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End of Term Report Part 1 20/05/2016

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Ten of these, I’ve done now.  Ten.  From Junior Osborne and Dominic Blizzard through Will Buckley and Gavin Massey to José Manuel Jurado and Obbi Oularé, you can dip into them typically in the May entries to your right.  This one is significant in being the first not to feature Lloydy, and as an aside it does feel rather odd and inappropriate that he was permitted to slip quietly out of a side door in the autumn, much as his departure was no great surprise.  Anyway… four today, four more on Monday and so on.  With a bit of luck we’ll be done by the Euros…

1 – Heurelho Gomes

My favourite Watford goalkeeper is Tony Coton.  I remember Sherwood and Eric Steele, just about, but Coton was between the sticks by the time I got my first season ticket on returning to the country in 1985.  In my mind’s eye, TC was unbeatable… agile, defiant, capable of impossible acrobatics, confident and dominant on crosses with a personality the size of an articulated truck.  Over the years since Watford have had many goalkeepers, some of them very good goalkeepers and significant in the club’s history.  None, however, has borne comparison with Coton, and over time I’ve begun to wonder whether my recollection is coloured by the golden tint of that halcyon eighties team.  Can he really have been that good, or am I setting an unreasonable benchmark with which to harshly judge all subsequent pretenders?

Heurelho Gomes’ season in 2015-16 has reassured me that the heights that I associate with Coton are not fanciful.  He has been every bit as reliable and imposing this season as last but at this more exalted level and with the team both geared around being difficult to penetrate and in greater need of his experience we have been far more reliant on Gomes than we were last year.  We had many, many more goals in us last term, and plenty of knowledge of our environment.  The extent to which Gomes was up to the task will, by the time you read this, surely have been reflect in him claiming the Player of the Season award.  The Brazilian has been almost as good as the version of Coton that exists within my head, and there can be no greater praise.

Next Season: A cornerstone of the side.

2- Allan Nyom

Extending the theme of treating bygone icons as a reference, three decades of the right back slot being dominated by Nigel Gibbs and Lloyd Doyley have meant that it’s a long time since the position has been a concern.  A little odd, then, during a successful season for us to have such issues at right back.  It’s tempting to suggest that Allan Nyom’s  dip in form towards the end of the campaign merely mirrored that of many of his teammates, but in reality there were some iffy performances earlier on as well; for all that Nyom is tough and physical, it’s been sides that have put him under defensive pressure with quick, direct running on the flanks that have caused him particular problems.  There have been some decent outings – he started the season with a tour de force at Goodison Park, and his booting of Raheem Sterling into the advertising hoardings at the Etihad was a highlight of an afternoon in which there were few others.  Increasingly there were more difficult days than good ones, however, and his outing at Carrow Road was so spectacularly poor that Craig Cathcart was restored to an unfamiliar and uncomfortable right back slot for the final day.

Next Season: Should the new man persist with four at the back, right back will surely be a priority for recruitment.

3- Miguel Britos

When Miguel was signed, a Uruguayan centre-back already suspended for nutting someone in his last game to Napoli, it was quite natural that a picture began to form in the minds of supporters.  When he followed this up with a 75th minute red card at Deepdale during his August debut the deal was sealed.  He was regarded with something between disdain and awe, an anti-hero after less than ninety minutes of action.

What nobody expected was for our reckless South American thug to be introduced to the side for the October trip to Stoke, unprompted by any injury or suspension, to disrupt the hitherto encouraging partnership forming between Craig Cathcart and Sebastian Prödl.  Instantly he impressed and immediately the cartoon character in our heads dissolved, never to return.  In contrast to the wild caricature we’d imagined, Britos has been utterly controlled – hard, yes, you wouldn’t mess. But he’s been, yes, disciplined in everything that he’s done and for much of the season he was the pick of the defenders, authoritative and in charge in a way that the best of his recent predecessors in the middle of the defence have looked… but at a higher level altogether.

Next Season: Britos’ form dipped as the season finished, but with his former bossWalter Mazzarri – who signed Britos for Bologna for  €9 million and integrated him into his Napoli side – ostensibly lined up, Miguel should be nailed on to be a mainstay again next term.

4- Mario Suárez

Here’s a conundrum.  A player who, apparently, we signed in the face of hot competition really hasn’t lived up to his exciting billing as yet.  At times he’s looked majestic… executing passes that haven’t even occurred to us watching on in the stands.  “There’s clearly a magnificent player in there somewhere”.  However to say that he hasn’t got to grips with the British game is an understatement… he looks leggy and laboured, too often a passenger in an area where you really can’t carry passengers, an area we’d expected him to dominate.  He comes across really well… there’s no hint of slyness or dishonesty about him, you want him to come good for his own sake as well as for ours.  Will be one of the more fascinating ones to watch at the start of next term.

Next Season: It’s been said that he needs to be in a midfield three to be effective, with others doing his fetching and carrying.  If Mazzarri is appointed he may well get that opportunity.  Jury’s out, but you wouldn’t want to call which way this will go.


1. mudlark - 20/05/2016

I agree with every word. Suarez as one of a midfield 3? He surely can do a job but when I think of the number of candidates we have for “a midfield 3” I am not sure who I would pick never mind who the new head coach will pick.

Goldenboy60 - 20/05/2016

I think we have a lot more of Suarez to come. It seems that he has struggled to settle in England, and I’m not sure if he has any language difficulties or not? But for me he has shown on a few occasions just how good he can be. West Ham for example, so if he gets a good pre season under his belt, and has now settled with his family, he may just flourish next season.

2. Goldenboy60 - 20/05/2016

Matt, I totally agree with the Tony Coton summary. I was fortunate to see Pat Jennings make his debut, after watching him play at Wembley for Northern Ireland Youth team against England U/18’s, a week before BillMcGarry signed him in April 63. My Dad and I walked away summarising the brilliance of this young Irish keeper, even though they had been tanked 4-0. Of course he was brilliant that first season in a BillMcGarry side that just failed on the last day of the season against Luton. He was whisked away before we could blink of course. I make these comments because he WOULD have been the best goalkeeper had we kept him longer. But Tony Coton came in under all the adverse criticism and suggested thuggery of the 1984 Birmingham class with Robert Hopkins, Mick Harford, Noel Blake, and Pat Van Den Hauwe.

But under the GT influence he settled quickly, matured as a person and goalkeeper and for me was so unlucky not to represent his country at the highest level. And he was loyal to us after we got relegated, and was just superb. In an all time Watford team, he has to be goalkeeper.

But Gomes has this season been much more consistent, and has made little mistakes, Leicester of course was 2 massive ones, but he has saved us so many times too, and seems to have been a leader in the dressing room along with Troy.

NickB - 20/05/2016

Suggested thuggery of BCFC 1984? Not much suggested about it – by a distance the most violent side to play English football in my lifetime, and that includes all the horrible sides Revie put together at Leeds.
Agree entirely about Coton, though; repaid GT’s investment in his character in spades. Used to nod to each other as we toured Bovingdon village with respective daughters in pushchairs…

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