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End of Term Report Part 4 12/06/2013

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

15- Stephen McGinn

You forget quite how many of our old squad drifted off, don’t you?  Stephen McGinn’s situation a bit different of course;  he’d not played for us since February 2011 when an injury picked up from an inoccuous challenge at Doncaster derailed a Watford career that was just beginning to look exciting.  A damn shame, but it happens and the consequence is nothing to do with what’s happened to our club since, not really.  McGinn might have had a stab at resurrecting his career here in the old world, but not necessarily.

That said, reports back from his loan at Shrewsbury were largely positive with one comment suggesting that he was too good for the Shrews to sign permanently; if he can recapture the movement, the deftness, the cleverness of his last few months in the first team then he could certainly do a job for someone at Championship level.  One hopes he does, but more than any other of the players sidelined by the takeover, our assessment of McGinn remains on hold as of a long time ago.

Next Season:  Reports have suggested that he’s been offered a deal at Yeovil.  Best of luck to him.

16- Sean Murray

Another one that nobody saw coming, though perhaps we could have done.  Sustaining the extraordinary trajectory of the first half of 2012 would have been a big ask, this was always going to be Sean’s “difficult second season”… but I don’t think anybody expected him to slip below the radar quite so dramatically.

Unsurprisingly, Sean was heavily involved at the beginning of the campaign – indeed, six of his eight starts came before the end of September including the home game with Bristol City which saw Murray, Vydra and Forestieri form a diminutive front three.  You wouldn’t go quite as far as to say he was disappointing, but the murmurs in the stands were that he’d filled out a little over the summer.  Then, at the end of that month, the change in formation to 3-5-2 that Zola has implied left the likes of Murray in a slightly difficult position, the wide midfielder role no longer available.  He’s started twice since, and both with disappointing consequences – the 4-3 defeat at home to Charlton and the mugging at Ashton Gate where he was tried at wing back… both games in which saw wholesale changes though, so perhaps harsh to judge him on.

Thing is, I don’t remember a game this season where Murray has particularly caught the eye, demanded further inclusion.  It’s tempting to superimpose an underlying problem onto these circumstances, so it’s worth noting that Zola has kept him involved throughout the season, he’s been involved in match day squads throughout.  Not much action, though, only eight minutes off the bench in the final few months of the season, even when injuries to Chalobah and Abdi left us crying out for creativity in the middle.  Not a problem child then, perhaps, but not living up to his early billing either just at the moment.

From a distance, some have taken Murray’s lack of involvement as evidence of our waning youth policy under the new regime, which is demonstrably unfair – Tommie Hoban, Connor Smith and Jonathan Bond have all flourished as far as injuries have permitted and Murray was one of several to be put on a long contract.  But I think it’s fair to suggest that we all expected a little more.

Next Season:  Sean Murray is a fabulously talented young footballer.  But he’s still a young footballer.  The club have committed to him, and will be looking to find him a role in the side.  He needs to grasp that opportunity.

17- Matthew Briggs

What’s rather impressive with this one is the surgical precision with which a need was identified and addressed.  A quite separate point to how well one perceives that Briggs actually did, we’ll get to that, a different question. But at a time when a cruel spate of injuries saw us suddenly limited for back three options and Daniel Pudil perhaps needed a bit of pressure to be applied at left wing back, we brought in a player who served both purposes.

Briggs wasn’t the first choice, with Robbie Brady and Jeremy Helan both well-reported targets who would have filled at least one of the two gaps and it’s fair to say that he didn’t convince everyone.  Occasionally he seemed to lose concentration, to go to sleep at unhelpful times which is something you just can’t afford from your defenders when you’re playing as open a game as we have been.  This was seized on early, and lead to Briggs celebrating his late, tidy goal against Blackburn with an ill-advised hushing gesture to his critics in the stands.  Nonetheless,  Briggs hasn’t been talked of as a prospect at Craven Cottage for nothing;  he’s a fine athlete, and relished the attacking opportunities that the wing back role afforded him.  As a loan, then, he did fine, did the job…. even if, were he our player, there’d be things you’d rather like him to work on.

Next Season: Briggs returned to Fulham, where he has a year left on his contract.  He’ll clearly have a career in the game; based on our evidence, he’s got some trees to pull up if his time as a top flight prospect is to be extended.

18- Daniel Pudil

For many of us, the first we saw of Daniel Pudil was Lloyd’s testimonial, where he was skinned by Aaron Lennon and then limped of with a hamstring pull within six minutes.  Since that unfairly inauspicious start he’s been involved in almost every matchday squad, virtually unchallenged at left wing-back until Matthew Briggs’ arrival, after which he dovetailed in and out of the side.

A likeable bloke who has clearly didn’t view his arrival in Hertfordshire as a temporary stop-off to be tolerated and “gotten through”, the sight of Daniel with his young son decked out in Watford kit in his arms became a regular fixture post-match at Vicarage Road whilst he has also been widely credited with helping his younger compatriot Matěj Vydra settle in England.  On the pitch, his energetic displays at left wing-back were always wholehearted.  Dependable and unflashy on the overlap, he did a good job of clocking up the miles up and down the left flank.  If there are criticisms, he never quite got over the tendency to make the most of a challenge (something that arguably won us two points at home to Peterborough) and had a tendency to get caught the wrong side of his charge and insist on making unwinnable challenges to rectify his failing which cost us a few free kicks.  Overall though, whilst not the highest profile of the loans he did a diligent and largely effective job in a position (ish) that’s traditionally hard to fill.

Next Season:  Daniel’s effusive Twitter feed made it clear that he’d like to be back at Vicarage Road next season.  Splendid.

19- Prince Buaben

The player whose colourful name spawned a multitude of inadequate nicknames, and another one who’s off without ever really having gotten going.  Buaben’s season involved at Vicarage Road didn’t start until the October when Sean Dyche broke up the Eustace/Hogg midfield pairing and got Prince involved.  From then on he was generally a positive but understated influence on the side… tidy enough as an option, but without ever really grabbing a game by the balls and imposing himself upon it.

He’s struggled with injury this season as well, a serious thigh injury ruling him out of the start of the campaign.  We pondered briefly (on what must have been a very slow day) whether the frequency of our updates on his injury progress reflected more than merely diligence on the part of those feeding this information to the Observer.  Perhaps this was one of the old guard who would find favour under the new regime, someone who was at the front of the management’s mind?

In the end he featured only once, a brief if competent ten-minute cameo at the tail end of that tremendous win at Hull.  Even then, having observed the ease with which he retained possession as we played the game out, we thought that perhaps he had a role to play.  We were wrong.

Next Season: Released at the end of his contract, Prince’s agent seems to be trying to talk up a move back to Scotland.


1. AndyD73 - 12/06/2013

Well, at least Murray should be fresh after his ‘gap year’!
Struggling to adapt to a new formation and higher technical standards, can be accepted at 19. Not being properly physically conditioned, cannot.
Hopefully a prodigious effort through pre-season can earn him an early opportunity for his undoubted ability to shine once more.
Failing that, I would go for some ‘tough love’ and send him on loan to a gritty League 1 club for a few months.

2. Tim Turner - 12/06/2013

Your opening comment on McGinn reminds me of a nagging feeling I’ve had throughout the past season, that there’s almost a team’s worth of players whose hopes and expectations were blown out of the water when the club was sold to the Pozzos, and that it’s a bit of a shame, whatever the benefits to the club as a whole.

McGinn, Buaben, Forsyth, Jenkins, Hodson, Dickinson, Iwelumo, Bennett, Mingoia… There are no guarantees in football, of course there aren’t, but all would presumably have felt, as the 2011-12 season ended, that they had a decent chance of making an impact come August. And then in came new owners with the power to parachute in players of a different calibre altogether, and suddenly all those years of dues-paying (whether in the Watford youth system or at other clubs) counted for nothing.

I get the impression that Zola has been scrupulously fair in giving the entire squad the chance to impress him, and if the players I’ve named fell short, so be it. It’s just a reminder that football is a harsh game.

Matt Rowson - 13/06/2013

I think you’re right in general, although several of the players you mention might have been moved on irrespective of the change in situation.

3. Weymouth Orn - 13/06/2013

Maybe you can add Taylor to that list?

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