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End of Term Report Part 1 03/06/2013

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Thanks to play offs’n’that I’m starting this almost a month later this season that last.  With an early start to the next campaign galloping up at the beginning of August, I need to get a jiggy on.  Last season’s effort, complete with predictions about to be rendered obsolete by the at that time unseen takeover and its consequences, starts in May 2012 if you’re so inclined.

1- Manuel Almunia

A signing that was almost lost, buried under the influx from Udine and Granada, an afterthought, a detail… which is remarkable in itself.  Recruiting a goalkeeper of Almunia’s stature – three years as Arsenal’s first choice, Champions League Finalist – was worthy of more comment, whatever the new reality that was emerging at the time.  The footnote of course was that Almunia hadn’t seen much action for a couple of seasons and this rustiness was evident in early games, just as Tamasz Kuszczak’s similar lack of practice had been betrayed early in his loan the previous season.  Nonetheless, from as early as Lloyd’s testimonial in August when Manuel’s bellows from the Rookery end were clearly audible from the back of the Rous Stand it was clear that the goalkeeping position was no longer an issue.  Nor was it; our defensive vulnerability owed nothing to Almunia and everything to our open, ambitious style of play.  His high point was the play-off matches,culminating in the memorable double penalty save against Leicester and a defiant performance at Wembley – others might have wilted in the big-match glare, Manuel definitively didn’t.

If there’s a question mark it’s over his role as a captain, albeit that in a season of flux with John Eustace largely absent he’d been an obvious choice for the role.  Troy Deeney emerged as a leader later, but couldn’t have been given the armband from the off…  and occasionally you felt that we’d have benefited from someone being in the referee’s ear a bit more, a hard trick to pull for a goalkeeping captain.  Ultimately his captaincy will probably be remembered for Troy and Fitz’s memorable testimony, which is perhaps a little unfair.  But very funny.

Next Season: At the end of his one year deal, he’s done nothing to suggest that he’s not worth an extra year.  Jonathan Bond is knocking hard, though.

2- Lee Hodson

Not a great year for young Lee.  Despite being ostensibly reasonably well suited to the wing-back role in the formation favoured from the end of September onwards, Lee didn’t get a sniff of first team action between then and his departure on loan to Brentford in November.  Even at Griffin Park his involvement was disappointing – limited, apparently, by the Bees having one more loanee on the books than they were permitted to include in a matchday squad.  Frequently the odd man out, Hodson was involved in 13 league fixtures, only one a defeat, but only started 7 of them.  Given that he clearly wasn’t pressing for the first team at Vicarage Raod, getting him out on loan was sensible…  shame he didn’t get more games, though.

Next Season:  One of several players of whom the perspective of most of the Watford support has effectively frozen in time…  based on what we saw twelve months ago you’d say that Hodson has a future at Watford, and if not then at no further down than League One.  A year’s a long time for a young player, though…

3- Carl Dickinson

If we’re honest, there wouldn’t have been a lot of money on Dicko lasting the season as first choice before the Pozzo takeover.  Given our transformed means and outlook the only surprise is perhaps that he managed as much as two minutes plus injury time as late as Hillsborough at the end of November.  That inconspicuous cameo was sandwiched between loans at Pompey (six starts, four bookings) and Coventry (six starts, just the one booking).  Whatever your archetypal Zola player looks like, Carl isn’t it; whether what he can offer ever outweighed his limitations is questionable in any case.

Next Season:  With Daniel Pudil and Matthew Briggs at the end of their loans (whatever the future holds…) and Craig Forsyth apparently on his way to Derby County, Dicko is the only left footer in the senior squad.  Nonetheless, it would be surprising if we saw him in a yellow shirt again, year on his contract or otherwise.

4- John Eustace

The stats would suggest that John was just another member of the old guard whose face no longer fitted.  Four starts (only one of which, the league cup win over Wycombe, completed), three times off the bench.  The dying embers of a Watford career.  Except…  well, whether or not John would have been heavily employed had he not spent most of the season injured is open to question, but what’s beyond dispute is that more than anything else this team missed John Eustace’s savvy, his leadership, his bloody-mindedness on occasions.  Perhaps he wouldn’t have held down a regular spot in this midfield.  I’m not sure, though.  Eustace has turned his hand to most things since his arrival, from midfield destroyer to fetcher and carrier to end-to-end, get on the end of stuff in the box-er, I wouldn’t want to assume that he wouldn’t have been more involved, and if I believed it I certainly wouldn’t say so to his face.  The wonderful Fitz and Troy clip linked above speaks volumes… the giggling and bantering stops suddenly when Eustace’s name is mentioned.  Both sit up straight, straighten their ties, tuck in their shirts and are suddenly nervous and polite about their skipper.  Hell, his cold eyes scare the life out of me and I’ve only ever seen him from the stands.

Next Season: At the end of his contract, I’d be delighted if he’s still around next season but I fear that may be a forlorn hope.  Whether he stays or goes, though, there’s no doubt that we’ve gotten far more out of John Eustace than his injury record suggested we might do five and a half years ago;  as panic buys go, he didn’t do half badly (lest we forget, he arrived at the same time as Leigh Bromby and Matt Sadler).  He’s been arguably our most important player over the intervening period despite spending two long spells out of the side and if he does overcome these latest injuries it’s worth remembering that at 33, he’s played barely 300 games.  There’s an awful lot of football left in him.

5 (#1) – Martin Taylor

A detail, a footnote, but for completeness we should record that Martin Taylor was one of ours until the 31st August, when he left through one door as a raft of others arrived through another.  At the time, his departure appeared disastrous… as low a point perhaps as the season was to have in terms of doubting new Watford, doubting Zola, doubting the decisions that were being made.  Taylor had been a monstrous part of the side for two seasons, a key man, a wise old head and utterly dependable.  A 5-1 collapse at Pride Park the day after he left only fanned the flames as the Rams made for the great big hole where Tiny used to be, a hole we’d taped up with polythene and hoped for the best.  It was grim stuff.

Since then… Watford’s turnaround was confirmed with our next win at Huddersfield four weeks later, a pivotal point in the season.  Tiny, meanwhile, has thoroughly failed to establish himself in Sheffield and having been vaunted as the solution to a problem by Dave Jones he became something of a scapegoat when the problem remained evidently unsolved.  As we met at Hillsborough in November Taylor’s half-time introduction was followed by three second half goals in our favour;  he’s barely started a game since, and his last on-pitch involvement in a winning side was when we beat Birmingham in September.  Perhaps letting him leave wasn’t a disaster after all… although his change in fortunes remains baffling.  After all, it was hardly a settled, confident, water-tight backline that he found waiting for him when he’d joined us three and a half years ago, and he soon sorted that out.

Next Season: Taylor has one year left on his Hillsborough contract, the year that reportedly tempted him to Hillsborough in the first place.  As it stands he won’t be going into the new season as a first choice.

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Comments»

1. Esp - 03/06/2013

Help!!
I’m not a multi linguist like some educated types are who subscribe to BHaPPY so can I ask a question?
When is it correct to say Udinese and when is it Udine?
In Genova they call the “other” team in their town “Genoa” as an Englishman invented the side – is the principal the same with Udine?
Confused of Kent

Matt Rowson - 03/06/2013

The town is Udine. The club is Udinese. Udinese = “from Udine”.

petebradshaw - 03/06/2013

Think Bologna – bolognese, Milan – milanese…

NickB - 03/06/2013

Any relation of Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells?

2. Nick - 03/06/2013

I wonder if John Eustace will play a role next year as one of 3 centre backs. What he lacks in pace can be covered by others but he will still be in a position from which he can add his leadership and experience.

Hoban, Eustace, Ekstrand (if he stays)/Nos if he doesnt. Sounds good to me.

3. putajumperon - 03/06/2013

Lee Hodson played the full 90mins in what is the best FA Cup (v Southend) match I saw this season and put in a great performance that night. Given what I saw I find it hard to believe he’s had so few appearances this term.

Matt Rowson - 03/06/2013

Don’t know if you were GENUINELY doubting my stats (how very dare you….) or merely expressing surprise… either way…

http://www.soccerbase.com/teams/team.sd?team_id=378&teamTabs=results&season_id=142

Select Hodson from the PLayer Filter top right and opt to include his sub appearances. You’ll see it’s pretty patchy… he only got a run close to the end of the season when, i think, one of the other loans was recalled. Rosler gave him plenty of credit and said he wasn’t at fault, in fairness.

putajumperon - 04/06/2013

Naturally I wouldn’t question what you wrote but I did see LH at Griffin Pk and he really was immense… And as Ronnie Corbett once said, I know my place.

4. petebradshaw - 03/06/2013

Thanks Matt, I love these pieces… I agree with all you say especially about the muted reaction to Almunia coming. Although he was pretty much the main man in Cork for fans’ attention, even though he didn’t (couldn’t, for legal reasons?) play. His absence when Bond played was noted for the confidence he gives to the defence. I expect him to stay but it is a remarkable testament to the way things have changed that none of this 1 to 5 may be with us next year (and that goes for the other #5 too – I don’t blame you for not having the heart to think of anything to say about Neuton just yet).

Another possibility would be that Eustace will be kept on for his general contribuition around the place and do his coaching badges. But I think he’ll be off – as you say he has a lot of football in him and can do a job at “second divsion” level. A lot depends on the way in which the embargo plays out. If we can’t easily get more folk in then we’d be mad to get shot. But his contract needs sorting now, which kind of focuses the mind.

PS Taylor’s last winning game against Birmingham was in August – as it had to be as we couldn’t have sold him in September.

Matt Rowson - 04/06/2013

good point…

5. JohnF - 07/06/2013

Saw John Eustace at the awards night. He was brilliant with the young players and very much in the elder brother role as well as captain and keeping discipline (I wouldn’t dare say father figure). Zola obviously rates him but depends what might be on offer. The increasing injuries is a worry but I could see him as a great coach.

6. sptemple - 09/06/2013

Great piece Matt – one question though. Didn’t Dickinson play at Derby? – my memory had him being tagged as the scapegoat on that day.

Matt Rowson - 09/06/2013

yes he did… and sorry, that bit was badly worded. He managed two minutes in late November. He’d played earlier too, including Derby.


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