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Golden Graham 08/06/2011

Posted by Ian Grant in Thoughts about things.
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It may seem like a daft premise for a farewell to the club’s and the division’s top scorer…but let’s forget about the goals for one moment. It was always about so much more than that, after all. The times when casual observers and fans of other clubs would comment on Danny Graham’s scoring record always made you feel a little bit smug, knowing that they’d missed the reason why you’d have his name on the back of your shirt if you weren’t too grown up for such things. Anyone can score a few goals; Scott Fitzgerald managed it, for pity’s sake. Not anyone can be Danny Graham.

From the very start, he had an apparently natural awareness of his surroundings that set him apart in the frantic bustley hustle of the Championship. Watching it all from high up in the stands, you don’t get many players who can see things long before you do, who can pick out runs that you haven’t spotted and anticipate events before they’ve unfolded; it’s just not that easy when you’ve got some ugly bruiser about to take your ankles away. The first month was barely out before we were describing Graham as “the fulcrum of it all”, the player with the ability to link together the ideas of Don Cowie, Tom Cleverley and, briefly, Tommy Smith in the final third.

That raw ability has since been welded to genuine authority. A lengthy dry spell put his place in jeopardy, echoing the increasing danger of relegation as the 2009/2010 season neared its close. The reaction from key players was emphatic, nigh-on revolutionary; with Jay Demerit heading for the exit, John Eustace became the captain elect, and others took up their places in the new order. For the first time in years, you looked at the dressing room and saw a structure that made sense: a proper, shouty captain with senior players unafraid of responsibility. A team of few egos but plenty of stars. Danny Graham wasn’t just the centre forward any more. He led the attack.

From then on, until he nigh on collapsed from exhaustion a few weeks ago, he was the best player in the division. End of. Adel Taarabt, my backside. Find me another striker with such technical accomplishment, then see whether they have Danny Graham’s genuine selflessness, his apparent love of doing it for the team and his relish for getting on with stuff that he could’ve left to others. Find someone with that uncanny vision, then see whether they can match his almost suicidal workrate, whether they’ll muck in and take the throw-ins too. Find a forward with goals against their name, then check whether they’re as dangerous as yer man when drifting out wide and firing in ferocious crosses, whether they can drop deep to get the ball if it isn’t coming to them. A complete footballer, quite simply…and one who genuinely seemed never to take anything for granted. Somewhere in virtually everything positive that we did, there was a bit of Danny Graham, even if it was only chasing a lost cause to win a corner or making a run to create space for others.

And goals, of course. Goals from a couple of inches to thirty yards, from simple tap-ins to booming long-range volleys followed by whirly-shirted runs to the corner flag. With head, feet, knees, whatever. Lucky, clinical, opportunistic, routine, spectacular. The ability to sniff out an opening seemed to desert him for spells in that first season…but my word, he had it back over the last nine months, great clusters of pick-that-out goals that made you wonder whether he wasn’t about to turn into some kind of comic strip hero before our eyes.

You’ll have your own favourites, I’m sure. Mine, for what it’s worth, is a bit of an obscure one. A goal down away at Scunthorpe; a pure poacher’s goal, getting in front of the keeper to flick in a stray back-header. But watch it again if you get the chance…and the more you see it, the more it seems as if someone’s shown him the video the day before. “Ah, yes, this is the bit where…if I stand just here…and flick it over like this…” The kind of goal you can only score if you’re really tuned into the game, if you’ve truly found its pulse; the kind of goal that’s dismissed too quickly. That was Danny Graham, in a nutshell. He made some of it look easy, but don’t let that fool you…

And he ended his Watford career exhausted and spent, having given us his absolute all. If he were less talented, you’d call him a folk hero…but his story has more chapters in it than we can write, and the chance to play for a top flight side with a vacancy for a line-leader is something we shouldn’t even momentarily begrudge.

For my money – and it’s not my money, obviously – the oft-voiced line about him being a good Championship striker sells him considerably short: that sixth sense isn’t something we see every season, that combination of talent, dedication and enthusiasm isn’t easy to find. It’s not about satisfying an abstract concept – “good enough” – but about continuing to make those positive contributions; I find it hard to believe that that’s beyond someone as irrepressible as Danny Graham. He’s grown immeasurably over the last two years, a tribute to our coaching staff, his team-mates…but most of all, to his hard work and high standards. He can continue to grow.

We’ll be watching and, I think it’s fair to say, we’ll be hoping too. Good luck, Danny. Enjoy it.

Note: Obviously, there’s much to discuss at the present time, but there are countless places for speculation, discussion and hysterical breakdowns about selling all of our players for tuppence; let’s leave that aside here. If you want to comment on Danny Graham’s Watford career, and perhaps share some of your favourite bits, please do so. Ta.

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Comments»

1. Marcus - 08/06/2011

Great work, Ian.

Rarely can a player out of his teens have gone from “pretty good/lots of potential” to superb all rounder with yet more potential in a virtually straight line over the space of c 18 months.

I don’t know him but sense (strongly) he is a v decent bloke. From his quiet support of a charity up in the North East (forget which) to his professionalism off the pitch (posing with kids in the Hornets Shop, keeping a dignified silence over his transfer prospects).

Top bloke – hope he succeeds in the Premier League.

Marvin Sordell has more “potential” but potential isn’t everything.

Continued improvement even at the half the rate by Troy Deeney this coming season would be incredibly welcome!

Chris - 08/06/2011

Echo this:
Top bloke – hope he succeeds in the Premier League

2. Rod Fine - 08/06/2011

Amen to all that. I’d just like to add that his public comments were exemplary. Never a hint of angling for a transfer or saying he was too good for this level, he talked about how much he loved it at WFC, but would love the chance to test himself at the top level – who wouldn’t?

He’s given his all at all times, and been straight with the fans as well. Whether he can cut it at the top level, time should tell. Defences are that much harder to break down, and leading the line without also getting goals would put pressure on any forward. But any Watford fan who doesn’t wish him every success doesn’t understand what’s going on.

Thanks, Danny.

3. Sophie - 08/06/2011

Spot on Ig. A great piece.

Aside from the goals, which were an absolute pleasure to witness and made it a truly enjoyable season, it is DG’s selflessness and work rate that will linger for me. He might’ve scored the goals, but he’d also be in the full-back position in the final ten doing his utmost to help the team see the game out.

Hats off to our scouting network, too, for producing such a valuable asset in a short space of time.

I wish DG nothing but the best and he’ll certainly be in my Fantasy League team next season!

4. andy - 08/06/2011

My favourite Graham goal – our fourth against Hartlepool in the cup this year. As he picked up the ball the shot wasn’t on, so he put his head down and ran with it, and ran, and ran, his body showing the determination that he WOULD get an opening and he WOULD get a goal. Agression and determination that was echoed in the finish when it finally came, completely the other side of the penalty area from where he’d picked up the ball.

Good luck Super Dan, and thanks for everything,

Andy

Matt Lovett - 08/06/2011

Fully agree – that goal against Hartlepool showed just what playing football means to the man. On for the last 20 mins of a dead tie and in the dying seconds the only thing on his mind is taking the game to the opposition and making a chance for himself. He will of course be sorely missed, but I sincerely hope he makes a great success of his move to Swansea.

5. David Farquharson - 08/06/2011

An awesome player with a real selflessness and an old fashioned bond with the fans. That third goal at QPR on a cold December night was a thing of beauty (real quality but the way it irked Neil Warnock was especially pleasing).

Good luck Danny.

David, London

6. NickB - 08/06/2011

Thanks for that, ig; hope he gets to read it. Agree with every word; look forward to giving him the daddy of all returning hero receptions when he next hoves into view.

Everything he did was class, on and off the field.

7. JohnF - 08/06/2011

Well crafted piece Ian and worthy of an excellent player. He will be sorely missed but I am sure that we will all wish him the very best in the future. If it doesn’t work out at Swansea we’ll happily have him back but I think he will do well there. A fun player who played with real enthusiasm and the joy of just playing as part of a close-knit team. I’ll never forget that fantastic goal out of nothing against West Brom and who will forget the tee shirt message. I’m about to buy the season highlights to enjoy his play all over again.

8. Stuart - 08/06/2011

Well done Danny, thanks for the memories you’ll be sorely missed! I don’t need to say anymore than that, otheriwse I’ll be repeating others above and IG. All I will say is that this article reminded me of those ‘gone but not forgotten’ ones written a long time ago in a place far away…..

9. Mark - 08/06/2011

Thanks, ig. Fair brought a tear to my eye, you did.

10. DevonJon - 08/06/2011

Living down in Devon, I don’t get to many games these days, was gutted to see Plymouth go down last year as that was like a home match! Anyway, my then 8 year old son was desperate to see another game last season and so i took him up to Kings Langley for a weekend with friends and took in the West Brom game. They needed a win for promotion, we just needed points. The seats we had in the Rookery were in row B I think, right at the bottom directly behind the goal. In the first half attacking the Vic I could barely work out what was going on, let alone my boy. At half time I phoned a friend, a season ticket holder with seats half way up and he said that there were unoccupied seats next to him. Fantastic! I said to my boy JAck that there were better seats available but he wouldn’t have it that it would be better and easier to see from further away, ” but we’re right behing the goal here Dad, I don’t want to go further back!” Hurrumph! So we sat to watch the second half. Not being “far enough back” I can only assume that when Danny hit the ball he must have been 20 or so yrds out, but from the moment he hit it we could see it going in and at the point it hit the back of the net it stopped seemingly two inches from our noses! Best seats in the house! A goal, a day and player that’ll fuel a 9 year olds Watford stories for for decades to come, a bit like mine about Ian Bolton! Cheerio Danny, good luck and thanks for the memories!

11. Harefield Hornet - 08/06/2011

Good Luck Danny you’ve been a star and I hope you and Swansea do well next season. …but………….
As I’ve said on the last post – I wish people wouldn”t keep saying and writing he is being reunited with Brendan Rodgers. Danny signed for us a month after BR did a runner to Reading and played exclusively for MM!

12. DM - 08/06/2011

Millwall away.. Having run a beleagured opposition defence ragged for 75 minutes, DG got in on the goalscoring act when he fair smashed one home from the edge of the box, right into the furthest corner of the home goal.

Occasionally a player leaves the club that has fully merited his move to bigger things – we can only wish Danny Graham well and look on with pride if..no, WHEN he blossoms into a Premier League striker,

Good luck Danny.

13. Pendulously - 08/06/2011

Spot on. Never thought I would be pulling for Swansea, but I wish Danny all the best and will be cheering for him next year.

14. Craig B - 08/06/2011

Danny Graham is one of the finest Watford players I have had the pleasure of watching in the last 20 years, and he gave every blood-and-sweat-soaked inch of him to every single minute of every game he played in. I will miss him terribly.

15. billyo - 08/06/2011

Cheers DG for a fantastic couple of Years fantastic service. I bloody hope he does himself justice in the not, not. Not just for him, but I’d bloody love to see a bloke of his character pull on an England shirt one day. Give ’em hell Dan.

16. The Great Big O - 08/06/2011

I’ve never been within 50 yards of Danny Graham, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard him speak, but – like you, ig – I know beyond any doubt that, as well as being a very good footballer he’s a very good bloke indeed. With someone like Danny, one just knows.

Often, I like footballers because they’re clearly NOT good blokes. I like villains. But Danny Graham is quite simply a hero – in the classic story-telling tradition. Great values, great heart, great ambition, great endeavour, great skills. And thoroughly likeable. He would be played in movie by… well, I’m not sure anyone in Hollywood’s up to it.

I hope his story continues its soaring upward arc at Swansea.

NickB - 08/06/2011

A young David Niven, perhaps. Malky could be played by Gordon Jackson and we could have Johnny Vegas in the Jimmy Russo cameo role.

Orson Welles in the director’s chair

17. Luke Fairweather - 08/06/2011

Very few ex players do enough to earn our unofficial accolate of being described as “Our…” as in Our Ashley or Our Tommy. DG has certainly earned the title of “Our Dan” I relish the MOTD punditary when the alleged deep insight into the secret of DG’s startling Not Not success is revealed to the nation by Lee Dixon as; his awarenss, work rate, six sense, link up play etc. Then we will all have the right to bask in the reflected glory and shout at the TV…”told you so, that’s Our Dan, that is”.

This blog regularly brings a smile to my face but it is not often it brings a tear to my eye, but…

Luke

18. David, Aylesbury - 08/06/2011

Great article Ian – you have summed it all up perfectly.

In just two seasons Danny has become a legend. I think Swansea’a style of play will suit him and I really hope he sets the Premier League alight as he deserves every reward which may come his way.

Like many others, the Hartlepool goal will live long in the memory but my abiding image of Dan was from a game near the end of this past season, can’t even remember who we were playing…..the ball is played down the right touchline too hard for our player and their defender is just shielding the ball out for a goalkick…….until Super Dan sprints from the other side of the penalty area on the defender’s blindside to knock the ball back into play . A 50-60 yard sprint just to stop the opposition getting a goal kick.
Just sums up his workrate and selflessness to play for the team.

Good luck Danny – top scorer, top player, top bloke.

19. Johnny Boy - 09/06/2011

Great summary ig.Would like to endorse your comment about help from our coaching staff because when DG arrived, from Carlisle, he did look a bit off the pace although mentally bright. No longer the case, one paper even described him as ‘speedy’.
Saw him at a fans forum early in the season and he came over as a genuine bloke – with his twinkling eyes and square jaw the premiership has got a new superstar as long as he behaves himself – no super injunctions for our Danny.

20. graemeb - 09/06/2011

Danny is as good a striker as I’ve ever seen in a Watford shirt, and I started coming when Ken Furphy was manager! To those why say he won’t cut it in the Prem, my response is simply: Why Not? There are no obvious shortcomings to his game, and at 25 there is no reason why his remarkable progress should not continue.

From Danny’s point of view this was absolutely the right time to move on. If he’d stayed and been the division’s top goalscorer for a second year, it wouldn’t have increased his stock value by that much. On the other hand he might have had a dip in form or lost part of the season through injury.

However, I am not sure Swansea was the right move for him. Most sides that go up through the play-offs have a desperate struggle to avoid relegation, and Danny would have had a better chance to shine at Newcastle, West Brom or even QPR. Neither he or Watford needed to take the first realistic bid for his services.

Finally, I wonder if we ever thought of negotiating an additional fee if he plays for England? GT once said he regretted the omission of such a clause when Kevin Phillips was sold, as he was sure Sunderland would have agreed to this. Considering the selection of Jay Bothroyd, it is by no means impossible that Danny could step up yet another level.

21. SwindonDave - 09/06/2011

I think the thing that impressed me most (of many) was that he was our best winger when he needed to be. He was always prepared to go wide, take people on and create for others. He was not just a striker but a complete forward.
If he works as hard as he did for us he deserves success in the Premiership..

Ian Grant - 09/06/2011

Yes, I agree with that. The standard line is that you don’t want your top scorer out on the wing…but you were always perfectly happy to see Danny Graham drift out there as you knew how much mischief he could get up to. I keep thinking of Jordan Stewart and his unwillingness to take throw-ins, a basic part of his day-job; you never, ever got the sense that DG saw anything that helped the cause as beneath him.

22. Winslow Horn - 09/06/2011

Great piece Ian.
My favourite DG goals are his first for us at home to Donny when you could see what it meant to him and also his first goal at Norwich on the opening day of this / last season…..pure class – just like the man himself!
All the best Dan.

23. Iveco - 09/06/2011

I remember watching his first game (the friendly Vs Parma I think and thinking at the time that he’d do me. Keane then offered £1.7mn for Priskin and I thought at the time that we’d end up with the better deal and so it has proved.

He really deserves his go in the Premier League and although part of me would still love him to do a Tommy Smith and come back from holiday and sack Brenda off at the last minute and go to West Brom or somewhere (I believe he’s still not had his medical) I shall now have to hope that after Brenda gets sacked in October after losing 8 in a row, Danny will then go on to score 20 goals and keep Swansea up.

All the best Danny, you shall most definitely go down as a Watford Legend.

24. jeremy clarkson - 09/06/2011

JC here

We’ve had the One Tommy Mooney
We’ve had Super Kev
We’ve had Hieder, Heider..H H Helguson

and now we ‘ve had Super Dan, class man, up there with the best.

The opportune goal away to Ipswich tells the story of them all…if i do this, and go there, and he does that I may get a chance…bang 3-0

25. Adam of Gloucester - 10/06/2011

Gave 110%
Acknowledged fans and team mates
Never stamped his feet for a transfer
Never lied by promising to stay then leaving a week later
Beat the Scots at table tennis
Wasn’t a bad footballer either.

For me the goal in 20secs vs Boro – chased down the defender where others wouldn’t bother, pounced on the error and finished with ease.

I’ll let him off that I had bet on Sordell to score first.

26. Apperley 'Orn - 13/06/2011

For me, what summed him up was when my boy was mascot at Portsmouth and in the changing room before the game he rushed straight past Danny to try to find Scott Loach.

Danny watched him whizz past, turned to me, smiled and said “Your lad’s in a hurry there!” I apologised and said that, no offence but Scott Loach is his hero as he wants to be a goalkeeper when he grows up.

Danny smiled again, patted me on the shoulder and said “Ah don’t worry man, he’ll grow out of it!”

Top bloke, great footballer and will be a huge miss next season.


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