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End of Term Report Part 1 18/05/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Might be worth kicking this off to give myself half a chance of finishing it before everyone’s suddenly too interested in the World Cup to remember Ryan Noble. If you fancy going back over last year’s School Report you can find most of it in the June 2009 entries.

1- Scott Loach

Arguably the one eminently marketable asset who we managed to hold on to, Loach penning a new deal in January was a significant boost on a number of levels. If we can afford not to cash in on a(nother) source of a couple of million quid straight away, we’re not right up against the wall, just a step or two in front of it perhaps. And equally significantly, Loach opting to commit himself to the club in the face of more lucrative offers said good things both about the spirit in the camp and at least one player’s perspective of the club’s immediate future, and of Loach’s own broader outlook. Erstwhile colleague Ben Foster’s experience, sitting on the bench (at best) at Old Trafford at the age of 27, might have been a factor in Loach deciding that perhaps he could afford not to make the step up quite yet. I must confess to wondering more than once whether we might have been better off with a couple of million quid though… young keepers do tend to make mistakes; could we have done better with whatever proportion of that fee we could have afforded to reinvest, at least in the short term? A moot point. Loach stayed and contributed to our survival.

Next season: Today’s paper stories suggesting that Loach might be interesting Tottenham and West Ham don’t feel like an accident. Scott is probably on his way, and with a few years on his contract will fetch us (and Lincoln) more than he might have done. Good luck chap.

2- Adrian Mariappa

Still only 23, Mariappa has evolved into one of our senior players – a fact underlined by his occasional captaining of the side early in the campaign. Clearly captain material too, as betrayed by what was probably the worst team performance of the season; Mariappa made mistakes against Peterborough at home, but many of them borne by forcing the issue, trying to do something different on a difficult pitch on an afternoon when nothing was working and offer some leadership in a side that was badly needing it. His reward was a barracking from a criminally short-sighted Vicarage Road that lead to his substitution. These last five minutes were the only five minutes that he missed all season; another to have signed a new contract, he remains a huge asset.

Next season: Jay Demerit’s departure suggests that Mariappa might finally get to settle in his strongest position at centre-back.

3- Jure Travner

Having been the exotic, unknown quantity amongst last summer’s recruits, Travner’s failure to progress beyond the occasional place on the bench suggests that the enthusiasm prompted by Youtube clips a year ago was perhaps unfounded.

Next season: Destined to join the ranks of the likes of Sietes, Junior and Adam Griffiths in Watford folklore, the one consolation being that our current recruitment strategy is turning up far fewer punts that didn’nt quite work out than it once did.

4- Scott Severin

Whilst it’s fair to say that Severin didn’t make the desired impact, it’s also slightly unreasonable to write him off as a failure. His half-a-dozen starts might not have pulled up many trees, a distinct lack of pace being one obvious limitation, but the re-emergence of the man he was signed to replace was the biggest factor in his failure to add to them. His reaction to being gradually sidelined appeared pragmatic rather than stroppy, and he spent the second half of the season on loan at Kilmarnock.

Next season: Whether Severin has a future at Watford once again seems dependent on our bearded midfield general. You’d guess not, though.

5- Henri Lansbury

At times I must confess to have perhaps having been quite hard on Henri Lansbury; asking a nineteen year-old to play virtually a full season in central midfield is a big ask. Jack Cork had done as much at the same age the previous season of course (with two different clubs), and Ross Jenkins, younger than Lansbury, had been similarly impressive. But this was a challenging benchmark, and whilst Lansbury at his best was the equal of his fellow loanee from Old Trafford – most memorably and gloriously in the demolition of Sheffield Wednesday at Vicarage Road – he didn’t hit his best quite as regularly. That his weaker performances suggested a lack of application probably didn’t do him any favours but as Malky Mackay – rightly wanting to advertise the benefits of a secondment at the Vic – has been keen to point out, the tail end of the season saw Lansbury deliver the goods far more reliably even as the side struggled around him. More comfortable alongside an enforcer in central midfield than in the hole behind the striker, he still needs to learn to keep his temper and needs rather more of the good days, but on those good days it’s more than just the physical stature that suggests Steven Gerrard.

Next Season: Kinda surprised at the time that Arsenal gave Lansbury a new contract mid-season. I guess that’s why Arsène’s doing what he does and I’m, um, not. Malky has suggested that we’d like him again; Lansbury’s cameo in Arsenal’s final game could be interpreted as a carrot prior to a further loan spell.

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Comments»

1. straightnochaser - 19/05/2010

Re 2: Mariappa was replaced by Lee Hodson 10 minutes from the end of the Swansea home game (immediately prior to Peterboro) in almost identically myopic circumstances. Otherwise I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments. It is the ‘immediate success-demanding Sky Sports generation’ who think we should be challenging every season regardless of context or financial situation who are Mariappa’s harshest critics. Depressingly, they sometimes seem like a majority of our core support. Given that we have lost circa 2000 ST holders for next season we can but hope that a high proportion of this faction are among those not renewing….

2. rousman - 19/05/2010

The Scottish Premier is a very weak league. Players from there think they are taking a step up if they go to a championship club (I agree) will not the money the clubs get from Newcastle & WBA going back up help ?? Loach is the only player (unlike last year) we have any hope of getting decent money for, but it seems he is not keen on warming a Premier League clubs bench.

Matt Rowson - 19/05/2010

Popular wisdom has it that the SPL is weak; I’ve not watched enough of it to comment. However I’ve no objection to the current strategy of looking for talent north of the border… Cowie has been a plus, McGinn jury still out perhaps, Severin discussed above but if we’re pursuing a strategy of spending money on youngsters to develop and move on, a lad from Scotland might be a lower risk as far as settling in is concerned than someone from further afield.

Steven Fletcher and Ross McCormack are two others off the top of my head who have left SPL clubs sub the top two and done well south of the border over the last year or two. The players do appear to be there.

Matt Rowson - 19/05/2010

re your other points… Newcastle and West Brom going back up does help, but isn’t going to cover our wage bill on its own. If Loach is agitating for a move it’s hard to blame him really, much as I’ve praised his far-sightedness in opting for a bit more competitive football in the short term above. He’ll earn several times what he’s earning with us on the bench for Spurs, and much as that opportunity might come anyway he might also get a career-altering injury next week…

3. MartinG - 19/05/2010

There are plenty of good players in the SPL. Celtic or Rangers would walk the Championship though it does go downhill from there. Dorrans and Adam are another couple of examples.

The Scottish clubs are in a real financial mess so a lot of them are shedding players. Might be a bargain or two to be found. McGinn should come good next season I think.

What I like about Mariappa is he’ll still take responsibility even when he’s off the boil. Would like to see Lansbury back next season.

4. NickB - 20/05/2010

Foster grim experience at MU should be a salutary lesson to Loach. It’s one thing to be the bench warmer at a top club, but understudying the bench warmer is another thing altogether. The top end of the PL is an unforgiving crucible for a young keeper and a few bad games can make them history.
Better to aim between mid PL and top end of Championship and build a career from there.

5. LittleJohn - 27/05/2010

Sadly I cannot comment on the football, my only live experience this year being a truly awful home match v Swansea, so the first ever Bhappy reference to Borussia Mönchengladbach gives me a chance to dredge up a favourite old joke……….(no not the one about the fellow who brags about having the name of his favourite football team tattooed on his old boy)

Who is the most unpopular bloke in the crowd at Borussia Mönchengladbach?
The fellow that goes ‘Give us a B!

And whilst we are at it, if you can read this one as if you were Ronnie Barker at the end of a two Ronnies show……….
‘And finally showbiz news. Chaos broke out last night at a charity pantomine for paranoid schizophrenics and homosexuals when a member of the audience yelled out – look out he’s behind you!’

It’s good night from me and thank heavens for the cricket season, sorry I can’t comment to much on the footy.


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