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Watford 2 West Ham United 0 (19/11/2017) 20/11/2017

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

1-  I love the Park Run.  I’ve never been a runner, not my thing at all but it’s become a weekly ritual nonetheless.  A thing we do.  Aching limbs I can do without, but getting your heart rate up is good, being outside early in the morning is good.  Even being humiliated by Daughter 1 as she tolerates my sedate pace throughout and then sprints, sniggering away from her wheezing father as the finishing line at the end of the 5km approaches, that’s good too.  Best of all, the everymanness of it…  all sorts of people are out.  Proper runners, big lumps like me.  Old people, young people, fit people, unfit people, people with dogs, people pushing kids in push chairs.  All manner of football shirts.  This weekend, a gentleman in a checked shirt and business trousers who’d come to stay with friends for the weekend, not planning to run.  It’s the common purpose, the shared intent.  It’s magic.

…and is something that’s common to the football experience, the Watford experience.  Sharing something with a load of people.  Not knowing them individually, not all of them, but having the same purpose.  Wanting the same thing.  I value that too.  And so… anything that threatens that, any strong discord amongst the support, spoils the thing for me.  Perhaps more than the worst possible outcome of the thing causing the discord itself.  This was a concern today, as someone pointed out beforehand.  Given the week we’ve had, the speculation and – in some quarters – mistrust of Marco, what happens if the game goes against us?

2- There was a Sunday afternoon feel about it all, to start with.  A sort of simmering sleepiness.  That lasted a matter of seconds, long enough for Andy Carroll to launch into his typical aggressive, aerial, flailing challenge and take out Marvin Zeegelaar, surprisingly given a debut in preference to Holebas.  Welcome to the Premier League.  Carroll avoided a card, somehow, perhaps by getting his assault in so early that if the “too early to book someone” line ever had any credibility to it he had to get away with it.

The game stopped immediately for prolonged treatment, not for the last time.  A nervous, chill stillness took hold again, edgy shuffling in seats. When the game resumed it was scruffy and shapeless.  There was an ominous purpose about West Ham;  no great quality, but an in-your-faceness that didn’t bode well.  We needed a goal, badly, and with our first proper attack we got one…  more scruffiness in the West Ham area, Will Hughes was alert and finished adroitly.  Perhaps the game would have always ended up the way it did but… this change in tone felt definitive.  We settled, straight away, and looked composed and confident from that point on.

3- Whereas West Ham were a shambles.  It was noted later that this must all have seemed pretty familiar to David Moyes… time will tell whether West Ham go the way of Sunderland, but they’ve certainly got big, smelly problems.  A lingering smell of damp, evidence of knotweed in the flowerbeds.  That early show of determination dissolved with Hughes’ goal and never returned;  there was no energy and little discipline to the Hammers’ play and one, single focus.

Andy Carroll was a parody of himself from the off, a bad tempered flying limb waiting to connect with the back of someone’s head.  Following his early assault on Zeegelaar he picked up a yellow for an off the ball clash with Richarlíson as West Ham adopted the radical and almost novel strategy of testing whether the winger could be bullied into submission.  Later he provoked further ire from the front of the Rookery by seeming to lash out at Adrian Mariappa in pretending to lever himself off the ground.  By this point, West Ham’s discipline had gone, the Hornets well on top… Femenía’s deflected shot snuck past the post, Richarlíson seemed to be able to dance through the Hammers’ defence at will and was twice denied.

And yet we didn’t score, and the Hammers continued to rely on their blunt instrument up front.  We’ve seen this before ourselves, last season more than once… a team low on confidence opting for the easy option to their target man too often.  Carroll, in fairness, is a formidable weapon and if he was too isolated to cause havoc – excepting smacks to the head, punches to the kidneys and so forth – then he was still a threat.  Shortly after our goal his knock down was inches away from a tap-in conversion; later in the half first Kouyaté and then Arnautovic were denied by Gomes’ astonishing reflexes, and a little luck.

4- If there’s a lesson from the last couple of games it’s that for the moment, we’re far from watertight enough to be able to take our foot off the pedal.  Even with a two goal margin.  We miss Chalobah badly, that rock-solid midfield partnership with Doucouré that looked so wonderful early on.  For now… we have to make do with triangles from Doucouré, Hughes and Cleverley whilst wondering how we found ourselves with such a marvellous squad and trying desperately to enjoy it as much as it deserves.

After an interval in which the legendary Ann Swanson made an overdue return to centre stage the second half was ours.  In charge, in control, sometimes toying patiently with the ball in front of opposition that was physically, mentally, emotionally shot, sometimes ripping into them with abandon.  Such was the second goal in which Hughes, who was dynamic and bright and sharp throughout, hurtled onto a loose ball, survived a handball appeal and played in the irrepressible Richarlíson, who the beleaguered Zabaleta got no closer to all night than he did to the better days of his career when he could actually run.  The Brazilian’s finish wasn’t convincing but we’ll take that all day long, heaven knows he’d deserved a goal.  Gray, who ran tirelessly all afternoon, came close twice.  Mariappa had a header pushed away by Hart.  At the other end an acrobatic clearance from Kabasele denied the Hammers, but such threat as they had departed with Carroll midway through the half.

5- As for Marco… well.  It seems clear that we won’t release him from his contract irrespective of the money offered.  The Pozzos, as so often, making the right call… if we’re really aiming to establish ourselves in the top half of the Premier League then we should expect to be at a level where the top clubs want to pinch our best players and, maybe, our coach.  If we capitulate now then game over;  agents, players, clubs will know that a deal will always be done with enough pressure.  Our model could never survive that way.  If Silva wants to leave now he’ll need to break his contract, and can’t expect to walk into Goodison as a consequence.

But that aside, you’d have to say that for all you can understand Silva being tempted by the dramatically increased salary that’s suggested and by a bigger club, if he’s stupid enough to want to go then we might be better off out of it.  He has an awful lot to lose if he forces the issue;  after brief spells at Hull and Watford he’s in danger of accelerating the Peter Principle. If he reaches his level of incompetence at Everton, having walked out on Watford, what then?  If he’s sacked after eighteen months at Goodison, say, will another Watford or Hull be keen to hire damaged goods who have demonstrated a propensity to stray whenever a better offer flutters their eyelashes? On the back of what suddenly looks like fleeting success a couple of years earlier?

It’s not as if Everton is a stable environment, a well-run club in which Silva can expect to flourish.  This is a club who’ve just spunked an extraordinary amount of money on players who play in the same position, a position in which a precocious incumbent already has them pretty well covered.  Your average Football Manager enthusiast doesn’t make that sort of mistake.  Compare and contrast with Watford’s environment under the Pozzos.  Consider the fact that other, bigger clubs than Everton will be looking for a new boss themselves over the next year or so.  To repeat, if he’s stupid enough to force the issue perhaps Everton are welcome to him… though I rather hope and suspect that the worst we’ll suffer from this episode is another load of mind-numbingly fuckwitted commentary, of which the BBC’s Steve Wilson was a surprisingly vacuous case in point.

6- A vital, vital win, obviously.  Yes we’ve played OK for much of those three defeats, but they’re still three defeats and we still had three fixtures on the other side of this one that we wouldn’t have wanted to rely on to break a losing run.  Now, the perspective changes and we look forward to those games in a new light.


*Gomes 5*, Femenía 4, Zeegelaar 4, Kabasele 4, Mariappa 4, Britos 3, Doucouré 5, Cleverley 4, Hughes 5, Richarlíson 5, Gray 4

Subs: Pereyra (for Hughes, 84) 0, Holebas (for Femenía, 86) 0, Carrillo (for Gray, 90+7) 0, Capoue, Prödl, Okaka, Karnezis


1. Roger Smith - 20/11/2017

According to Doucoure in the Watford Observer, Silva is totally focussed on training and developing the team. His celebration when Watford scored showed how much he cared. It puts his pre-match comments in perspective: it was an honest view of the situation as he saw it. There was nothing to suggest that he wanted to go.

As you say, he is doing well at Watford, as Koeman was at Southampton before he was poached, so there is no guarantee that Silva would turn Everton around. He would be a fool to risk his growing reputation.

Kristoffer - 21/11/2017

I completely agree with your sentiment regarding Silva and Everton. If he keeps Watford performing as he has been, he’d be the obvious choice at Arsenal when Wenger retires.

At Watford anything from 8th to 14th is a fine achievement. But for Everton anything above 7th is unrealistic unless one of the big 6 implodes and anything below 7th is underperforming.

The unknown entity of course is the money Everton’s owner is willing to throw at him to turn his head. Marco seems like a sensible fella but given a chance to be set for life moneywise would make us all think twice.

I want Marco to stay – obviously – but feel that should he go, we’ll be okay. At clubs like ours, managers will leave. I’d rather we have a manager leave because he’s doing well than because he’s done badly.

As an aside, I feel that Dychey is a much better fit to Everton… is that just me?

2. Goldenboy60 - 20/11/2017

As a side, I must say how lovely it was to see Ann Swanson back at the club yesterday. Of all the people at the club she was a great disciple of GT, and the work she did in the family enclosure was second to none. She was such a caring person but was strong and managed those kids and families with great aplomb. My young son was part of it and even now he mentions the great times he spent with the Junior Hornets, and our away games with Ann were brilliant experiences. The admiration for what she achieved should never be forgotten. Bless you Ann and though I didn’t meet you at the game it was so lovely to see you so well.

As for the game yesterday, I always have an extra enjoyment when we beat West Ham. Cally has told me of the awful behaviour at Upton Park when he played, scared to get too close to the ‘chicken run’ touchline with so much abuse and threats that came his way. I remember that evening 4-2 win was which was the most enjoyable, and the satisfaction that I got following that awful behaviour from them. Yet when I coached in our Academy and on going to West Ham, they were always very welcoming and helpful. It just shows that you cannot pigeon hole everyone the same way.

3. Harefield Hornet - 20/11/2017

Like everyone else I detest the uncertainty surrounding the Marco Silva issue and I just hope we get some closure on it sooner rather than later. I know I should learn to ignore it but I’m a sucker for following everything that’s written about Watford and some of the stuff being churned out by the media and ex-player pundits is driving me absolutely mad!

On a more jolly note I had the pleasure of bumping into Iggy before the game in Occupation Road and had a chat with him. Obviously delighted to back at the Vic, I couldn’t help thinking afterwards what a really nice guy he is.

4. simmos - 20/11/2017

Excellent report as ever and nothing to add but to mention the BBC. I agree that there have been some vacuous comments from so called BBC pundits but I have lifted the below from the BBC match report

“Losing Silva after only 13 games in charge would hurt, but it should not derail one of the league’s most impressively run clubs competing with those with far bigger budgets.”

Did I miss it but when did we go from being “everything that is wrong with English football” to “one of the leagues most impressively run clubs”?

Just an aside but Ann Swanson used to live in the same road as I did when growing up and she lived and breathed Watford during GT’s time in charge. Speaking with Graham only a few years back I reminded him of Ann and he spoke about her in the highest regard. I am sure he would have been delighted as everyone to see her at the ground yesterday

5. Sequel - 20/11/2017

A great performance and a much needed win.
A special mention must go to Zeegalaar, who had a fine game under trying circumstances (playing for 90 minutes with plugs up each nostril can’t have been easy), and who would, had he been forced to withdraw after 10 seconds of playing time, have been in the running for shortest ever Watford career (assuming he never played again, of course).

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