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Watford 3 Liverpool 0. Yes, really. (20/12/2015) 21/12/2015

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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1- Those of us of a certain vintage view football in general and Watford in particular in a romantic way.  Being an impressionable age during the first GT era was all that was required… if you joined the party during that spell then it was all about sticking it to the man,  firstly in dramatic cup runs, then in the top flight itself.  We joke that this is a curse, that the penalty for being indoctrinated during this period is a fanatical but entirely unreasonable vision of this idyll, everything judged by this high standard.  We don’t mean it though.  Those memories, memories of games like this one are amongst the happiest as my childhood, perfect and fantastical on a par with Star Wars. We were Luke Skywalker; for the money shot into the Death Star’s exhaust port read Les Taylor’s goal at White Hart Lane.  Or beating the European Champions 4-1 in the League Cup.  Or beating United and Spurs 5-1 within a week. Or putting 8 past Sunderland within our first two months in the top flight. These are landmark events from our halcyon period and our greatest achievements since haven’t reached the same heights.  Until now.

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2- Things went our way.  We should acknowledge that, since it’s impossible to resist complaining when the boot’s on the other foot.  So… two teams that prefer counterattacking, a goalkeeper making his League debut for Liverpool slipping up at a corner, a goal that could have been chalked off but wasn’t.  Problems at centre-back exacerbated by an injury to Martin Skrtel later in the game too, up to a point.  So we doff our cap to fortune and whilst doing so we place our foot firmly on our adversary’s throat and we apply pressure and we don’t ease up on that pressure.  Every man, every single player is on point.  Capoue and Watson are roaring all over the midfield.  Abdi and Jurado, mobile and incisive and aggressive.  The extraordinary Aké and Nyom bullying their way up and down the flanks.  Britos and Cathcart, mercilessly, surgically on patrol.  Gomes, a force of nature.  Deeney a monster and a leader.  Deeney it was who battered possession off Lucas in midfield, swung a pass over the top for Ighalo and what followed showcased his best attributes… the persistence and bloody-mindedness  to chase the pass down, the physical strength to take on Skrtel and the technique and instinct to finish.  Ian Wright couldn’t have done it better, a quite extraordinary goal in any context, much less this.  This was, after all, the game where it was supposed to get tough.  The previous three games… Villa, Norwich, Sunderland, those were the games we wanted points from. This was supposed to be a bonus, a free hit.  Instead we were on our way to our biggest top-flight win since 1988.  A monstrous first-half performance which saw the Reds bringing on an extra striker, stretching the play to the extremes and being allowed to get precisely nowhere, each snarling challenge roared on from three and a half sides of the ground.

3- The empty vessel makes the loudest sound.  This is true from the population of Liverpool fans as much as anyone… I’ve met plenty who are balanced and reasonable. Nonetheless, I once read Liverpool fans in general described as “expecting you to prostrate yourself on the altar of their Liverpoolness”, an acerbic observation based around a core of truth.  That core of truth arises from a period in which the Reds WERE the dominant force, and not very long ago.  The other side of that coin is that dicking Liverpool, whilst being a fine thing by anyone’s standards, is particularly special for those of us who remember Liverpool being that thing.  At which point it’s only fair to acknowledge that there’s no Hansen, Rush, Dalglish in the current side.  More significantly, there’s not a Steven Gerrard either.  Jürgen Klopp might get there (although his evaluation of his side will need to be more balanced than his post-match evaluation of the game) but this was not a vintage Liverpool eleven.  Let’s not get picky though.  Two years ago we were losing 3-0 at home to Yeovil.  Jordan Henderson may be “a sh*t Steven Gerrard”, but he’s still an established England international who was made to look peripheral and inadequate for much of this.  And he was probably the Reds’ most effective player.

4- I’ll confess that my first clock of the scoreboard in the second half came as early as the forty-seventh minute.  Liverpool looked bullish and aggressive and much more direct at the start of the second period as the spectre of the game we’d feared began to rear its head.  Instead whilst there was far greater potency in a Liverpool attack supplemented by both Benteke and Jordan Ibe, scorer of a fine goal here for Derby last season, the clearer and greater threat was in front of the Rookery.  Jurado conjured a ball through for Ighalo, one-on-one;  you’d have put your house on him, but Bogdan grasped a chance he shouldn’t have been given.  Deeney roared beyond the defence but couldn’t quite find the pass.  Ighalo sent Mamadou Sakho to the head of his ever-growing lists of people he’s left on their arse with a splendid showboat in front of the Rookery, the ball not quite finding it’s way in after the resulting scramble.  Through all of which Sakho, admittedly back from a long injury, looked like an upmarket Danny Shittu… using his physical attributes to great effect but always reacting, never anticipating.  The contrast at the other end of the pitch where Britos and Cathcart were malevolently efficient and the Reds were caught offside ten times, was marked.  Eventually Ighalo settled the affair as we finally sliced through the big open spaces borne of Liverpool’s need to attack and inability to defend, Valon Behrami making a welcome return off the bench and supplying the final pass to Ighalo ghosting free of any marker on the penalty spot to head home.  Happy bedlam.

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5- The atmosphere as the game closed was odd.  Exuberant, of course.  But there was little exaltation… just a quiet, dazed disbelief, as if the energy had been poured into the game’s soundtrack and tension and there was nothing left to give.  The shuffle up Occupation Road was peppered with hysterical laughter as strangers caught each others’ eye.  But it was a shared attempt to register what we’d just witnessed.  No singing.  Just a series of happy, baffled grins.

So here comes the boring bit.  It’s painfully dull reading blogged eulogies penned by supporters about their teams but really, if I can’t do it now….?   The plot summary, then.  We were brilliant.  Not just have-a-go-heroes, not merely solid and worthy with a cutting edge capable of exploiting our opponent’s weaknesses.  But bloody brilliant and inspiring and wonderful from front to back.  Suck this up, boys and girls, enjoy it.  Especially your kids.  Because they’ll be wearing our gold-tinted spectacles in thirty years’ time.

Maybe, maybe, the new Star Wars film really will be as good as the first.

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Comments»

1. Gavin Lilley - 21/12/2015

Happy Hornet here, great write up Matt.

2. JohnF - 21/12/2015

Excellent as ever Matt. A very happy Christmas to you and yours (and Ian). I don’t know about other fans but I was exhausted and emotionally drained and so quiet contemplation was the order of the post-match walk. I sit in the Elton John Stand and in the first half I was able to witness Almen Abdi’s best half in a Watford shirt. It wouldn’t be right to pick out one player though and it was a joy to watch the confidence flowing through the team. The substitutions were just right in their timing and the substitutes slotted in perfectly. Yes we had some fortune but we took advantage of that fortune and didn’t wait to see what happened, the players made it happen. Only 12 more points to avoid relegation!

3. ballantine70 - 21/12/2015

Spot on, Matt. It really does feel like this has the potential to be the best era in the club’s history.

I feared for this season, having had the two “plucky Watford” years in the premier league, where not getting stuffed every week became the best we could hope for, and recalling back to the halcyon Taylor years as increasingly fading memories.

But it’s not turning out like that at all, and it’s being done in a way that also feels like it fits with the history and traditions of the club.

4. Dougie Brimson - 21/12/2015

Spot on as ever young sire.

5. Adam Segal - 21/12/2015

The new stars wars film is really good! Harrison Ford’s entrance was worthy of Igalho,s second goal; magical!

6. rodafowa - 21/12/2015

God that was fun. SO MUCH FUN. And so weirdly comfortable, the ten minutes or so after the break taken aside.

In the immortal words of Pentagon Jr, – cero miedo.

7. viewsofthehoff - 21/12/2015

Great match report. My feeling after the game was of total disbelief, a feeling that remains!

It’s also doubly sweet with my line manager being a Liverpool fan.

Interestingly he thought they looked better without Skertel.

8. Simon - 21/12/2015

Great write up of a great day. My wife is a Liverpool fan, only because of her liking for one Steven Gerrard. She attended the game with a Liverpool supporting friend but with an early Christmas present from me…a Watford shirt with Anya’s name on the back (she has a soft spot for him). Hopefully this game has convinced her of the need to switch her loyalties.

Speaking of Gerrard, or the new version, I think you are generous in describing Henderson as Liverpool’s most effective player (not that I’d do much better in finding an alternative)…I give you Football365’s description as “…lost possession more than any other player on the pitch, and had a passing accuracy of 67%”. I should also add, probably the most petulant on the pitch as well.

9. Goldenboy60 - 21/12/2015

This period reminds of a feeling I had in the early 80’s. I won’t go through that detail suffice to say there is a growing confidence and b belief throughout the club. Lets all together make sure that we keep the belief but not go too far with the anticipation, and get carried away. This is one hell of a journey.

10. John M - 21/12/2015

Yes, Star Wars returns. My slowly fading memories of the GT era are treasured, brought out occasionally like a photo album to be viewed with fond smiles. I never believed that we would reach that peak again. I never believed that I would ever again leave the Vic with that feeling of exhilaration and delight, threaded through with disbelief.
But here we are. Those of you that missed the GT golden years: treasure these memories, hold on to them. Who knows, we might still have that eight-nil —.

11. Iwozthere - 21/12/2015

That was probably the best Watford performance I have seen since I was the age my children are now. Can I give a shout out to the many Liverpool supporters congratulating and applauding us as we passed them on Vicarage Road after the game, What I experienced was a dignity and respect you rarely see … especially after stuffing such a great club out of sight (not that I have seen many supporters of great clubs after stuffing them out of sight).

12. Chris Needham - 22/12/2015

By the fortunate date of my birth I too witnessed the arrival of GT at the Vic. As exciting as it was, and it was an amazing time, this feels more substantial, more sustainable in the long term. It won’t be long before WFC will be eating with the big boys at the top table

13. Old Git - 22/12/2015

The GT era will never be surpassed because it started at Stockport in Division 4. And despite slipping part of the way back after he left, GT transformed the club from Division 3 or 4 regulars into something far more substantial, which has given the Pozzos (Pozzi?) a platform on which to build and which made WFC such an attractive proposition for them in the first place.
Since then, the game has changed so much and now seems to be on the verge of changing again with clubs of the stature of Leicester, Palace and Watford showing that it is not necessary to spend tens of millions on mediocre players. There are other ways.
We now have a manager (sorry, head coach) of proven European achievement and a squad of unprecedented depth of quality and yes, a sustainable model.
This is just such fantastic fun….I love the Sanchez Flores song….and the 1881 must be thanked for their happy antics, which have helped to ensure that this is still our Watford, a funny little club that we love completely.
Happy New Year, ig and Matt, you are a great part of it all, that helps us not to be sucked into the grossness and vulgarity of the Premier League.
Cheers!!
PS I’ve never seen Star Wars. And still won’t. But I was at Stockport!

NickB - 23/12/2015

All of that- was also at Stockport (would swear Best played against us there, but don’t think it was that one) also can’t bear Star Wars…
Just a thought – why don’t opposing managers man mark Capoue? If I were Pocchetino I’d have Dier doing that. I think we can get at least 4 points from the next 3

Laura - 23/12/2015

George Best played briefly for Stockport (according to my Stockport supporting friend) so you are probably right. Great blog, Matt, which recaptures my sentiments exactly. Liverpool were the best team in Europe when I started going to the Vic and we were in the lower leagues so to beat them is extra special. I am afraid that what I gain for being an active female Hornet for more than 40 years, I lose by never having seen Star Wars!

14. harefield hornet - 22/12/2015

As you said recently – this is the good old days..! Bloody marvelous..! My 9 year old made me smile afterwards when she said ” but dad they were below us anyway” !

15. Ben - 22/12/2015

I didn’t get to VR for this one so watched on TV. Three things to add to your excellent report Matt:
– Abdi, his skill we know about; but the tenacity he showed here was a sight to behold. My MOM
– I’ve always had a soft spot fo Liverpool fans. When we beat them at Anfield in ’99 (I went to that one!), they were gracious in defeat & many applauded us off the pitch. I gather many acted likewise on Sunday.
– Lest we get too carried away, a number of years ago Norwich were 7th at Xmas. They ended up getting relegated.

16. Vaughn Smith - 23/12/2015

Not quite as complete a performance as West Ham, but as seismic a result as 5-1 v Man U or Spurs 30 years ago. At long last the press are recognising Watford, rather than the opponents’ ‘shitness’…viz the Telegraph on Monday – pretty much the first 4 pages eulogising about Flores, Deeney and Ighalo – about effing time, and long may it continue. Souness – ‘I thought he was a lump’ (Deeney)…’I don’t now’…tosser.

17. Luke B - 23/12/2015

Capoue and Deeney physically absolutely dominant and the axis the team work off. Absolute joy! I took a picture of the Yeovil scoreboard that day, still have it on my phone expecting, thinking, hoping and dreaming our trajectory would be upwards from that game. I took one on Sunday too as seemed like a natural pictorial bookend! What a great couple of years! Top report as always!


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