jump to navigation

Watford 1 Leeds United 0 (20/02/2016) 21/02/2016

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

1- There’s been a lot of guff about the FA Cup this week.  The cup’s dying.  Replays should be scrapped.  The cup should move to midweek.  And so forth.  And I can’t help but feel that we’re talking ourselves out of it somewhat.  Because much as the money has inflated everything and made top flight status and Champions League qualification so much more consequential financially, there was never a point where the League didn’t matter.  Where anyone would have chosen the possibility of Cup glory over preserving their top flight status.  The next TV deal, when the Premier League sells itself to Mars or Atlantis or whatever and the numbers roll upwards again, doesn’t make the pot now any smaller.  And yet the FA Cup was still a big thing, once.  What has changed is the Champions’ League.   The number of games means that fixture lists are grotesquely overloaded… but only for the senior clubs involved.  As for the likes of us… I haven’t noticed our fixture list being overloaded.  Indeed, we’ve not had as few fixtures since… well, last time we were in the top flight, I expect.

It’s about slicing yet more of the pie for the elite clubs, one effect being denying sometimes hugely consequential replays to smaller sides; this endless quest was betrayed by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s quotes in conjunction with the perverse suggestions that the Champions League should guarantee places for the “big brand” clubs – “There’s a limit to how much more money can be made”.  It’s depressing that lower league club’s futures can be secured by the privilege of playing Manchester United or whoever, but more depressing that the disposal of replays is being discussed at all.  Ditto rendering the FA Cup a midweek tournament and rendering the big cup away day facilitated by big away allocations a thing of the past. My view:  if you want to stuff your snout in the Champions’ League trough then your squad ought to be strong enough to cope with the FA Cup.  If you’re that fussed about replays, you could maybe pick a strong side in the first place.

2- There’s a distinct lack of Cup fever at Vicarage Road for this one, it has to be said, where the more gormless of Watford’s support betray their long-standing desire to be Premier League wankers by trotting out the “One-nil on your big day out” chant, and gurning “who?” at Leeds subs, including Alex Mowatt who anyone paying any level of attention will have heard of.  That trick was moronic when Birmingham City were doing it to us 15 years ago, it’s now both moronic and old.

On the pitch there’s a strong Hornets side out with only Gomes and Ighalo plus, more debatably, Behrami, Aké and Jurado missing from whatever our strongest eleven is.  We start convincingly and dominate possession, threatening from set pieces of which we have a fair few… but Leeds are no pushover.  They’re sort of half-flashback half-tribute act; the former in the sense that they’re every inch a mid-table second tier side, the sort that we’ve played for ever.  Good enough at some things… defensively solid, switch from defence to attack pretty effectively… but with limitations that mean that they’re in the bottom half of the championship…. minimal attacking threat, and critically no pace at all with which to capitalise on those breaks.  The tribute act in the sense that… well, they’re Dirty Leeds.  Daughter Two has been using this monicker all week, as innocently as if she were saying “Leeds United”… I explained the basis, she’s not disappointed.  Leeds aren’t violent but they’re cheap, clumsy thugs.  By the end of the half the game is more even, our superiority somewhat lost in an increasingly sludgy match, but Leeds are an ogre with frostbite trying to thread a needle.  We’re never in danger.

3- Of particular interest are new boys Nordin Amrabat and Mario Suárez, both of whom making a first home start. The Moroccan reiterated this week that he sees the wing as his natural position… here he was deployed as the most advanced striker.  He worked hard and made some decent runs, but it’s not quite clicking yet…  early days of course, but whilst he looked mobile and willing this was a less effective, less impressive outing than his full debut in the previous round at the City Ground.  Suárez however lasted the full ninety, and looked very tidy.  Not flawless,  caught in possession once or twice, but elegant, aware, pinging accurate passes… but hard as nails as well, not afraid of a challenge.  A highlight that will no doubt delight my absent co-editor was an upgraded reprise of a Vicarage Road classic, the “Coxy into the wall” free kick..  Suárez’s late tribute, strictly speaking a shot following a lay-off from a free-kick, was fierce enough to provide assurance that even if it doesn’t reach the target it will render whichever opponent is in the way collateral damage for the remainder of the attack.

4- We’re much, much brighter and punchier in the second half.  More aggressive, more determined. Our superiority is realised within ten minutes;  the magnificent Ben Watson whips a Beckham cross in as the ball breaks from a corner and Troy scores the goal without touching it, Wootton turning the ball neatly into the net in fear of the buccaneering centre-forward coming in behind him.  As it happens Troy wasn’t there at all, largely because Bridcutt – who had just gone into the book for a nasty stamping challenge on Capoue – had hauled him over.  Instant karma for Dirty Leeds.

We briefly threaten to run riot.  Almen Abdi, a force for good throughout, scythes straight through the middle of Leeds’ defence before shovelling his shot into the Rookery.  Capoue does find the net, converting neatly only to be denied by, ostensibly, a harsh call against Troy by Michael Oliver whose bizarre afternoon would we worthy of more lines were it of any consequence. Ultimately the score stays as it is, and it’s due in part to us getting irritatingly ahead of ourselves, Capoue and the rampaging Holebas both chasing debut goals with better options open, the sort of indulgence that would have been forgivable at 3-0 but would have been far less so had Leeds accidentally scored to level the tie.  They didn’t; we recorded a relatively inconspicuous victory, no bad thing, which despite Steve Evans’ rather bizarre appraisal was never less than comfortable.

5- There’s a line the gets trotted out on the radio occasionally, a non-statement used to lazily summarise supporters into one glib cliché.  “Supporters just want to watch their team win “.  Winds me up every time.  You’re being paid for this, right?  If it were true, it would be of no value in helping this listener appreciate any situation (in other news, bear shits in wood).  But I’m not sure this is all supporters want.  It’s not even the most important thing.

Over recent weeks the club have gently started to publicise plans to expand the corporate seating facility in the upper tier of the Graham Taylor stand.  This will have the consequence of 220 supporters in the two blocks either side of the black seats up to the entrance to the concourse being “relocated”.  Many of those supporters have been there for decades… some since the stand was built.  All are owed more by the club than this sort of treatment, so utterly out of keeping with the considered and well-judged decisions of this administration.  Put simply, an increase in corporate seating is only likely to be considered whilst we remain in the top flight… given which the TV monies incoming render a moderate increase in corporate sales an irrelevance, certainly not justifying alienating even a small element of the support.  And their friends.  And their friends.  Are these supporters supposed to move elsewhere and continue to rock up without bitterness as the prawn sandwich brigade shuffle into their old seats ten minutes after half time?

When you support a football club actively you’re not buying a product, you’re buying belonging… even as top flight club (if that’s what we’re to be).  It is hugely surprising and disappointing that the club have made such an uncharacteristically insensitive decision.  The most important thing to supporters is not to “watch their team win”.  More important even than that, is to simply watch their team.


1. nick - 21/02/2016

Thank you for raising the issue of the Upper GT seat sacrifice to create more hospitality packages Matt. I’ve been hugely disappointed in the approach & lack of consultation by the club so far.
I’ve raised this with our Supporter Liasion Officer & FTRE Podcasters this week who’ve both shrugged this off as no big deal because nobody is complaining.
As an upper GT season ticket holder next to my dad & son I’m complaining! I’ve no idea if we’ll be shifted but that’s irrelevant as you’ve pointed out. The bottom line is that a significant number of supporters will be “asked to relocate” because they occupy seats that can be sold to corporate hospitality customers at significantly higher prices.
So that’s modern football for you and our little old Watford are not immune to this revenue driven approach on occasions too. There is so much to love & admire about the club’s current ownership that their approach to this issue seems alarmingly out of character. I hope the club reconsider their options on this. If so it could be seen as just a one-off aberration quickly forgotten amongst all the excellent stuff. Surely it’s not going to become the normal way of treating supporters?
Yes it’s only us moany old gifts in the UGT this time but (to bastardise both the Manics and the FSF) if we tolerate this then the Rookery could be next.
Right, rant over, roll on the QF draw & Reading at home next please

Matt Rowson - 21/02/2016

Ana alarming number of regulars up there are still unaware of the development based on a straw poll yesterday. This might affect lack of response. But certainly not true that nobody is complaining, and that number will increase as people learn about it.

Michael Cosby - 21/02/2016

Rest assured that many people are already complaining and will not allow this to happen without a fight. A planned “sit in” is being arranged after the Leicester game and leaflets will be handed out at the Bouremouth game on Saturday. Believe me there is uproar over this disgraceful decision. If the club think I will just give up my seat without a fight they can think again. We are loyal supporters not customers or consumers. However if the club wish to treat us like a business consumer then they will have legal battle on their hands. As a consumer the club will need to offer all the supporters due to move the same quality seat with the same quality view. That would appear to be impossible. This is not going away and the club will be receiving the full force of our anger over this disgraceful decision.

nick - 21/02/2016

could someone knit us UpperGT demonstrators a protest banner??!!

Mike (from the Rookery End) - 21/02/2016

Hi Nick, just to let you know we at FTRE haven’t “shrugged it off”. We are aware of the plan, but are as yet unaware of what the relocation plan entails; for example, what is being offered to those that are being asked to move (if anything). If it’s linked to Watford, we’re happy to talk about it, but are keen to get the full facts before wading in.

That’s not to say of course that we can’t see why there are very real concerns – both you and Matt do an excellent job of highlighting them.


Matt Rowson - 21/02/2016

What is being offered is a footnote, Mike. Without getting supporters to sit on each others laps and assuming there won’t be a swathe of non-renewals in a congested area of the ground the relocated can only be shunted elsewhere in the ground… certainly not decent seats, and certainly not together. It’s as simple as corporate pound being prioritised over some of our longest serving supporters and deserves attention… although I don’t dispute for a moment your implied desire for balance.

2. UGT season ticket holder - 21/02/2016

As a long time season ticket holder in the UGT, I am extremely disappointed by the upcoming seat relocation. Thanks Matt for so eloquently expressing what we feel. We already see the Corporate ticket holders in the UGT coming back 10 minutes after the second half has started, and often meaning before full time. To prioritise people who aren’t always fans of Watford over many longstanding fans is, quite frankly, appalling. Given fantastic way in which the Pozzo’s have run the club, it seems out of character to alienate so many fans who have supported the club through thick and (mostly) thin, especially given the riches of the new premier league deal. I desperately hope that they will reconsider, but talking to people in the UGT yesterday it seems that those who have complained have either not yet had replies or have basically been told there is nothing that can be done. It really is such a shame to sour what has been a quite wonderful season so far with this action

3. Luke - 21/02/2016

And if corporate seats are now so urgently required, why were they not built into the EJ stand which is less than a year old? Just a thought. Luke

Martin - 21/02/2016

I presume the corp seats need to have direct walking access to the new facilities in the SW corner, so suspect the EJ stand was not a realistic option. PS – I am one of the 150 (Wat Obs) or 220 (BHaPPY) in the affected blocks.

4. stev - 21/02/2016

Hi Matt, excellent piece as always. Can I ask , is your understanding that it will be 220 seats in total i.e. 110 either side of the current Corporate Black Seated area?

Matt Rowson - 21/02/2016

Yes. The seats up to the entrances to the concourse.

Old Git - 21/02/2016

Back in the late 1960s, I got my first ever season ticket. I was just over 16, which was the cut-off age for the full adult price but this was rather expensive. So I wrote to the club saying that although I was 16 I was still at school, starting my A level course and not earning. I got a letter back from the club secretary, Ron Rollitt. It said he was sorry to hear that I found the full adult price rather expensive and, having considered my circumstances, the club would be very pleased to sell me a season ticket at half price. He ended the letter by wishing me many happy years of following Watford in the future.
Now, that is how to run a football club.

5. HB84 - 21/02/2016

On points ;
1) superb. I have said the same. Don’t tinker with what is still a magical fa cup just because 4 or 5 teams get a hissy fit.
2) oh come on. Can’t we tease leeds a little ? I personally prefer singing “where were you when you were good”
3) on UGT seating. It’s tricky.
I’d at least like the club to have proper negotiations and make a good seat and offer available. E.g. 1 years free footy for every 5 you have had your ST.
So those that are 30 years in get 6 years of free football.
Seems fair to me.

Matt Rowson - 21/02/2016

It shows goodwill from the club, certainly. Doesn’t solve the problem though. Nor does it get around the corporates being deemed more important than the supporters in an era where the income stream from the latter is less significant. I would argue that free STs for life – not that this is reasonable to offer or expect – would not solve that problem.

Matt Rowson - 21/02/2016

…as for baiting Leeds fans, I’m all for that. It’s possible to do in other ways though. I’m not comfortable with the “look at us, we’re big time in the Premier League” attitude. It’s only been nine months… and even if it hadn’t, even Leeds fans are entitled to follow their team.

hornetboy84 - 21/02/2016

I would worry if the singers really thought we were big time.
I personally just see it as irony.

We will always be little Watford punching above our weight but its nice to just prod those clubs who believe that history alone gives them a right to be in the Premier league.

On the ST situation. I know it cant make it right – but if you separate out each of the issues when the Pozzos are making improvements and see the big picture – then it is inevitable that there will be some “collateral damage”. If we build the 30k stadium – it may reposition the away fans !

I would also be gutted if I had to move my seat. Thats why I’d at least hope for conversation with a ridiculously genuine offer that at least recognizes the impact. Then they might have 20 – or 30 only to find some kind of different compromise on a case by case basis.

On a wider note on attitude to fans – I wonder what they are going to do with ST prices next year. re-checked and I paid just over £400 last year bit as I also pay for my Dad and 2 kids STs – even with concessions thats touching £800 – so its good value but if as rumoured mine goes up to £550-£600 and smaller increases elsewhere we will be easily over £1000.
So it gets tough. And it will impact a lot of ST holders who may pick and choose more game by game.

and £200 per ST holder is only £2.5-£3m a year extra so its peanuts in the scale of new TV deal.

Really hoping they take the long view.
Build a Bigger stadium.
Reward the long term ST holders with frozen prices.
Have a long term low ticket price strategy that encourages you to take kids and stops them becoming Arsenal or Spurs or god forbid West Ham fans. Flex for Kids for quid days and Scout/Guides days again etc

Something for mr Messenger to consider in feedback methinks.

Matt Rowson - 21/02/2016

You have a more generous interpretation of (most of) our supporters’ self-awareness than I do.

I don’t accept the collateral damage point at all. Don’t dispute that they’ve got almost everything right and that buys them credit… nobody’s slagging them off, or their attitude. But making lots of good decisions doesn’t mean that your stinker is exempt from criticism (and I’m conscious that all the decisions made at the club are being laid at the Pozzos door, inaccurately on both sides)

6. johnsamways28 - 21/02/2016

So glad you included the final point, Matt, and the response to the planned movement of seats is telling. There’s an old Dutch saying, ‘trust arrives on foot and disappears on horseback’. One of Quique’s apparent strengths is the emphasis he places on building trust, on many levels. Trust is a precious (and increasingly rare) commodity in today’s world, not least in football – together with many others, I hope it doesn’t ‘disappear on horseback’ at WFC as we’ve seen in the past.

Your report, as ever, is excellent.

Matt Rowson - 21/02/2016

Thx John

7. Goldenboy60 - 21/02/2016

I don’t think or i’m aware of any Watford fans that could easily accept this situation of seat movement. This is so wrong for all the reasons everyone has stated on here. Is this just Mr Scott Duxbury or is this from higher up? Whilst accepting that progress throughout the club needs to remain, what makes us different as a football club is the closeness of everyone that works for and attends Watford FC matches. Without this we would lose our soul and identity.

I wonder what sort of long term effect on West Ham fans will be, following their move to the Olympic Stadium, because I cannot see the club retaining its unique atmosphere in a bowl, which on experience just creates a humming noise.

Here at Watford, I hope common sense prevails and a solution can be found which keeps our loyal fans ‘happy’, and the club continuing to develop as a community sharing the same interest. Though I am not so sure it will…..

8. Luke - 21/02/2016

And I have to admire…

“Leeds are an ogre with frostbite trying to thread a needle. We’re never in danger”.

9. Goldenboy60 - 21/02/2016

On the football side, it is a long time since we have dominated a game so much. This confirmed to me the gap between the Championship and the Premier League and boy have we developed. Sometimes we just need reminding and not take anything for granted.

I thought we wanted to walk it into the net and be pretty, because we should have scored 5, and no disrespect to Leeds.

10. Mike - 22/02/2016

The club website implies that most if not all of the ST holders in the UGT will have to relocate, so maybe they are looking to soak up as many people as possible by moving everybody sideways to use the non ST seats (mostly at the VR end. Whatever, a poor show for a not enormous amount of extra revenue (750k PA max I reckon)

Matt Rowson - 28/02/2016


sorry to miss this comment, I appreciate that things may have become more clear since you made it. All UGT ST holders will move, as you know. I think this is a better solution than simply ousting those directly affected, who really would feel justified in being victimised in the context of a (nearly) full stadium.

But I completely agree that the case for a(ny) move hasn’t been made compellingly. WDSport argue that it’s not about the money, and your estimates would corroborate that if accurate. It’s more, I think, about capitalising on the white elephant in the NW Corner, which most of us don’t give two hoots about. Not comparable to being moved out of necessity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: