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End of Term Report Part 3 05/06/2017

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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10 – Isaac Success

You don’t have to like someone to learn from them. Dad told me that after the thirty seventh GP I’d seen during my highly mobile childhood poured scorn on how I managed my diabetes, just like the others had done before changing everything. Dr King was a patronising scumbag, but I can’t remember what his advice was so I obviously didn’t take Dad’s wisdom to heart.

There’s a little voice reciting the line at the back of my mind now though. No, I didn’t like Mazzarri (we’ll get to him…), but that doesn’t mean he was wrong. Not about everything, not necessarily. And whilst it’s convenient to pick and choose the bits to trust, the criticisms levelled by Mazzarri at the unprofessionalism of Success’ approach aren’t something we’re in much of a position to judge.

He looks tremendously exciting, of course. Raw, sure. But powerful and quick and elegant and clever and unpredictable. In as much as I understand – or tolerate – minority sports I might compare him to Jonah Lomu. And yet… the player who cost either our highest or second highest transfer outlay, depending on which source you trust, has only been awarded two starts.  So what to believe?  Is he the precocious, extraordinary talent who executed any number of sparkling cameos, particularly earlier in the season, and so nearly scored Goal of the Ever late at Arsenal?  Or is he the slacker that Mazzarri implies, an unfavourable possibility fed fuel by rumours (stirred by an agent?) of moves to Palace or West Ham?  And if he’s both, which side wins?

Next Season:  We find out.

11 – Valon Behrami

It’s in the eyes.  That’s how you know.  Before he joined Watford, before we were able to judge for ourselves, I always felt that there was something not quite right.  Misinterpreting what lingered at the back of his leer as cockiness, modern-day-footballer-mercenary arrogance, I bemoaned his recruitment two years ago.  I was wrong.

I love the way that his legend is fuelled by titbits from the club, I almost don’t care whether it’s deliberate fabrication by the media team.  Robert Pereyra : “I’m not afraid of heights, but I’m afraid of Valon Behrami“; the excellent UCL diary series relating stories of youngsters being booted around. He’s simultaneously the archetypal modern footballer, playing in Italy, Germany, England, three World Cups… and a throwback.

One of rather few fond memories of Watford around 1990 came in a game against Port Vale when a forgotten visiting midfielder was putting the boot in with abandon, unhindered by the officials.  As the crowd bawled its frustration in the way that supporters of a poor team tend to do, Steve Perryman leaned across the bench and Gary Williams stood up and unzipped his tracksuit top like a superhero.  The rest was inevitable.  I’d like to think that Valon will always have that role, if he wants it.

Next Season:  But the suggestion has been that “only” 32 or otherwise, Valon’s legs aren’t going to permit him to sustain a Prem career for much longer.  He’s been sellotaped together for much of this season, and links to Sion aren’t the stuff that idle speculation is made of.  Hope I’m wrong, natch.

15 – Craig Cathcart

Ah.  Yes.  Craig Cathcart.

Easily overlooked in a season defined by everyone getting injured that Craig was injured more than most.  Three months out at the end of 2016, another six weeks at the tail of the campaign and all of this after a summer which had seen Craig’s stock rise even higher as Northern Ireland’s defence in particular did a sterling job in the Euros.

We shouldn’t forget about Craig, or write him off.  He’s a very fine defender and if it’s unreasonable to draw a cause-and-effect link between Craig’s availability and our record it nonetheless reflects well upon him that we won more games with him in the side (7) than we lost (6), those six including Spurs (twice), Chelsea and Manchester United.  Elegant, unfussy, not particularly flattered by being asked to play right back but a better stand-in than some, he would have been so helpful at many stages during his absence this season.

Next Season:  Hopefully a season free of injury to remind us what a gem we have.

16 – Abdoulaye Doucouré

And here’s an argument in Isaac Success’ favour.  Here’s the benefit of the doubt.

Having been signed in January 2016, a signing deemed such a catch that it was worth buying him even if we couldn’t use him and then loaning him out for half a season, an impressive half season by all accounts, Abdoulaye Doucouré was famously on his way out of the club in August before having kicked a ball for us in competitive action.  Except the paperwork didn’t quite get through.

Misjudging a player isn’t a criminal offence.  Even one deemed such an asset by others.  Maybe he wasn’t all he’d appeared.  Maybe he wasn’t going to “work” the way Mazzarri wanted to play.  Maybe he was a bad egg, maybe England wasn’t for him.  But Mazzarri was wrong.  Forced, ultimately, by the rampaging injury list to bring Doucouré in for more than just a second-string cup run out for the New Year’s Day hammering by Tottenham Doucouré took his chance and quite literally ran with it.

From that point on he never looked like dropping out again.  Strong, calm, elegant, his impact was such that he was afforded serious discussion when the Player of the Season vote came up despite not playing in the first half of the campaign (as an aside, it would have been interesting to see quite how close he came; the failure to publish the traditional breakdown disappointing).  Nor was there any evidence of him being restless – an interview published on the Official Site showed him to be settled and keen to stay, the family man who wouldn’t join the Hornets with his wife pregnant in the summer of 2015 hardly comes across as a disruptive influence.

Next Season:  One for Marco Silva to build his team around.

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Comments»

1. Goldenboy60 - 05/06/2017

aaahhh at last someone REALLY appreciates Craig Cathcart. What a soldier, what a consistency, and a very strong mentality to go with all that. We missed him at the back end of the season without doubt. He is calm and assured and plays for the team. He is just first class in my book.

2. PEDantic - 05/06/2017

A slight aside, Matt, but I share your mild disquiet about what happened with the Player of the Season award this year. What happened to the link with the Watford Observer who, I believe, instigated the award way back when? And then when the results came out there were no details beyond who won. I assume the numbers voting are higher when a season has been successful, so perhaps this year the club was embarrassed at the ‘low turnout’. I was particularly interested to find out how well Holebas did, since he seems to be something of a ‘Marmite’ character among our fans.

Matt Rowson - 05/06/2017

No disagreement from me. I don’t like the presentation being at a formal dinner either; hardly inclusive. Bah humbug, and so forth.


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