ian Lay - 29/08/2009

Thanks Dave for the reply. I wasn’t sure if it was the same Holly I remembered from back in my WML days. And I suppose it may well not be. But it fits.

However, you say that most of what she wrote (presuming this poster was a she) is common knowledge. If that’s the case then either there seems to be a lot of people ignoring this common knowledge in their debating points or….it’s not as common as might be suggested! 🙂

Dave Hart - 30/08/2009

No problem Ian.

I might have mislead you when I wrote that most of it was common knowledge, what I meant was that most of the bits that were true were common knowledge, ie the “hole” in the accounts. I believe that the Russo’s were quoted as saying that the wage bill has to drop from the 18 million a year or so ago, to 8 million. Seeing as about 2million had probably already gone, his/her guess of 8m is probably somewhere near accurate.

The WO has said on at least two occasions that McAnuff was the highest earner at the club. I would think that Holly has made most of this bit about the salaries up.

The bit about the loan fee for Cleverely strikes me as nonsense. Most young players don’t command loan fees, and if they did, they would be for tiny amounts. Sometimes the club loaning the player don’t even pay the wages, although this varies. The big clubs are more interested in their young players being looked after and getting games, than the money side.

First team players who are loaned out often do command fees though. The loan fee for Ellington springs to mind. It wouldn’t surprise me if Williamson, Bromby, O’Toole and Kabba’s first loan spell commanded loan fees, although I have no idea if they actually did or not.

16. Ian Lay - 31/08/2009

Again thanks Dave for that reply. The bit about loans was particularly interesting and fell within my understanding of loan agreements. It’s nice to have it confirmed by somebody else though!

Changing the subject…..boat painting update. The first coat of Rylards Golden Yellow boat paint goes on this week. I hope to be all Watford colours by mid september! 🙂

17. DM - 01/09/2009

The Williamson debate is academic in many ways.

Even with the players we have sold, we still need the money we would get for him. We are still paying silly money to Eustace, Sadler, Hoskins and Ellington, and while his situation is different as he’s still a first choice in the side, Jay DeMerit is also outside the 5 grand a week limit noted above. If they are all still here tomorrow, their wages will cripple the club. As I type, we have under 8 hours to get rid of those players and I strongly doubt we will be so lucky as to ship any of them out – Making the sale of Williamson somewhat inevitable.

It’s going to be a day of destiny for WFC and will shape the short and mid term future of our club.

18. DM - 01/09/2009

NB – I should have said the combined wages of the 5 players I named will cripple the club. While I would keep DeMerit, and could make a case for Hoskins, the other three really need to be gone by 5pm. Or have had their wages re-negotiated !

19. Back from Hammerau - 01/09/2009

Good luck Tommy for the future. It’s to your credit that you carried on giving your all despite the fact you were on your way out the club. A rare example in these ‘modern’ times.

And well done to the club on their handling of the whole transaction.

===========================

Hornetboy84 – I suspect it’d take quite a few seasons of Sky Premiership money to be able to afford to build a new ground.

20. Red - 01/09/2009

Just seen on Sky news that Williamson has gone to Portsmouth. At least we now know early on, that this season will be about survival and only that. This time last season, played 5, 7 points and 11th. Today played 5, 6 points and 13th. The question is a change of manager saved us last season, can anything save us this year? Yes of course we will keep turning up, just hope our youngsters make us proud, even if we are relegated.

21. Hornetboy84 - 01/09/2009

Back from Hammeur …

£30m+ would at least buy a new East (Elton John) Stand… and some small change for a dug out on the other side…

better than giving it to Ellington, Sadler etc….

22. JohnF - 02/09/2009

What DM says is correct in many ways but I think over pessimistic. It is true that when when we went down from the premier league our wage bill went up. Although players were on contracts that reduced wages on relegation, there was a stream of agents threatening the club if wages didn’t go back up and the club caved. This was all part of a belief that AB would get us promoted at the first attempt and we only needed to pour money in (including the money set aside for the East Stand). This was all shades of Vialli, and the small board allowed it to happen without any challenge.

The current board, with a good sprinkle of non-execs who do not have a slice of the club has to deal with that and the legacy of the bizarre ground development plan. However, Williamson would not have been allowed to go if he had shown any professionalism but he clearly demonstrated that he was just going to sulk, the same as he did at Wycombe. Ideally the club should have kept him anyway and let him rot but that is only easy to do when you have big crowds and plenty of resources. One and a half million will help to defray the wages of those outside the wage structure and may provide some over for future loan signings.

However, again we seem not to be attractive to players and we know that Malky has lost at least one of his signings to the integrity one at Reading. This is worrying as we are not only thin on central defenders, DeMerit will almost certainly not be in any state to play against Barnsley who will have a new manager. The short term is uncertain and, if we do not sign on loan next week then defensively it looks very worrying. Fingers crossed, if all else fails and we sign Heider again then he could always convert to centre half.

23. Sequel - 02/09/2009

At least the players won’t be burdened by the weight of expectation which, for example, Ipswich are labouring under.

24. GraemeB - 02/09/2009

The real problem now is the lack of central defenders — especially as it’s been shown the Jay is not at his best without a strong presence alongside. What happens if he is injured? Hodson/Mariappa/Bennett/Doyley?? It doesn’t bear thinking about. I fear that the very creditable performance at Swansea with five teenagers starting (when did that last happen?) may have left the management thinking that this could be a formula for survival. It is not. All young players make mistakes but most of all they are inconsistent. They need to be blooded gradually and supported by the wise, tough and downright ugly. If MM is after more loan signings he should be looking for the latter now. We do not need any more promising youths from Arse and Man U.

25. markymark - 03/09/2009

That said GraemeB would you not be over the moon if we landed Wellbeck for the rest of the season?

26. Back from Hammerau - 04/09/2009

Hornetboy84, would we really make £30m in Sky money from getting into the Premiership.
By the time paid off our debts, we’ve paid the players their bonuses for gaining promotion and given them the salary increases their contracts entitle them to for playing in the Premiership, strengthened the squad to have a chance of surviving in the top flight and taken care of all the other expenses that come with promotion, how much ‘profit’ will be left for investing in the ground?


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