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End of Term Report Part 2 01/06/2017

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

6 – Adrian Mariappa

What an peculiarly orthdodox career Adrian Mariappa has had.  Growing from captaining our youth team to the point where he was manifestly too good for the Championship, he has since been in the grey area of not quite being good enough to establish himself in a Premier League side. A first choice understudy, versatile enough to do a number of jobs pretty well, professional enough to apply himself to that role.  A jobbing Premier League footballer, if there is such a thing.

Confirmation that we’d re-signed Mapps was one of my favourite moments of last summer.  The game against West Brom was one of the highlights once the football got under way.  An hour in, Miguel gets a red card and Mapps is off the bench after two thirds of a season of being largely neglected on the sidelines, last cab off the rank.  And he was completely brilliant.  In any season, the guy kept in cold storage and wheeled on when all other options had been expended and down to ten men playing a blinder would have been cause for celebration.  In the context of this man being a Watford youth product and ex-Captain returned to the squad… his performance for that last half hour was the cherry on the evening’s cake.

Next Season:  Mapps’ half a dozen starts thereafter weren’t flawless, but he demonstrated that he’s a very capable defender, a great option to have.  He’s also home-grown, one of us.  As long as he’s happy with his lot, what’s not to like?  A bona fide Watford hero.

7 – Nordin Amrabat

A funny thing happened at Leicester.  In the context of a defeat that was simultaneously not reflective of our contribution to the game and yet utterly deserved, the frustrations of our impotence and trajectory boiled over in the stands.  We were then treated to a throwback that would have bestowed a warm nostalgic glow on a par with reviving a long-forgotten chant or seeing a former hero trot off the bench for the other lot except that we were too grumpy, and actually watching the crowd isolate a boo-boy was never much fun in the first place, a bit like that “we’re the riiiight side” chant but more so.  So after a few years with nobody particularly in the chair Amrabat briefly joined the likes of Dominic Foley, Bruce Dyer and Devon White on that uncelebrated list.

The boo-boy thing has always irked me, but Amrabat’s isolation seemed particularly harsh.  It’s not that he’s not inadequate…  last summer he was almost out of the door and now, eighteen months into his time at the club, we’re still not really sure what he’s for.  And yet… he’s never hidden.  He’s put a shift in at wing-back, as a winger, as a midfielder, as a wide attacker.  No, there’s nothing like enough end product and yes he has become incredibly frustrating as his dropping confidence has reduced the likelihood of him taking someone on from small to very small.  But he’s never hidden.  He’s always been there.  And at times of the season he was our most aggressive attacking threat.

Next Season:  Would be a huge surprise if Nordin used up one of our non-homegrown slots next season, as it was this.  He should leave with our best wishes.

8 – Tom Cleverley

In what was an unusually productive and successful January transfer window, one piece of activity stood out.  Such a sensible signing on so many levels…  experienced, good enough to have won England caps – and, therefore, contributing to the homegrown quota – and a popular former Player of the Season whilst on loan as a bonus.  Yet another indication that the club management know what the hell they’re doing… harder to judge based on less familiar names from abroad but few, if any, Watford fans would have doubted the value of this loan-with-an-option. A no-brainer.

We’ve all followed Tom’s career since his magnificent loan season under Malky Mackay.  The surprise, perhaps, is that his success has been so relatively limited.  That, and that the goalscoring, goal creating attacking midfielder that we witnessed has never really spread his wings in the Premier League, not even during a loan at Villa under Tim Sherwood who cited that loan as evidence of the sort of player Cleverley could be.  Eleven of his 27 senior goals to date came during that loan.

His loan this season started incredibly strongly.  He was busy and energetic, attracting and retaining possession in dangerous areas around the penalty box and providing dynamism to our attacking play.  In his second debut against Boro he got a touch to a long throw and was incredibly unlucky to hit the post… this was the player we remembered, bold and assertive.  Significant, then, that since an early flurry Tom’s form has been rather less consistent…  he’s still busy, still energetic, but his willingness to attack the box has receded.  He’s not looking for the ball in such positions any more.  It’s odd…  it’s as if the biggest obstacle to Tom’s success is in his head.

Next Season:  A lynchpin of the side, without doubt.  Would be wonderful to see that attacking verve back in his game too.

9 – Troy Deeney

We’ll get to Walter later on, but it’s unavoidable at this stage to observe that if you want to make yourself terminally unpopular with the Watford support, pissing off and ultimately alienating Troy is a good place to start. Forget the stuff about no player’s bigger than the club and so forth, that’s all true, obviously, but not relevant here. You have a captain who should be the easiest person in the world to keep on side. Someone who is so utterly focused and motivated by the success of the team, so honest and yet considered in every public utterance. Someone who doesn’t like being rested – who would – but who would surely have responded positively if, for example, being dropped from the starting eleven at Spurs, just after a monstrous performance against West Brom and on a run of six goals in eight starts had been accompanied by a proper conversation. You can only imagine that it wasn’t.

Troy has had more imposing seasons on the pitch, rattled in more goals, but can cite plenty of mitigation. The almost total lack of creativity that stymied the side for much of the season can’t have been any fun to play under. The frequency with which a side bereft of confidence or strategy resorted to hitting long balls towards their isolated totem. That he still got into double figures for the sixth season running, the first Watford player ever to achieve that in League games, that he was still our most reliable head on the ball defending set pieces, that he was still every inch the leader off the pitch, candid enough to say what we’re thinking, brave enough to front up to the crowd at Hull, smart enough to steer Dion Pereira towards his ovation at Leicester. We’re very very lucky. In the absence of an outstanding candidate and without detracting from Seb or Heurelho he was my vote for POTS. There are clubs sniffing around again, as every summer, and a few Watford fans have been heard to speculate that maybe it’s right, maybe this should be the time. They’re wrong.

Next Season: Watford’s totem gives us so much. He will move on at some point, he can’t continue indefinitely, but the confidence with which he’s been awarded long contracts as the club’s highest earner every summer are testimony to his importance.



1. Goldenboy60 - 01/06/2017

Having coached Mapps through the Academy from the age of 13, I know what he’s fully capable of. Because he’s not the biggest, he gets left out a little. Anyone who does that like Mazzarri did most of the season, has got it wrong. You could see what a positive impact he had in the team. He is a very good athlete, and whilst not the biggest, he can out jump anyone, including taller players.

He is quick and very good at reading defending situations, nipping it in the bud before it happens. A total honest lad who absolutely is dedicated, was the forgotten man. But not now of course. He came into the side and played as if he had never been away.

You see, even the ‘so’ called top managers get it wrong. They should open their eyes and not discount anyone, especially just because they are not a name. He was my captain in the Academy, and what a good one he was too. Absolutely dedicated, trustworthy, consistent and a really nice person too.

2. SteveG - 01/06/2017

Also surprised by the lack of comments – perhaps the feeling is that Matt has summed it all up so well that anything else is superfluous, but what the hell, here goes.

Deeney clearly hasn’t had the best of seasons. While you have to wonder how on earth we got to that point (and as you say, Matt, you’ll get to WM later) in the last few games it wasn’t ridiculous to be playing Okaka ahead of Deeney (although you might have looked to adapt the system so that you could play both of them a bit more often). So, I’m with you, Matt – Deeney has been such a great contributor to the club that we can only hope that under new management he returns to being the full force that we know he can be. The potential downside is that if Silva doesn’t get the best out of him either, his value as a player will no doubt drop considerably – and we know that the Pozzos like to ‘sell high’. But that must be worth the risk, surely?

3. NickB - 01/06/2017

A very perceptive run through a bunch of the most interesting pieces of our jigsaw – one that’s been shown to be missing quite a few pieces when we got to the bottom of the box. Slightly surprised at the overwhelmingly positive tone of the Deeney appraisal: for me he’s been the author of at least a few of his own misfortunes this season, condition on his return from the summer break; readiness to brief the press on life behind the scenes (allegedly) and frequent on field gesticulating, for example. Don’t disagree he’s still well in credit, though, and Mazzarri would have tried the patience of a saint.
What did strike me was the comment about the club’s success in the January window; where would we have been without that, given we were pretty ropey, putting it politely, for the last four months of the season?

4. Harefield Hornet - 01/06/2017

Troy’s stock has risen considerably off the field in the last couple of years with appearances on Question of Sport and “What Anthony Joshua did next with his best pal” type programmes being the highlights I suppose. Good luck to him and all that but I couldn’t help worrying at times that perhaps this new found media career might distract him from his main priorities on the pitch? He seems to thrive on attention so probably not, but lets just hope Mr Silva susses out how to get the best out of him in the near term at least. I couldn’t begin to imagine the angst in my house if he was sold on – it’s not something I wish to even contemplate!

5. Old Git - 02/06/2017

‘He’s also home-grown, one of us’.

Bang on,Matt. The dearth of home-grown players in the Pozzo era is, for me at least, a downside. OK, I know the counter-arguments…would we rather be knocking around the lower divisions with Matty Whichelow and John-Joe O’Toole, playing on a ground with three sides etc etc…but there is such a thing as a heart to any football club that needs to be treated carefully, lest that club become simply a franchise.

Of course, the expression ‘one of us’ can have a wide definition. Troy Deeney has become ‘one of us’, in the same way that Matej Vydra did, despite his distant origins. There are, of course, dozens of examples of players from other clubs who became ‘one of us’ but conversely, I feel that a lot of our recent signings would struggle to find Watford on a map. And they wouldn’t trouble themselves to anyway, because they knew they’d be off again soon. That, unfortunately, also seems to apply to our recently departed former Head Coach.

The days of Johnny Williams, Kenny Jackett, Luther, Gary Porter, Gibbsy and, of course, Lloyd Doyley are long gone but those are the players we take to our hearts.

And unless supporters are able to take a club, or at least one aspect of that club, to their hearts, what is the point of going? We might as well stay at home and watch it on the telly.

6. Peter - 02/06/2017

Agree with you on all that – on the Deeney issue I agree most strongly. From a tactical point playing Troy up front on his own without support is an unquestionable waste – “isolated” was the word used most commonly in match reports to describe the captain – closely followed by “frustrated”.

Whilst scoring goals a plenty in the Championship, Troy’s influence on his attacking partner has always been immense – Vydra’s first season had a lot to do with Deeney, Ighalo and then for a second time on his return Vydra scored goals with the often acknowledged supply line of Deeney. Vydra since has continued to misfire away from Deeney. Ighalo’s fall from grace has been the one period where Deeney’s strike partner has really failed to benefit fro our No 9.

So you have a player that does get goals, leads the team, creates space and opportunities for those around him – so Walter plays him up front with no service or support from midfield. Is it any wonder he looks frustrated.

I just hope that Silva can put in place some supply and support and get us back on the front foot with Deeney in the team and the heart of everything – looking forward to next season.

Mapps against West Brom was fabulous, Dacoure was equally squandered/ignored by Mazzari and again did a staggering job when bought (were forced by circumstance) back into the fold.

Matt Rowson - 02/06/2017

Agree utterly with all of that.

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