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End of Term Report Part 8 02/06/2014

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

29 (#1) – George Thorne

George Thorne’s loan spell could have gone better on a number of levels.  He was with us for eight games and started all of them – a contrast, then, to the loan that overlapped his, Josh McEachran, who never looked quite settled.  Those eight games were a testing time for the club and a difficult period in which for Thorne to establish himself, encompassing two managers, three of those home defeats under Zola and only one victory.  Despite which when January 2nd and the end of his loan arrived the hope and expectation was that the loan would be extended.  Pronouncements of optimism on this score became increasingly guarded as the month went on and at the end of the window Thorne moved to Derby for the remainder of the season.  So…  the biggest disappointment of Thorne’s loan was perhaps in its unfortunate timing.  If his contribution wasn’t sufficiently hurculean to right a sinking ship he nonetheless showed enough in those games to suggest that there’s a top flight player emerging there.  Perhaps the turbulent situation at the Vic wasn’t a factor at all… but it can’t have helped, and so he moved on to a more settled ship at Derby who reaped the benefits.

Next Season; Derby talking about trying to secure him permanently.  West Brom would be daft to let him go.

30 – Jonathan Bond

Jonathan’s second season as undisputed second choice saw him tot up double-figure starts.  A platform for him to make a claim, to announce his presence as a future first choice.  For all that there have been occasional, muted calls for Almunia to be replaced it hasn’t happened, and whilst it feels sacrilegious to criticise “one of our own”… Bond hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory.  There are mitigating circumstances of course, harder for a keeper to get away with an error and so on.  It’s more than the odd howler, though, memorable and consequential as the errors against Manchester City and Huddersfield were, for example.  There haven’t been many games where Bond has looked assertive or comfortable, much as he’s capable of pulling good stops out of the bag.  The commanding the area, the communication, that’s stuff that keeper’s can learn…but the strength of character needs to be there.  I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not convinced.

Next Season: Heurelho Gomes’ signing confirms that Bond is still not viewed as a first choice.  He’ll need to convince with whatever opportunities he has.

31- Tommie Hoban

Having Tommie back at all was the main thing.  I can’t have been the only one who was worried, whose mind the thought had crossed despite all attempts to repress it that Tommie’s few months as a hugely promising first team player in 2012/13 might have been as good as it got. As this season progressed Tommie was often a footnote at the bottom of a long list, alongside Almen Abdi as long-term injured, missing in action.  Almost virtual squad members, a footnote.  Until that crazy second half against Middlesbrough…  we remember Diakité’s lunacy, the silly penalty, the crazy Boro red card, but more significant than all of that as it turned out was Tommie Hoban finally making his from injury as a half-time sub for Lloyd.  And stamping all over the game, as if eager to demonstrate that this wasn’t going  to be a limp, forlorn comeback, a shadow of the prospect we thought we remembered (Nick Wright?  Johnno?).

He didn’t maintain that high level for the rest of the season, it’s true, but then nobody covered themselves in glory in those last few games and Tommie, aged 21 and having already overcome an injury that kept him out of the first team picture for over twelve months, has way more leeway than most.

Next Season: A regular starter, nailed on with great big nine-inch buggers.  Hurrah.

33- Nyron Nosworthy

If we’re talking footnotes, then kinda fitting that the last of these player profiles covers Nyron Nosworthy.  His contribution this season was the very definition of a footnote… five starts in an injury crisis, none of which resulting in victories, but during which he nevertheless reminded us what a tough bastard he was – like a re-released hit record that everyone buys again because they remember liking it.  In the days when there were records.  You know what I mean.

It’s not often that players get an encore.  Too often, like Marco Cassetti and any number before him, they’re there and then they’re not.  Nosworthy’s key contributions to this club came in previous campaigns but they were significant and he deserves to be remembered fondly.

Next Season: Nos’ last Watford appearance was against Bristol City, where he ended up spending the rest of the season.  It wouldn’t be a great surprise to see him get a year at Ashton Gate.  Steve Cotterill isn’t an idiot.

Beppe Sannino

Lest we forget, Beppe came into a situation where the club was nosediving…  nobody who was at any of those final home games under Gianfranco can have been in any doubt as to there being A Problem, the formula was all too predictable.  We were beaten by some good teams.  We were beaten by mediocre teams in identical fashion.  Now… perhaps all that was required was a new face, something different, someone different to shake things up a bit. Anyone. That’s an awfully harsh stance to take, though.  From the situation he inherited, Sannino gave the side a backbone and it yielded dramatic, immediate results, particularly at Vicarage Road where a side that had lost five on the hop went on an immediate run conceding one goal in the new man’s first nine home games.

It wasn’t perfect, quite obviously.  We didn’t remember how to be world beaters again, he didn’t turn us back into a promotion side .  Too easy to underplay the significance of the major surgery he conducted early on though simply by virtue of him achieving what he did so effortlessly.  Too easy to take that for granted. Sorting out the defence was never going to be “exciting”, but it was absolutely necessary and subsequent gripes about aspects of Sannino’s approach, particulary where this harked back to a supposed golden age under Gianfranco, tended to gloss over the ghastly mess that we’d become.

I don’t quite buy the suggestion that the belated play-off push was never going to happen either.  We rarely looked convincing, true, and it’s beyond dispute that we didn’t look like a promotion side.  You don’t need to be to finish sixth though, as Brighton demonstrated.  We blew any number of good situations and yet at one point, leading against QPR, we were three points off with a game in hand.

And it’s what happened next that constitutes the greatest concern.  QPR was gallant failure… we should have had all three points and would have had one had we not boldly decided that an honourable draw was no bloody good to us and chased the winner.  No shame there.  But the disconnect between Beppe’s clear and spirited statement about the approach to the last few games and what actually happened doesn’t suggest a coach in touch with or control of the dressing room.  The players were at fault… the performances were pathetic and we’re entitled to expect an awful lot more.  OK, the games were dead rubbers but we’ve spent most of our history not getting promoted and still turn up and expect some spirit, some effort.  But the manager, whilst saying the right things publicly, clearly wasn’t speaking for the players.

Nonetheless, next season is when we judge Beppe.  Last season he inherited someone else’s mess and made the best of it. Whatever the head coach’s role in recruitment, next season it’s his team prepared his way.  Let’s see…

In the meantime, enjoy the World Cup.  I’m going to have a lie down…