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End of Term Report Part 4 02/06/2010

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

One third of the “actual” summer break (as defined by WFC fixtures, natch) pretty much gone. Half of what’s left is the World Cup (splendid). I think I might survive another summer.

Speaking of the World Cup, it’s galloping in fast, so I’d better get a shifty on…

16- Richard Lee

Had I been a bit quicker off the mark in getting to Part 4 of this series, this entry might have read a little differently. As it is… one of the mainstays of the Watford squad (if not the first team) suddenly isn’t there any more and it feels rather odd. As if someone had come into your living room and switched a couple of pictures around, or slightly shifted the furniture. Something’s different… but the analogy tells it’s own story. Because the thing that’s different, much as Richard Lee comes across as a splendid bloke, a very decent backup keeper and not a bad first choice keeper actually, well, the thing that’s different hasn’t been playing that big a role for a year or two and his departure won’t have a seismic affect on the team. Two Carling Cup outings this season constitute his only active playing time since before Brendan Rodgers was appointed in November 2008; a long forgotten trip to Barnsley (other than by those for whom it was an increasingly rare and rather chaotic venture onto the away circuit, sniff) the last League appearance of 92 for the Hornets. In reality, he should probably have moved on earlier; Scott Loach’s decision to sign a new contract in January probably the push that Richard needed. Had he hung around his chance as first choice might have come again but Lee, like the similarly aged Ben Foster at Old Trafford, evidently decided that he’d had enoug of waiting.

Next Season: A fine recruit for Brentford, you’ll struggle to find a Watford fan that doesn’t wish him well.

17- Dale Bennett

One of the season’s most exciting developments was the emergence of Dale Bennett as more than just a promising youngster. Jay Demerit’s departure was perhaps inevitable, but the effect will be cushioned to a point by Bennett now being a genuine, regular option in the centre of defence on the back of some quite terrific performances at the tail end of the season.
It wasn’t all plain sailing; a run of games in September concluded with a chaotic evening’s defending all round against Coventry after which Dale was quietly withdrawn back to the subs’ bench. He reappeared in the starting eleven at Preston at the beginning of April and didn’t look back, his performances showing off his pace, bravery, and a fine defensive instinct that too many of his defensive colleagues don’t appear to share. A real find.

Next Season: Am I the only one slightly anxious at Dale not having penned a new contract yet? If he hasn’t been being watched then certain scouts aren’t doing their jobs… but if our policy is to invest in potential, we should be moving heaven and earth to get him tied down.

18- Will Hoskins

It’s kind of a relief, in a way. Much as Hoskins represents wasted talent (wasted to this point) and a misspent investment (on our part), the lingering hope remained that the suggestions of ability that we occasionally saw glimpses of would crystallise into something more material and worthwhile. A little bit of application would have gone a long way, but it says a lot that none of his three very different managers at Vicarage Road kept patience with Hoskins for very long. Those that bemoaned his limited opportunities rather glossed over the fact that he’d never really demanded more sustained involvement… one of those players who perpetually looked like a decent striker having an off day. In the end, his limited involvement despite our lack of options, and despite Mackay’s encouraging noises about his improved attitude to training, left the announcement of his departure as less than surprising.

Next Season: League One beckons, probably to a larger club and a manager who thinks he can make something of the talent. Aidy Boothroyd would be a candidate, if he hadn’t been there already. Sheffield Wednesday feels like a decent bet.

19- Liam Henderson

There’s the obvious thing to say, and there’s the perhaps not-quite-so-obvious thing to say. The former, of course, is that Liam hasn’t really done it yet, or really looked like doing it, or really looked much like a professional footballer. It’s been said on these pages before – and not just by me – but if you really have no pace at all then you need the rest of your game to be tight as hell. Liam’s isn’t,not yet; 21 appearances off the bench without a start for the Hornets must be a record (no, I don’t know…), and there’s not been a goal or much of a sniff of one, either for us or in 2+6 for Hartlepool in 2008/09. And yet… and here’s the not so obvious thing, maybe… Malky’s persisting for a reason. A quite extraordinary goal return (against admittedly more limited opposition) for the stiffs suggests that there’s more there than we’ve seen, and there have been occasional glimpses of something to work with during his first team outings, glimpses that startle simply due to looking so out of place. With the ball at his feet Henderson has something. The rest needs working on.

Next Season: A new contract means that Malky is backing his man. There’s a lot of improvement required, but not one to write off just yet.

20- Tom Cleverley

It doesn’t feel quite right giving “Player of the Year” to a loanee someone on loan. I thought the same when Ben Foster won it… I’m not sure why really. Perhaps it’s because the award puts a player on a pedestal, officially rubber stamps the guy as a Watford hero, perhaps even a legend. And yet this is someone that we’re saying goodbye to.
Anyway. Emotional confusion aside, there is absolutely no denying that Tom Cleverley was our most important, significant, creative, dynamic player last season and completely deserved the award. Whilst his level of performance didn’t quite survive the full season without a wobble (as Malky has pointed out, that’s a bit ask of a youngster, any youngster), he nonetheless brought back memories of Kevin Phillips; someone so obviously belonging to a level above the one he was playing at, destined to be devastatingly effective when surrounded by better players. A fine, fine signing it will be interesting to chart his future proress; you wouldn’t rule out a first team career for him at Old Trafford, but his future will be in the top flight one way or another. Will be interesting to see if Sir Alex loans us a similarly prodigious talent next season; I guess we could do without sending his fledgling stars back injured, although this one was inoccuous enough and, unlike Foster, we didn’t pointlessly play him with the injury, so fingers crossed…

Next Season: Rumours are of Newcastle sniffing around. If I were him I’d take a top flight loan, but he’s got the ability to make it at United.


1. Kris - 02/06/2010

Let me start with Rich Lee. What you say of Hoskins could be said of Rich. Why has 3 – or is it 4 managers chosen to give the number one jersey to someone else? Lewington persisted with Alec (quite rightly too) despite him becoming a player/coach. Boothy went for Fossie and Poom and finally Brenda and Malky went for Loach.

I hope the club has a similar option of extension for Dale Benneth that we had with Rob Kiernan. And that the only the prolonging the process is an attempt to get him on an even longer deal. He has to stay.

I always wanted Rich to get the no.1 jersey. I believe he is good enough to be a CCC first choice GK. But I don’t see him every day in training and there must be something missing – something other than his lack of height which I feel is a ridiculous and irrelevant point. I am glad for his sake that he’s gone – he’ll get to be the regular anchor in a decent Bees side. But I am sad for us. Fans often berate players for lack of loyalty and when we finally have some they don’t want them.

I had hoped we’d sell Loach for a bundle and gone for rich as no. 1 – but as it is – he goes with my blessing and best wishes. A BSaD style gone but not forgotten would be in place? 😉

As for Hoskins something must have gone wrong in his head. Maybe he couldn’t get used to the fact that at CCC level you need talent AND effort. Who knows and who cares – 3 managers can’t be wrong.

Hendo’s extension baffles me. I think he has to go out for the first half of the season to somewhere he can get games. If he doesn’t succeed – release him.

I agree with your sentiment that loanees (yes – I know – but I don’t care) shouldn’t be PoS. I personally believe it should have been given to Eustace. Or Lloyd. But there’s no doubt that Tom played a vital part in our season. Having him in the side bred belief that we could achieveme something. That we could survive. and he almost made us not miss Smudger. Almost.

Matt Rowson - 02/06/2010

Hi Kris

the comparison between the Lee and Hoskins situations isn’t a bad one; but pursuing the train of thought should answer your question. Why was Hoskins continually discarded? Attitude, application… and whilst he had ability, not enough to overcome these limitations. No questioning Lee’s honestry and application as you emphasise… so the fact that successive managers judged that he wasn’t quite good enough to be a number one says something. I wouldn’t have been distraught if, for example, Loach had left leaving Lee as number one. But at the same time I think we’re better off with Loach, and would have been better off with a (fully fit) Poom before him. Good luck to Richard, but I think it’s right that he pursues first team football elsewhere.

And I don’t think that there’s any suggestion that we didn’t want him. The WObby suggested that we were in contract discussions with him (and Bennett, and one or two others) before the end of the season. But he was out of contract and had, presumably, the offer of being first choice. We didn’t want him enough to guarantee him first choice football, admittedly, but then if it was just down to loyalty I’d happily sign on for life. And nobody wants that…

2. DM - 02/06/2010

I remember that Barnsley trip – you still owe me a lift to Yorkshire. Your Dad driving to Donny doesn’t count, as fun as that day was..

On the money with the rest of it, as ever.

Re: Dale Bennett’s contract – Can’t see him wanting a huge amount to stay, but who knows what potential moves and/or riches his agent may have promised in the wake of those impressive end of season apperances. I can’t help thinking we put a considerable amount of eggs in the Eustace basket.. and now he seems to have moved on, there may be a little more to throw young Dale’s way.

Matt Rowson - 02/06/2010

oh do pay attention dm. i presume you are aware of the inaccuracy of your final paragraph. if not, check out the os.

DM - 03/06/2010

Black Shorts.

3. Lanterne Rouge - 02/06/2010

It’s astonishing that the reaction of the generally superb blog Black & White & Read All Over to Cleverley’s possible arrival at St. James’s is lukewarm. Like Ryan Bertrand after his season at Reading, it’s time to see what he can do in the Premier League.

4. Old Git - 02/06/2010

Thank you Matt. You have made an old man very happy. Unlike that Kris, whoever he is.

Agree about Bennett, a star in the making.

5. Joons - 03/06/2010

Hard to disagree with your assessments here Matthew. On loanees as POTY winners, when a player is on loan for a season he buys into the ethic of the squad and club – see Foster, King (only half a season before we bought him) Angela and TC himself. As such he is a worthy winner of the award and should be considered alongside the players we own.

Cleverley’s performances, especially in the first half of the season, were some of the most enjoyable I have seen in recent times from someone in a Watford shirt. What made him special was his incredible work ethic and continual habit of looking for the ball, no matter how tightly marked. The weaving run against SheffWed was a personal favourite (for Angela’s second goal) and if his recovery from injury is successful, I look forward to seeing him playing in the premiership and for England for the next ten years and more.

6. Paul Caruso - 05/06/2010

Upon release of images of the new kit, my initial disappointment at another season of black shorts was allayed to a degree, by striking similiarites to Barca’s recent away kit. This initial succour was vanquished however, when flicking through Oli Phillip’s masterly centenary tome, when my eyes alighted upon a team photo of Mike Keen’s 1974-75 squad. Alas the only other time we have adorned a similar vertical stripe design on the jersey and few recall that period with any great affection. Therefore just wondered if amongst the vast archives and statistics at your disposal, you have a correlation of the relative success of the team on the pitch to black shorts : red shorts ratio, and could the results be shown to the kit designers please!!!

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