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End of Term Report Part 5 29/05/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

If you’re still reading this you’ll probably care that we’re already about a third of the way through the close season proper (i.e. the last game at Vicarage Road to the start of the new season).  I care.

22- Andi Weimann

When Andi Weimann arrived on loan from Villa in January it was to a little bemusement. Having just lost Andrew Taylor and Jordon Mutch and despite the apparent if not-to-be-fulfilled potential for both to return, there were other areas of the team that appeared to be in greater need of re-enforcement. The justification came that Weimann was a long-term target, that the opportunity to have him on loan had come up and we’d taken it. I can’t have been the only one with a nervous eye on the end of the January window and the number ten shirt. As it turned out, Weimann turned out to be a valuable addition to the squad, as Malky had obviously anticipated. Never quite tearing up all before him, never quite being conspicuous enough to do so, the Austrian nonetheless carved a niche for himself; his arrival, as one of three senior strikers, released Troy Deeney into the wide midfield role that he grew into as the season progressed. Weimann’s own performances were encouraging; there’s something occasionally Helgusonesque about his competitiveness and selflessness, he’s tidy enough and added a genuine option and a few goals… even if his composure when he sees the whites of the keeper’s eyes is something that could do with improving.

Next Season: With nervous (if slightly more resigned) eyes still on the Watford no 10 shirt, it will be interesting to see where Weimann spends the season. He doesn’t look ready for top flight football yet, but one suspects we could do with having him around again.

23- Piero Mingoia

Piero Mingoia is very small. There, I’ve said it. That’s that out of the way. Being so small, it felt like a big ask to be pitched into the central midfield roles that he tended to fill in his first team outings. Kinda hard to get away with being tiny in that area of the pitch unless you’re ticking a lot of other boxes. Mingoia’s lack of bulk doesn’t need to be as terminal as Liam Henderson’s lack of pace, for example… strength and body mass is easier to work on than speed. In the meantime, however, our midfield looks horribly easy to penetrate with Piero in it. Whether he lacks the pace to do a job out wide isn’t clear… there’s certainly useful stuff there, a decent touch, a good range of passing, no little courage. If centre-mid is his position, though, that’s not going to be enough to challenge for a place for the moment. If you don’t contribute much defensively you need to be good enough to build the team around, and he’s nowhere near that yet.

Next Season: Red meat and Guinness diet over the summer, one hopes.

24- Matt Whichelow

We’re not doing bad for exciting kids, are we, all things considered. Matt Whichelow didn’t feature until the end of October and only four times before the New Year, but he made an increasingly strong case for himself as the season wore on, and despite Mackay’s obvious desire to protect the teenager he’d featured in 21 games before the season’s end. Of Whichelow’s many attributes – an obvious versatility being one, having been fielded out wide, in central midfield, up front and behind the main striker – it’s the relentless positiveness that makes him a popular substitute, like a wind-up toy that can be counted on to get onto the pitch and give it some whatever the circumstances. Particularly exciting is his finishing, an exquisite consolation goal at Pride Park having been written off as perhaps a lucky strike by this viewer until his late winner at Scunthorpe… less showy, altogether scruffier but no less the touch of a natural finisher.

Next Season: Whichelow looks like being nailed on for at least a place on the bench when available. Looking forward to seeing him develop.

26- Sean Murray

And speaking of promising kids. It’s been a while since we last had someone who was being built up before they got anywhere near the first team. We have Manchester City and their summer bid to thank for that, largely, although in the age of YouTube even achievements at Youth team level which would in previous years have resulted in no more than whispers, and perhaps a few words in the WObby can now be watched by a far bigger audience (I mean, for goodness’ sake, have you seen this? Or this?). It comes to something when, as a seventeen year old lad is bouncing up and down on the touchline, ready to make his debut against the division’s top flight-bound champions and you’ve got people behind you betting on whether he’d come on and score the winner or not. Adel Taarabt scored the opener before Murray could get onto the pitch and a previously balanced game tumbled away from us, perhaps sparing Murray that sliver of extra pressure, but it’s pressure he may have to learn to live with. The early signs were good though… in fifteen minutes or so he looked bright, determined, extremely quick, and in one moment of gorgeous promise received the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the area and spun into space facing forwards as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Keep watching.

Next Season: Malky gave Sean his full debut at Preston, so that’s one obstacle inconspicuously navigated. If Sean’s anything like as good as his billing, he’s likely to be a much more prominent feature of the coming campaign. Seventeen or otherwise.

27- Gavin Massey

There are three of them, so goes the popular wisdom. Three of this particular group of youngsters who look really special. Murray (above) and Thompson (to come in part 6) we’ve seen snatches of in the first team, enough to be excited by at any rate. Massey was the first of the three to debut, but his five sub appearances thus far – all but one in the season just gone – have barely totalled twenty minutes of match time between them. It’s kinda hard to make an impression when you’ve had less than seven minutes in a go to make it in.

Next Season: Another who is reported to have had big clubs sniffing around – Liverpool in this case – one suspects he’ll get more of a chance next time around.


End of Term Report Part 4 25/05/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Is it not time for pre-season friendlies yet?

15 – Stephen McGinn

I don’t think we’ve ever done “most improved player”, have we? Bit of a backhanded compliment, admittedly, but McGinn would surely be a candidate. My co-editor was convinced and alert to the young Scot’s value long before I was… I suspect there are still doubters, there’ll be replies to this posting as such, but not from anyone paying attention. From not knowing quite what he was for, a scrawny, lightweight midfielder who looked rather out of place in his early showings out wide, his qualities emerged as the season progressed… a deft cleverness, an ability to spot and deliver a pass, a keenness to attack the box and the wit to time his runs effectively. Some of our best football was played when we tried McGinn pushed up behind lone striker Graham; before his injury he’d made seven goals and scored twice from 27 starts, during much of which he’d been shunted around the midfield, gamely filling in wherever he was asked to do so. The clincher? When did we actually miss Jordon Mutch? In January, when he went back to Birmingham? Or at the end of February, when McGinn did his ligaments at Doncaster?

Next Season: It’ll be a while before McGinn is back in contention. A shame, since his rate of improvement before the injury had been dramatic. Get well soon, Stephen.

16 – Michael Bryan

There’s something there. Something clever and impish, something to work with. Quick feet, a willingness to run with the ball. There’s quite a lot missing too, though, and these are things often missing in young wide players (albeit, admittedly, many of Bryan’s outings this season were more central). A lack of judgement, a lack of knowing quite when to release the ball. This might come. Maybe. And a complete lack of physical presence, and not unrelated a tendency to duck out of challenges. Bryan needs to bulk up a little bit; if his slight frame becomes less of an issue, he might be able to get himself out of the odd wrong call. There’s a footballer there somewhere. Still needs a bit of work though.

Next Season: Assuming we’ve exercised our one-year extension on the one-year contract signed last summer, one imagines that Michael’s got a bit of convincing to do.

17 – Dale Bennett

Here’s one that could still go either way. Physically outstanding, quick, strong, brave. Another inch or two taller and he’d be a perfect centre back. Except… there’s a few too many cock-ups in there at the moment. That’s what you get in youngsters in pressure positions though, and the smart money’s still on an excellent career for our third-choice stopper even if, as with the likes of David Holdsworth and Jay Demerit before him, it may be that Bennett will look most comfortable alongside someone who can do the organising and the directing, leaving him to concentrate on the doing. Like Hodson, Bennett came back strongly from the odd iffy moment in the season just gone, his new contract well-earned and welcome.

Next Season: The dependability of the Taylor/Mariappa partnership gave Bennett splinters in his backside and much of his League action at full back. Our third-pick at centre back should get more of a run next time around.

18 – Jordon Mutch

At the start of the campaign, as Jordon Mutch was caught in possession yet again against Leeds United one minute and then tried another over-ambitious shot from outside the area the next, the optimistic hope was expressed that, like Henri Lansbury before him, Mutch might merely require a little time and patience to adapt before demonstrating his top flight pedigree. So it proved, and then some; Mutch’s transformation was more dramatic than Lansbury’s had been the previous season, starting from what was probably a lower base in those unconvincing early outings and reaching a higher level than the Arsenal loan had consistently achieved. He also made the transformation more rapidly, quickly finding his feet and exerting an influence that belied his eighteen years. For a while he was as fundamental to our attacking play as Danny Graham, invariably at the front of the cavalry charge as we exposed teams on the break on countless occasions in December. Then, as we know, Birmingham suffered an ill-timed midfield injury crisis in January and Mutch’s loan, due to be extended, ended with Matty Whichelow’s comically late winner at Scunthorpe. Birmingham, frustratingly, saw fit to afford our erstwhile key man a mere three league starts before the end of the campaign.

Next Season: Any lingering hopes we had of seeing Mutch in a yellow shirt again surely ended with Birmingham’s dramatic final-day relegation (no sniggering at the back). Mutch will be a key man in the Blues team next term.

20 – Marvin Sordell

Graham gets the plaudits, and rightly so. But Marvin Sordell’s season was if anything even more exciting. For a 20-year-old striker to end his first full season on 15 goals and still have the luxury of remaining somewhat low profile in the light of his strike partner’s achievement was surely exactly as Malky would have scripted it. Marvin’s a young player too, and his form wobbled on occasions, but at his best Sordell’s pace and aggression were uncontainable. Perhaps his most eye-catching, exciting performances were both off the bench, at Leicester and in particular at home to Doncaster. In each case not only did a brace of terrifyingly well-taken goals change the game, but the youngster had seized an ill-behaved match by the scruff of the neck and given it a good slapping about. Sorted. Brilliant.

Next Season: We’ll learn a lot about Sordell if Danny Graham moves on. If Graham doesn’t move on, the pair of them will again score a stupid number of goals.

End of Term Report Part 3 22/05/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

The hardest episode to write so far, simply because the status of the first two subjects is a little up in the air…

10 – Danny Graham

There’s not a lot to say here, really. Twenty-seven goals speaks for itself, although perhaps less so Graham’s herculean contribution to our season in terms of tieing together our attacking play. Danny’s first season with Watford featured barren spells without goals, but he was well worth his place during those spells for his industry, his link-up play, and his intelligence… Tom Cleverley and Henri Lansbury both benefitted from the space he created. This year his role as the fulcrum of the attacking play was undiminished… but the barren spells didn’t come except, arguably, harshly, at the very end of the season. Having a quick sidekick in Marvin Sordell didn’t hurt Graham at all, but in any event Graham has developed into the perfect second tier striker; a bit of everything, and humility as well. You wouldn’t swap him for any other striker in the division, bar none.

Next Season: Whether the perfect second tier striker is up to being a Premier League striker is something we’re likely to find out. Graham’s public eagerness to test himself at the highest level is one pointer, another our very noisy rejection of QPR’s baffling opening bid for Graham. Baffling – and I’m digressing a little – because it’s not quite clear what they hoped to achieve by it. An early bid to get in ahead of any rivals still focused on the Premiership relegation bunfight would make sense, but not at that price. £4m, and the time to remodel, perhaps we’d have been tempted. So this bid achieves precisely nothing for QPR, but gives us the opportunity to shout from the rooftops in case anyone wasn’t paying attention already. “Look, that’s NO to £2.5m. Who’s next? Don’t be shy…”. Was Warnock doing Malky a favour? Or was he drawing someone else’s fire, someone also eyeing his real target? Or is he just an idiot? Anyway… is Danny equipped for the top flight? Difficult. My reservation would be that he’s good at everything, but not brilliant at anything. So… he’s quick, but not like Theo Walcott. He’s strong, but he’s no Alan Shearer. He’s clever, but he’s no Sheringham. He’s a good finisher, but not spectacular like an Henry or a Rooney. He’s guaranteed to work his socks off, of course. But then so would I, probably. Hertfordshire will still be rooting for him, at any rate. Even if he joins our alumni at Loftus Road.

11 – Will Buckley

I must confess disappointment that “Swash” has never caught on. Much less lazy than “Jeff”, or (jesus) “Bucko”. Sadly, this isn’t the greatest disappointment. I had outrageously high hopes for Buckley at the start of the season – raggedly single-minded outings at the end of the previous campaign had promised much more to come. And it did come, but only in fits and bursts, and only when the circumstances were favourable. Against a team that affords you great big spaces to run into, Will’s yer man. Against anyone with Lee Naylor at left back, Will is particularly likely to impress (hellooooo Cardiff). If you’re protecting a lead with ten minutes to go and your opponent’s pushing on, there’s nobody you’d rather have scampering off with the ball. Thing is, in most other circumstances Buckley has been found rather wanting, sometimes anonymous. Most damningly, he’s bucked the trend (get it?) evident in most of our young players over the same period in that he really doesn’t seem to have grown or improved much. Here, perhaps, pointers at the reasons behind his two period as persona non grata, confined to the bench even in games that were crying out for impetus. Has he been working hard enough to improve? Having had unreasonable expectations a year ago, perhaps I’m being unduly harsh now… Buckley is still a very young player, he can be devastating and he’s one of few players that have provoked a frisson of excitement as they emerge from the bench. And yet, and yet…

Next Season: Interesting that Brighton, whose recruitment policy is now overseen by John Stephenson, formerly of this parish, are the early suitors. I would like to see Buckley stay, and develop in a Watford shirt. I fancy that might not happen, though.

12- Lloyd Doyley

As he enters his testimonial season, it becomes clear that Lloyd Doyley is actually the unchanging constant at the centre of the universe. You know what you’re gonna get. You know about the good bits. You know about the slightly less good bits. You expect nothing more, nothing less. He’s the eye of the storm, the centre around which everything else is in orbit. Why else the awesome tremors that evening against QPR? The entire world was thrown out of kilter. He’s always been here. He’ll always be here. Amen.

Next Season: Some dogged defending. Several opponents marked closer than their cycling shorts. Unquestioning versatility, filling in wherever, capably. Being caught out in the air at the far post several times. Twenty seven passes shanked into the stand. Any number of bloody-minded overlaps pulling gaps in opposing defences. And, if playing left back, at least one cut inside per game with a shot sliced a foot wide. Don’t ever change, Lloydy.

13 – René Gilmartin

As has already been discussed in this series, it’s kinda hard for a reserve goalkeeper to make a positive impression. In the case of René Gilmartin, opportunities in the past season amounted to four cup games, and I must confess to having missed two of them. Not a great deal to base judgment on, then… and René could probably have done without that gaffe against Brighton in probably his highest profile game to date. He talks a good game by all accounts, and is evidently a popular guy, but doesn’t seem likely to displace Loach whilst the number one remains at the club.

Next Season: Unless Loach leaves, Gilmartin’s biggest competition seems likely to be with Jonathan Bond for the place on the bench.

14 – Ross Jenkins

After apparently slipping back in the pecking order last term, Jenkins re-emerged in the second half of this campaign as a hugely promising prospect. Still a prospect, yes… three years after first establishing himself as a regular in the first team, Jenkins is only twenty. A key factor in his downturn in fortunes in 2009/10 was the unanticipated re-engagement of John Eustace; it was quickly evident that the two didn’t complement each other in the centre and as such Jenkins, the junior partner, took a back seat. As injury and suspension limited Eustace’s involvement from January, however, Jenkins came stomping back into contention and laid down a marker. Not Eustace’s partner, no, but surely his heir. He gets… carried away occasionally, going for tackles that he perhaps shouldn’t, but our record with Jenkins in Eustace’s role was excellent, and a headed goal against Sheffield United that was marvellous in any number of ways suggested more to come.

Next Season: The trick will be keeping him happy. He’ll be a very good player – we need to make sure that he becomes so at Vicarage Road.

We interrupt this broadcast… 21/05/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
1 comment so far

…to celebrate the most significant result of the tail of the season. Nine years after perhaps the most shameful decision in British football history, there’s a Wimbledon team back in the League.

You can celebrate who they beat if you choose to. That’s a detail to me, a bonus. The return of Wimbledon to the football league is a cause for celebration that everyone can share in. Except perhaps them up the road.

No replies to this post will be posted. If you want to share the celebration, use the time to lift a glass to the Dons fans celebrating in Manchester instead.

If you don’t, if you don’t get the whole Dons / MK thing, if you think we should have gotten over this by now then I’m afraid you never gotten it in the first place. Your opinion isn’t very important.

Normal services will resume shortly.

You Dons.

End of Term Report Part 2 19/05/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Moving swiftly on…

5 – Martin Taylor

It’s quite extraordinary to read last year’s assessment and to recall that, actually, we weren’t quite convinced at the time. The rider that the new man was rusty, that he needed a pre-season proved pertinent of course; Taylor has been a hugely significant, reliable, imposing presence all season, and would have been a comfortable Player of the Year in many others. He’s not been completely infallible, but it speaks volumes that the occasional error – gifting Luciano Becchio a free header at Elland Road springs to mind – sticks out for its oddness, like someone driving on the wrong side of the road. His height, to state the obvious, has been vital at either end of the pitch – he remains our only aerially dominant defender, scored six goals and contributed to four more. In an era characterised by a high strike rate in terms of quality of recruits, he compares well to any of the others… bringing experience to a defence that desperately needed it, accompanied by an unassuming and modest and yet driven personality as demonstrated by his determination to rack up a full house of starts despite clearly not being fit for the dead rubber at Preston. If there’s a weakness, perversely given the notoriety of the Eduardo incident, it’s that he’s not nasty enough. A man of his physique you’d like to bully his opponent a little more. But then… that wouldn’t be Martin Taylor, and we might never have gotten hold of him in the first place.

Next Season: We could really do with another 46 starts. One suspects we’d struggle without him.

6 – Adrian Mariappa

If you’re tiring of the positive tone thus far then you’re not going to get any respite here. Mariappa has benefited hugely both from being allowed to settle in the central position which had always suited him better, and from the presence of the monstrous Taylor who renders Mariappa’s own relative lack of inches less of a problem. Quick, elegant and increasingly disciplined, Mariappa is the perfect sidekick for Taylor in what quickly looked like a very solid partnership. Indeed, whilst Taylor is the more experienced partner, Mariappa is arguably the more influential – already one of the senior players at 24, Mariappa is a leader and surely a club captain in waiting.

Next Season: The only concern with our centre-backs is that we surely won’t be fortunate enough to get 91 out of 92 league starts between them again.

7 – Don Cowie

You can’t go too far wrong with a wide midfielder who ends the season with fourteen assists and works his socks off in every fixture. A week in September showcased his value perfectly; a superhuman man-of-the-match performance at Ashton Gate on the Tuesday was followed on the Saturday by three assists at the New Den. During his brief spell out in January, meanwhile, we were able to revisit the once familiar “oooh…oh” sensation that comes with winning corners when you don’t have anyone capable of delivering them reliably. A bit more pace, of course, and Cowie would be top flight quality. In which case he probably wouldn’t be playing for us.

Next Season: Ian Holloway is rumoured to be a fan; Blackpool’s future is undecided at the time of writing but whichever division they’re in they could do a lot worse, and would probably have the money to prise away a midfielder in the final year of his contract. One rather hopes not of course… but that’s the stated model. If we spend money on players we spend it on players with the potential to improve and appreciate in value. Cowie has certainly done that. If he does want to go the toughest part of the plan, but the part that might be crucial and convincing players of similar potential to join us, is letting the player go when the right offer comes in.

8 – Josh Walker

Well here’s a strange one. Plucked from Middlesbrough’s youth team, an England captain at any number of levels, reportedly pinched from under the noses of a whole range of admirers, and significantly awarded a “first eleven” shirt, surely a statement of intent from the management. One season and any number of loans later… we still haven’t seen very much of him on which to pass judgment. Which is odd, given that central midfield, with a serious injury to McGinn and our inability to retain Mutch past January, was an area where we were looking a little thin. Northampton Town’s messageboards aren’t the most generous and hospitable of places after a thoroughly miserable season for the Cobblers… but their accounts are of a player with undoubted ability who wanted rather more time than Fourth Division players were prepared to offer and certainly wasn’t up for a scrap. If Northampton fans weren’t convinced they could afford that luxury, it’s not difficult to read the situation as Mackay thinking that Walker might have needed a few loans to toughen up.

Next Season: With a year left on his contract, it will be interesting to observe whether Mackay gives Walker a shot next season, or whether more loans are forthcoming suggesting that a decision was made very early on.

9 – Troy Deeney

Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way quickly. Troy Deeney really hasn’t scored enough goals in his opening season. Nor, in all honesty, has he looked like doing so, displaying a nervousness and tentativeness in front of goal that was hardly characteristic of a born goalscorer. Having said which… strangely, Deeney’s first season feels like far from a disaster. Comfortable with the ball at his feet, strong in the air. he’s equipped himself well in the wide role that he cemented towards the end of the season and was often a stand-out player. His comments midway through the season expressing disappointment at what he saw as his own poor form also showed a refreshing candour… there was no finger pointing, or deflection of responsibility. This honesty will serve him well.Troy wasn’t helped by his former club exaggerating his transfer fee by totting up a large volume of potential add-ons last summer – this directly inflated our supporters’ expectations. Despite a difficult start, Deeney has proven a considerable asset.

Next Season: The big question might be where the hell to play him. In one fit of excitemet at Elland Road, my brother and I noted his strength defending corners, his good reading of the game and his preference for having the game in front of him and speculated on a switch to centre back. At which point he sliced a cross into his own net. Perhaps the most optimistic, but not totally unrealistic, comparison is drawn with his erstwhile Walsall striker partner. Tommy Mooney took a while wandering around the team before he learned to channel his strength, too…

End of Term Report Part 1 16/05/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Time to kick off our annual assessment of the Watford squad. Any criticism, direct or implied, carries the rider that I still can’t do as much as kick a ball in a straight line myself but, as the saying goes, “those who can’t do, write a blog”. Last year’s assessment begins on the May 2010 pages, if you’re so inclined.

1 – Scott Loach

It’s more than a little perverse that the first “proper” (rather than borrowed) Watford player to be called up to a full England squad for 23 years has been the subject of no little criticism in the season just gone. The England call-ups haven’t helped him in that respect of course; if you’re (almost) an England international then that much more is expected of you, and perhaps rightly so. The context needs to be appreciated though; as Premiership squads stretch their reach ever further, the goalkeeping position is the one where the national team is likely to be pressed for options most rapidly. As Rene Gilmartin will no doubt testify, a deputy keeper has precious few opportunities to impress… five minute runs as substitute to get a bit of action don’t really happen; this naturally limits the top flight candidates to a handful. As such, a promising English goalkeeper is likelier to be thrust into that particular limelight than a comparable player in another position. The reality is that Loach is still a young player – he turns 23 over the summer – young players make mistakes, and as every commentator knows a goalkeeper’s mistakes are visible and generally costly. For all that Loach has had more than one iffy moment over the season, he remains an excellent shot stopper and an asset.

Next Season: Having said all of which, there’s a debt that needs servicing and if we’re in the position of needing to sell, Loach is probably the realisable asset that you’d choose with encouraging noises being made about the young(er still) goalkeepers coming through. Doesn’t work like that of course, and despite what might have been interpreteed as fairwell gestures after the QPR game it’s 50/50 whether Loach stays on in the summer. Either way, he’s worthy of slightly more appreciation than he’s recently been afforded.

2 – Lee Hodson

The thing about young players and inconsistency will simply apply to so many of our kindergarten squad that it should be taken as read henceforth. It applies here of course; by Hodson’s own admission his form wobbled badly mid-season, provoking Vicarage Road’s latent desire for someone to have a good moan at which had mercifully not been evident for a while. So… what isn’t new is that we have a very promising right-back who is currently very good going forward but gets caught occasionally. What is new is that we know how gutsy he is, digging in and recovering his form when lack of options didn’t permit us to rest him, playing for a while on his weaker left side and holding down this place even when more experienced alternatives returned. He was also responsible for perhaps the moment of the season, a primal, ecstatic, furious goal celebration that had that poky corner of Elland Road responding in kind.

Next Season: We do quite a good line in iconic right-backs. Hodson might yet join those ranks.

3 (#1) – Andrew Taylor

The play-offs were never on, of course, whatever the table suggested. Top half would have been a huge achievement, fourteenth would have been taken with both hands at the start of the season by anyone with half a clue. Christ, a quarter of a clue. Nonetheless, if there was a moment when our slim hopes disappeared, it was when Middlesbrough sacked Gordon Strachan. More than the loss of the excellent Mutch, of whom more later of course, it was the loss of a proper left back that limited us from January onwards. Taylor gave us a balance defending but, particularly, attacking which allowed us to pin teams back far more effectively than we could with the various capable but not as capable deputies that stood in on his departure. Some suggested that Taylor was merely competent, that his impact was exaggerated by the absence of another left-sided defender in our senior squad; that does him a disservice for me… solid defensively, superb going forward in a division where either of the two from a full back is normally as good as you get. Tony Mowbray, sadly, not a complete idiot. Taylor also got my vote for Goal of the Season, with due respect to Captain Eustace. There’s nothing like hitting the ball really hard…

Next Season: Played as a midfielder by Tony Mowbray, I won’t be the only Watford fan with an optimistic half-eye on the fact that out-of-contract Taylor hasn’t signed a new contract at Boro yet. The coming weeks might provide an insight into quite how accurate Mowbray’s “he’s delighted to be back, honest” line was in January.

3 (#2) – Tommie Hoban

Even if I had witnessed Hoban’s one appearance off the bench at Preston, it would be unreasonable to pass judgment; all one has to go on reliably are some very encouraging noises made by 3CR’s commentary team on the day (and who am I to argue with them…). The reason for mentioning Hoban is that not only was he the fourteenth Watford player to be given a debut this season, he was the first in a very long time to have made the squad without me having heard of him until the day beforehand. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. And I’m one sad bugger when it comes to this stuff, so that’s saying something. Which, given the implications about the lack of options we were left with isn’t altogether a good thing.

Next Season: I’ll be glad if a seventeen year-old scholar only gets near the side again on merit rather than necessity. All the more so if Hoban lives up to his promising billing.

4 – John Eustace

Another massive moment this season was the point before the start, when John Eustace got lost on his way out of Leeds, ended up in Chapeltown and thought “I don’t fancy this”. Every inch the captain, with our squad we’ve needed our experienced players to stay fit and stay in form ever so badly. To a man they’ve done so, Eustace not least. Six goals added a hitherto unsuggested dimesion to his game, including that ridiculous scissor kick against Coventry which was the only goal we’d scored in front of the Rookery for an awfully long time. This is a man who renegotiated his contract at the start of last season to get games, and then turned down a much bigger club to stay on. That, on top of his last two seasons, surely cements legend status for the skipper.

Next Season: Current rumours have Derby sniffing around with a fee of £200k mentioned. The likeliest explanation, given Derby’s tiresome propensity to view themselves as some kind of sleeping giant rather than second division fodder, is a rumour designed to unsettle a player who spent a loan spell at Pride Park a couple of years ago. It’s not impossible, however, that Eustace might fancy one last move back towards his midlands roots. Only 31, injuries may have affected Eustace in the past but they’ve also meant that his legs have endured several seasons’ less than they might have by that age. Jenkins is the heir apparent in Eustace’s position, but his leadership would be tough to replace. We can’t afford to lose him just yet.

Helping Hands 2010/2011 11/05/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

You should know the form by now. Listed below an account of this seasons “assists”, tallied up by ploughing through match reports, youtube, and so on, and so forth. Don’t mock, this is what gets me through the summer. Good god, the season only ended last Saturday…

This is the fourth year in which I’ve compiled this table; click on the season to check out the 2009-10, 2008-09 and 2007-08 equivalents.

My figures tend to differ from those tabulated on the Official Site. I’m the statistician, watch me not care. I’ve defined being fouled for a converted penalty as an assist, but no assist for being fouled for a converted free kick, and if a cross is flicked on then both crosser AND flicker-on get the assist.

Thoughts? First off, the breadth. Only three outfield players who started games failed to provide an assist, and they had eight starts between them. This is dramatically different from previous seasons; in our most prolific campaign for a while, it’s clear that the variety of threat is a key factor.

The key contributions are obvious. Don Cowie notches up the highest figure recorded in the last four seasons, and his value to the team never more obvious than when he’s not in it. Danny Graham, of course. A complete striker at this level, as valuable for his role in the forward line as for the goals he scored. Stephen McGinn… these figures emphasise how big a blow his injury was on top of the inability to retain the very capable Jordon Mutch, backing up the impression that here was evolving a very useful player indeed. Get well soon, Stephen. And Martin Taylor, a valuable weapon in our attacking armoury as well as vital at the back, he was directly involved in ten goals in the campaign just gone.

Disappointments? I suspect we ought to expect more from 30 starts as an attacking wide man than Will Buckley’s four assists, two of which in the memorable flaying of Cardiff. For a capable crosser of the ball, it surprises me that Lee Hodson only has one assist to his name. And Danny Drinkwater, in context… coming in on loan isn’t always going to be as easy as it sometimes looks, but he was the nearest we got to an incoming replacement for Mutch or McGinn. He clearly didn’t deliver.

School report starts soon. When are the fixtures out…?

Assists Apps Gls Assists vs
Cowie 14 39 4 NoC (A), DoR (H), Mwl (A), Mwl (A), Mwl (A), Mbo (A),
LeC (H), CaC (H), DeC (H) , Mwl (H), IpT (A), Mbo (H), HuC (H), LeU (A)
Graham 10 47+2 27 NtC (H), Mwl (A), ShU (A), NoF (H), CaC (H), Por (H),
CaC (A), NoC (H), LeU (A), PNE (A)
McGinn 7 27+6 2 NoC (A), CvC (H), DeC (A), CrP (A), QPR (A), HpU (H),
Mutch 6 21+2 5 Por (A), Bur (A), Rdg (H), LeC (H), LeC (H), Por (H)
Deeney 5 20+20 3 CrP (A), ScU (A), SwC (A), Bar (H), LeC (A)
Sordell 4 29+17 15 NoC (A), Ald (A), SwC (H), Bur (H)
Buckley 4 31+6 4 Mwl (A), CaC (H), CaC(H), DeC (H)
M.Taylor 4 49 6 Mwl (A), Mbo (H), IpT (H) , PNE (H)
Whichelow 3 5+16 3 HpU (h), HpU (h), Rdg (a)
A.Taylor 3 19 1 IpT (h), QPR (a), Bur (A)
Eustace 3 42 6 Ald (a), BrC (a), ShU (h)
Bennett 2 7+5 0 HpU (h), DeC (h)
Weimann 2 10+9 4 BrC (h), DoR (a)
Doyley 2 40+0 0 Ald (a), SwC (h)
Mariappa 2 49 1 BrC (a), CaC (a)
Townsend 1 2+1 0 CrP (h)
Bryan 1 4+3 0 Por (a)
Thompson 1 8+3 1 ShU (h)
Jenkins 1 15+7 1 IpT (a)
Hodson 1 28+3 1 CvC (h)
Hoban 0 0+1 0
Kiernan 0 0+1 0
Oshodi 0 0+1 0
Massey 0 0+4 0
Walker 0 0+5 0
Murray 0 1+1 0
Drinkwater 0 3+9 0
Gilmartin 0 4 0
Mingoia 0 4+3 1
Loach 0 46 0

All assists accounted for!