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End of Term Report Part 5 03/06/2016

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

18- Costel Pantilimon

Another marker of how far the club’s standards have extended is that a man who was Manchester City’s deputy stopper and then moved to Sunderland to be first choice signs for us mid-season, committing to a position where he was only ever likely to be second choice to Heurelho Gomes. Sure, he was out in the cold at Sunderland… but would surely have had other offers at the end of the season if not in January. Our backup keeper is an experienced, intimidating international in his own right.

He’s also in the Panini Euro 2016 album, a source of enduring joy to daughter 2 in particular whose squeals of excitement on BOTH occasions when Costel has been revealed have been wholehearted. There is, indeed, some suggestion that he is this collection’s “easy” sticker, a phenomenon familiar to all veterans of the art – the latest WSC letters page alleges as such. And that’s a landmark too… an international album’s most recurrent sticker is a Watford player. Wow. That’s as good as beating Liverpool, almost.

On the pitch, Costel’s involvement was limited to the FA Cup. He looked enormous and utterly competent for the most part, until Wembley when he didn’t. But he wasn’t alone there.

Next Season: Astonishing if he’s happy to continue as our backup/cup keeper. All the better for us, though.

19 (#1) – Miguel Layún

Old news now, sure. None of you need telling that as soon as Layún looked like graduating from being a useful-looking piece that didn’t quite fit to someone whose role was clear he was out of the door before the echoes of the monstrous celebration of his season-opening strike at Goodison had died down. Which was a bit of a shame all told… someone as versatile, tidy, experienced and utterly professional would have been useful, and his trajectory since leaving has hardly suggests that we were better off out of it.

But in any case, for any number of reasons, job done. Almost certainly. Probably. Would be nice to, you know, be told for definite though, wouldn’t it? If the Official Site’s newsfeed in these days of ever expanding coverage elsewhere has any function, it’s to confirm details that can only ever be suggested, inferred, maybed elsewhere. Writing on Thursday lunchtime, I’m pretty sure that Porto took up their option on Miguel… that’s certainly what the WObby reported and Wikipedia, the font of all knowledge, reflects. Not a squeak from the OS though. Odd. Perhaps it’s a strategy aimed at heightening intrigue and excitement by leaving such issues tantalisingly in the balance. Personally I’d rather just know, but then I don’t like cricket so I’m still paying attention.

Next Season: Porto. Or Real Madrid. If anyone hears for definite, from a friend of his housekeeper’s sister or some other reliable source, let me know.

19 (#2) – Víctor Ibarbo

Every era has its defining signings. Adrian Boothroyd? Marlon King. A rough diamond, brash, unlikeable. Gianluca Vialli? Ramon Vega. Utterly misjudged. Kenny Jackett? Keith Scott (loan).

It’s not appropriate to label Ibarbo as the classic Pozzo-era signing, not in a period that has yielded Almen Abdi, Odion Ighalo, Marco Cassetti, Étienne Capoue. But you know what I mean. Ibarbo came in as one of a(nother) glut of signings whose names we tried to remember and never really got beyond that stage. His 74 minutes in the first team spanned four games and contained no goals. Not easy to define yourself from the bench… but he looked rangy, awkward, direct but impotent. By all accounts he was a maverick, but we never got to see that; by definition, a maverick player tends to operate at a level below that which his best moments suggest ought to be possible. Victor never suggested that his best moments warranted a Premier League place.

Next Season: Ibarbo’s deal was only ever a loan, interrupted when he returned to Colombia with Atlético Nacional. His subsequent red card in a derby with Millionarios was described as “su actitud fue de querer enfrentar a los rivales con fuerza y alevosía” by a Colombian site Futbolred, “his attitude was wanting to face opponents with force and treachery”. Coo. I wouldn’t recognise him if I passed him in the street.

20- Steven Berghuis

On the last day of the 1986/87 season we played Spurs. My recollection is that we played pretty well, what turned out to be the last competitive game of GT’s first spell in charge decided by a Kenny Jackett penalty. Making his debut off the bench was Chris Pullan, who put in a sterling shift on the right wing – dynamic and positive, he had the crowd cheering his every touch. I spent the next ten days convinced that he was the future of Watford football club, then GT left and everyone forgot about Chris Pullan for a bit. But you can see where I’m going.

Steven Berghuis’ season has been utterly bizarre. He arrived with a bit of fanfare and a not inconsequential transfer fee. He was also one of two players – Jose Holebas the other – who made noises suggesting that Vicarage Road might be slumming it a little. He looked sullen as his early appearances fizzed and popped without really getting anywhere, and drifted out of the first team picture.

Part of the reason for Quique’s departure, it seems clear, was his reluctance to play the younger players upon whose development the entire “Pozzo model” depends. Berghuis, who glittered into form as our league status was secured, was the poster boy for this; he provided width and incision where we’d begun to look flat and blunt, supplying perhaps the cross of the season for Troy’s flicked header against Villa and looking a threat whenever he took to the field. Despite which, he still has to make his full League debut for the Hornets. I don’t know what’s more extraordinary… that statistic, or the fact that Steven has earned a call-up to the full Dutch squad despite his erstwhile head coach’s reluctance to employ him.

Next Season: Inevitably it’s been rumoured that Steven will return to the Netherlands. Hornets fans will hope not. Chris Pullan wasn’t the star we imagined. Steven Berghuis might be.



1. JohnF - 03/06/2016

Hey Matt, I knew Chris Pullan well. Great lad and a bit unfortunate career wise with the change of manager. He packed football in quite early and went off to do architecture at Uni. Perhaps he didn’t have the hunger to push on after the set back. There were others such as Jason Soloman who should have set the world on fire but was too laid back. Great lad though and I knew him well too. I’m not sure about Berghuis, who has undoubted talent and I hope stays, but it could be down to mental toughness and determination. We do need someone who is a game changer and who can do something different. He delivered that cross from in front of where I sit and it was perfect from the moment it left his boot. Actually the other fantastic cross was Behrami for the third goal against Liverpool. So good even Ighalo could head it in.

Matt Rowson - 03/06/2016

Good call re Behrami. Think Berghuis’ effort still wins though.

Goldenboy60 - 03/06/2016

I’m not convinced about Berghuis. Undoubted talent absolutely, but very noticeable that he only has a left foot. No not that strange really as we have had plenty of them, Kenny Jackett is one of them, and he’s been one of our best ever midfield players. And there have been many top quality left footers that are not predictable, and have so much talent.

But I think Berghuis was very predictable. Playing on the right, opposing defenders quickly sussed him and pushed him inside where his options just narrowed and narrowed, almost like passing him along the line, until he had nowhere to go, narrowing all the angles and crossing and passing options. Yes there was that peach of a cross for Deeney in the Villa game, but did we see that again or at any other time? Well, a bright period at West Ham of course. But the defenders the Premier League are not just tough, they are clever too. I think he needs to develop more and have different options. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t play more often? But NOT doubting his ability, just how he uses it.

Matt Rowson - 03/06/2016

I think you underplay his contribution, but completely accept that in a desert of creativity any liquid provides refreshment. Or something.

2. Graham W - 07/06/2016

My very knowledgeable friend in the Netherlands cannot understand why, from his distance, Berghuis has not been getting games. Over there he is HIGHLY rated! I could only explain by mentioning round pegs and square holes. It would seem that he has considerable gifts and it may be up to this next regime to utilise, employ and enable them to be celebrated.

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