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Watford 0 Manchester City 4 (21/07/2020) 22/07/2020

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

1- So.  First things first.

The one thing the Pearson situation isn’t is “simple”.  Not sensibly, usefully reducible to a pithy, one-dimensional verdict even if much of the execrable coverage might suggest otherwise.  Pearson’s record over the piece was far from awful.  Under his guidance we played with belief for the first time this season and recorded some startling wins, none more so than that Liverpool game.  We even managed to get results when playing badly over the last couple of weeks, always an encouraging sign.

But we did play badly.  There’s not been a decent performance since lockdown really, not a convincing performance.  Notoriously we’ve been largely appalling in the opening halves of games, and utterly appalling against West Ham.  Not just…  making mistakes, or low in confidence, or wrongly set up now and then but playing without any drive or energy in these most urgent of times.  That defies belief, really.  West Ham wasn’t the performance of a team playing for its manager.  The players, without doubt, carry a lot of the blame.

But you can’t really blame the owner for making this observation to the manager.  “Can’t help but notice we’ve not been turning up until half time, Nige”, or words to that effect. Pearson has a reputation for keeping teams up, it’s true.  He also has previous for not communicating upwards very effectively, to put it mildly.

So it’s not simple.  But that Pearson did well to drag us up by our bootlaces and that Pearson is not the right person to be in charge of this club longer term are not mutually exclusive.  I’ve got some sympathy with the view that, if Pearson was going at the end of the season anyway, given the awfulness of much of our football and of West Ham in particular and if he’s been stupid enough to mouth off to his boss, perhaps this wasn’t quite the crass stupidity that kneejerk assessments have painted it.

2- Either way,  it matters little what anyone else thinks… phrases like “we’re a laughing stock” I find a little confusing, really.  The problems are on the pitch, at the club, in the League table not on Twitter.  Nor is it possible to look at this match in particular and pretend that the man in charge makes a huge amount of difference; after all, our last three encounters, including today, have been heavy defeats and each under a different boss.

Hayden Mullins’ team selection sprung one surprise in the recalling of Bobby Pereyra for Danny Welbeck.  Whilst Welbeck hasn’t quite ignited his recent form has been encouraging and his mobility clearly an asset, so Pereyra’s return suggested a change of shape.

This didn’t really materialise (and in fairness Mullins and Stack hardly had much time to come up with a tactical masterstroke), but the wide men were very withdrawn early on and Pereyra did well enough in a belligerent opening period.  It was a simple plan, but a good one.  Park the bus.  Get bodies in the way.  Deny space.  Fall back.  Suffocate.  It worked quite well for half an hour.

3-  Aaaaand then it didn’t.  It took one lapse of concentration, that’s all, and it was mercilessly exploited.  Which doesn’t mean that it was the wrong plan, that there was something better that we should have been doing with a half fit forward line, missing our midfield engine and with zero confidence.  Good decisions don’t guarantee good results.

But once it was done, it was done.  One down at half time wouldn’t have been a disaster but another lapse, another brutal exploitation…  the faultless Foster made a terrific save to stop Sterling’s penalty but couldn’t get enough on it to clear it and then the game was gone.  Perhaps we didn’t get a break on the pen, he might have gotten away with it but we got a kind decision at the other end with a Mariappa handball in the second half, so no complaints.

4- It’s easy to complain that there was no threat, but the plan was designed to exploit City having the ball, soaking up pressure and then breaking.  It’s worked for other opponents of City recently but didn’t work here, and once they were ahead and the onus was on us the nature of the encounter psychologically was completely different.

You can’t land a meaningful punch without the ball, and City in this form weren’t going to give us much of it.  They were utterly professional, relentless, and we couldn’t live with them.  There’s no great shame in that;  we were clearly inadequate but inadequate by the standards of a great side on one of their good days.  There was energy and discipline here, far more so than against West Ham at the weekend;  that we didn’t capitulate is some small achievement in itself.

5- Where this leaves us, we’ll have to see.  As I write Villa are a goal up against Arsenal, which is a bit grim.  If we do go down it’ll be down to our own failings, but luck hasn’t always gone for us this season.  We could have done with facing Arsenal the Tuesday after their triumphant cup semi final rather than a City side smarting from their failure.  Didn’t help, though as above we’ve found plenty of ways to lose to City in other circumstances.

What it doesn’t reflect, to my mind, is a problem with the “Watford approach” that others are keen to deride.  A Watford approach that has seen us spend a prolonged spell in the top flight for only the second time in our history, punching well above our traditional weight.  Not that things don’t need changing, not that mistakes haven’t been made… a good plan can be badly executed.

But for Watford supporters to criticise the approach in itself, to hanker after a more conventional structure I find surprising.  To question whether the leadership remains a desirable leadership, baffling.  Even if one discounts the perilous position that they inherited, disregards the sustained investment that saw us promoted two years after coming close, if one writes off the five years of top flight football you’ve got to ask yourself how a club like Watford is supposed to sustain such a level without significant external investment.  The approach is defined by the scouting model, which has sustained Udinese and Watford for many years now. Ultimately it’s buy low and sell high, at scale.  It’s how every smaller club has to play it and we’re blessed with the inheritance of the infrastructure to make it work.  This has implications with regard to team management/coaching.  If you’re sustaining your existence with that model, the head coach has to work within it to an extent.

It’s inevitable that as and when it doesn’t work those without the attention span or wit to consider context will point and say “see?  see?”.  Beyond dispute however is that abandoning the approach is far likelier to see us return to our previous centre of gravity in the bottom half of the Championship than to be outperforming history and expectation at our current level.


*Foster 4*, Mariappa 3, Femenía 2, Kabasele 3, Dawson 3, Hughes 4, Cleverley 3, Doucouré 2, Sarr 2, Pereyra 2, Deeney 2


1. Martin B - 22/07/2020

Spot on Matt. Thanks.

2. Michael Edmonds - 22/07/2020

Here’s the thing, though, Matt. When you have 4+ head coaches in a season and none of them can seemingly make you consistently better, the problem probably isn’t the coach, its the players and its player recruitment. Not only that, if you need a coach to fit the model, we clearly aren’t finding that person. And, changing the coach this often will NOT help recruit better coaches and/or players. Reputation is important and we have a bad one.

I have no issue with the buy low, sell high model. Its a good model, especially for a club like Watford. Pearson may have been too brutally honest and I suspect ego’s got bruised and off he went. It would have been better for Watford to just let him take the last two games and then move on. The circus would not have come to town but at the Emirates, many will be hoping to see the clown fall on its face.

I love Troy and still think he is the best option up front from the choices available but he doesn’t score enough. Yes, he brings a lot of other stuff to the team but if by some miracle we do stay up (and probably if we don’t as well), we need better options up front and the baton needs to be passed. In some ways I think we suffer because Troy IS such a big character at the club. It stifles anyone else fulfilling that role.

Personally I don’t think the players have given up. I do think they are trying – maybe I’m too optimistic. I just don’t think they are good enough AND at crucial points in the season we have let ourselves down and tossed away points such as at Villa, away to Southampton, home to Everton.

I will be surprised I we stay up but I’m still hoping. Thanks for all you do with these reports. Its appreciated.

Matt Rowson - 22/07/2020

don’t dispute any of what you say. Four head coaches in a season isn’t desirable by any stretch, nor would it have been the plan. It’s a head coach model though, not a manager thing… and I’m not sure that I disagreed with any of the decisions. Quique appointment I wasn’t alone in struggling with, Pearson “worked” in that it pulled us away from the bottom.

No, we’re not good enough… as in the piece, mistakes have been made, perhaps we were due an overhaul last summer and didn’t get one because the season had been strong. People cite the weak finish, but there’s a lot of context to that too (particularly the reliance on Troy, who got himself sent off against Arsenal to our great detriment). But for much of the season we were chasing Europe and got to the Cup Final. That’s a very good season in anyone’s book so the (wrong) decision not to do more rebuilding then is at least understandable.

3. tonyfirasse - 22/07/2020

That was a painful experience and a tough read Matt.

You hit so many nails on various heads, but I can’t disagree with your analysis. So easy to blame X, Y and Z but as you say everything must be seen in context. Yes, the Watford FC of 2020 is so different from the Petchey, Simpson, Bas era – do we forget our near extinction?
I go back to the Holton/Uphill days of the late 50s and in subsequent decades the chagrin of only spending five seasons in the top division was an impossible dream. The players, managers, and even owners come and go but our link with WD18 remains.
What will be, will be. The much-missed Etienne Capoue will echo Napoleon’s words that at times “Il faut reculer pour mieux sauter” [You have to go back to leap ahead better.]
Terrific post Matt, it is a joy to read your thoughts as i cannot face reading what trite verbiage is being spewed elsewhere.
Cometh the hour on Sunday, cometh the men?

Matt Rowson - 22/07/2020

thanks Tony. Let’s hope so.

4. Adam Cummings - 22/07/2020

If one believes The Athletic (and I have no reason not to) the problem seems to be that Giraldi (and others) seem to be having an influence on tactics and substitutions. If we can see that during games then goodness knows what goes on at London Colney.

Players see that and react accordingly knowing that the “gaffer” isn’t really in charge. Word gets out and we are left with possibly second rate coaches from what is quaintly called the continent who are happy to come to England for a year and a substantial pay day whether they succeed or not.

It can’t be a coincidence that we lack leaders on the pitch as those players who lead are also willing to speak their mind, something which doesn’t appear to be wise at the moment. Deeney is the exception but he has become his own brand and almost untouchable…for right or wrong.

Matt Rowson - 22/07/2020

The Athletic identified the circumstance. It’s a bit of a leap to call it “the problem”. As per my first paragraph, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Adam Cummings - 22/07/2020


Nothing is simple I grant you but I called it the problem as I think it’s both the key and the number one reason why things have gone so dreadfully wrong.

No other club treats or indeed undermines it’s employees in such a manner and if this has been going on all season then it’s easy to see why players (and Pearson?) have downed tools.

5. JohnF - 22/07/2020

Thanks Matt, a really good and thoughtful commentary. At least last night we kept the score down to what is respectable when the small country budget built City are in that sort of mood. I agree that Pearson’s sacking is far from straight forward but I do understand the concerns over too many changes. Perhaps loyalty to Javi Gracia was the first mistake but that was what many so called commentators were demanding. What does bother me a little is the number of other football figures at the club, as well as Giraldi, and whether that results in confusion. It is clear that the recruitment is not as good when we are trying to get bread and butter defenders or in identifying the weaknesses in that respect. I am sure that whatever happens Gino will take stock and make adjustments not least because, as you say, the players have to take some responsibility and we will need to see who stays and who goes. This is a set back, not the end of the world and, as you say we are much better than where we were in the past when we were frequently haunted by relegation to the first division.

Confidence is a fragile thing and if broken is not easy to mend so I don’t expect too much from Sunday and I am assuming relegation bar a miracle such as we lose 1-0 and they lose by a big margin to restore our advantage. So many unfortunate things have happened in terms of injuries to key players and catastrophic drops in form compounded by the Covid induced problems.

As long as you, and occasionally Ian, can keep producing these great reports there will always be a bright side.

Matt Rowson - 22/07/2020

thanks John

6. Duncan H - 22/07/2020

Hi Matt, Firstly, I’ve been reading you (and very occasionally commenting) since the BSaD days, and thank you so much for all your efforts. Every game I have ever been to, when I read your review afterwards, it chimes with how I experienced it – and means that I trust your reviews much more than anyone else’s for the games I couldn’t be at!

Anyway, I just wanted to chip in here on your point about the criticism of the Pozzos and of the model, knowing that the comments here, whether for or against, are a lot more calm and sensible than elsewhere 🙂 I seem to be in a minority in not having reacted extremely badly to the sacking. Not that I necessarily supported it, but it didn’t make me either angry or despondent. *On* the pitch, yes, NP made a massive impact at the start, but it’s been mostly dire recently, and after the West Ham game I became convinced, for the first time this season, that we are going down (even when we were rock bottom in October/November, I never thought we looked down and out, but now….). But it feels like the fury with how awful we were on Friday has been sublimated into fury with the Pozzos for sacking NP in a somewhat odd way. You can argue it is coherent, because people are angry with the club and the players, not the manager, but personally that seems over-simplistic. And the players are not hugely different to the team that spent most of last season in the top half of the league.

But *off* the pitch, it was only a couple of months ago we were all saying how proud we were of the way WFC worked with Watford General and the NHS. And personally, I think it has also done a great job on things like the Sensory Room, supporting Rainbow Laces, etc, and has mostly shown a genuine commitment to being a community and family club. But suddenly nobody cares about this, the club is a shambles, etc etc? It’s clear that there’s something not quite right this season, but as you say, to attack the whole model, especially in the absence of a coherent argument about how it should be done differently, seems short-sighted and knee-jerk to me.

More generally, I’ve felt a little depressed over the last couple of years about the not inconsiderable amount of fans for whom nothing is ever good enough. In the last five years, we’ve beaten Liverpool twice, Man Utd twice, Arsenal three times, Spurs once, Chelsea once, reached an FA Cup final, and until this year never been in serious danger of going down. Even through the drudge of much of the Mazzarri season there were some great moments, and some satisying, solid performances (the win under the lights against West Brom, for example)….but to listen to many fans, the last 2-3 years have been unremittingly grim…my fear is that we end up, like so many mid-sized teams before us, sliding down to the bottom half of the Championship and struggling to right the ship – and then many people will start getting nostalgic for the good old days in the Premier League and be complaining about turgid the football is, etc….

Anyway, rant over, keep up the good work, and have a well deserved break!

Matt Rowson - 22/07/2020

thanks Duncan, very kind. re supporters and expectations… yes, but it was ever thus I think. Twitter has just amplified the hysteria.

Duncan H - 22/07/2020

yeah, I’m sure it was ever thus – I reckon if Twitter had existed in 1986 we could dig up lots of quotes from people complaining that GT was useless and past it, Mark Falco was rubbish, the club had no ambition, and so on!

7. John Smith - 22/07/2020

Thanks Matt, some reasoned explanations and questions when many heads have lost it. I’ve been a fan for too many years and have seen most of it before. Our current owner has done more for the club than any other. The system takes a lot of understanding at times but we didn’t give ourselves many alternatives at the end of last season in the type of football we play. I fear Championship football again and that will be very difficult especially as we will no doubt lose assets below their true value. Success will take some rebuilding (again)
Many thanks for the quality of your outstanding reports which are of great value.

Matt Rowson - 22/07/2020

Thanks John. I interpreted “Success” as Isaac on first glance…. thought you’d taken a surprising angle…

8. Stuart Sharkey - 22/07/2020

Thanks Matt for putting things in perspective,to be honest I turned tv off at 3-0. The Pozzo model works for us and we have experienced some great times under his ownership, plus the infrastructure improvements are there for all to see. Some adjustments are obviously needed and I am sure Gino is aware of that. The lack of players coming through from the Academy is a worry and why do we keep seeing Giraldi on the pitch at the end of matches? He should stay in Directors box, or ideally be off looking at potential new players! Keep up the good work.

Matt Rowson - 22/07/2020

cheers Stuart

9. David - 22/07/2020

This community of Bhappy WFC fans is a remInder to me that I am not alone. “never have I felt more disgusted in my X years of being a Watford fan” is a regular comment on the Watford observer website.

As it is the “hope that kills you” I am assuming we are down which is gut wrenching but it is a false narrative to blame our ownership model. Mistakes have been made but I don’t accept there is such a thing as an established Premiere league club beyond the top 6 plus & Everton. Therefore I have to accept that one day we will go down.

10. Bill Grundy - 22/07/2020

4 Head Coaches in one season got us up…

11. BobTWolf - 22/07/2020

Like some others commenting on your blog Matt, I go back a long way with the Horns (first game in 66-67 season) and have endured decades of supporting us through thick and thin (mostly thin). Had anyone suggested to me in, say, 1974, that we would go on to have 5 successive seasons in the billionaires pig trough that is the Premier League, I would have snorted in some derision. So the owners take enormous credit for that – they showed ambition and belief to match most fans.

That said, the Pearson sacking simply makes no sense. During the period he was in charge, we got us in a position where we had a real chance of staying up and amassed a better record than 9 other teams in the Prem. The problems were stunningly obvious – poor recruitment in defensive areas, failure to plan for Deeney’s falling away in form and fitness being the key ones. Every season in the Prem our form has dipped after January; its difficult to fathom why, other than the players have shifted into cruise mode.

I still have some hope for Sunday – Arsenal are flaky and I don’t see Everton or West Ham making it easy for Villa and Bournemouth. Our record at the Emirates isn’t too bad either.


Matt Rowson - 22/07/2020

Pearson sacking. “Not the right decision” can be argued, certainly. “Makes no sense” can’t I don’t think. I won’t reiterate the content of the article in justification. Hope you’re hope is well founded for Sunday. Yooorns, etc

12. Harefield Hornet - 22/07/2020

I honestly think the lock-Down break has scuppered us as much as any other reason – loss of Gerry – Troy and now Capoues injuries etc. Let’s face it we just haven’t been at the races since the restart and it’s difficult to work out why when everyone was in the same boat? As much as I am praying I
Can’t see us scoring or picking up anything at Arsenal. They cant be as blunt as they were at Villa. Could they? I fancy West Ham to beat Villa and Bournemouth play an unpredictable Everton . Perhaps Richarlison and Antonio will turn out to be
our saviours !

13. Vaughn Smith - 22/07/2020

Really difficult to call what happens on Sunday. 43 years of loving/enduring/enjoying/hating etc football (supporting Watford of course) doesn’t help! It wouldn’t surprise me if Bournemouth survived from all this…

14. Robin Dewar - 23/07/2020

AS a Burnley FAN , I am concerned that Management may be using this to Get Dyche Back . As a previous manager and player , plus the fact that he still lives in the area , yes he commutes to Burnley each week . If they stay up they may throw money at Dyche to get him back !!

Matt Rowson - 23/07/2020

He lives in Northampton, which is closer to Watford than Burnley but still a good hour away. Dyche may leave Burnley this summer I guess, but the probability of him coming back here is very very small.

Ian Grant - 23/07/2020

I think you should rest easy, Robin. There may well be clubs coming for Dyche, but I’d be pretty certain we won’t be among them unless something really dramatic changes: he’s an entirely different type of manager for an entirely different type of recruitment and management model. He wouldn’t fit our structure now any more than he would’ve when we sacked him at the point of the Pozzo takeover. (Which is not to imply any air of superiority – we’re about to be relegated, after all!)

15. Deezzaa - 23/07/2020

I come here for sensible, well-reasoned comment and I’m never disappointed. This is no exception. Congratulations Matt and all the other commenters.
If I may put in my tuppenceworth though.
Think back only 12 months and we were eager with anticipation for the new season – no pundit tipped us for relegation (unlike all the previous seasons) – and we were also talking about a top 10 finish. We had GOOD players (ironically it was thought Dawson was our weak link, oh tempora, oh mores!), a solid coach and a firm base to build on. Between then and now something seriously went wrong. To my mind it was the appalling start to the season. We weren’t playing that badly, we just didn’t get the rub of the green. Wrong VAR decisions didn’t help. Confidence is a brittle thing and the roundabout of head coach changes cannot have helped a team who kept on changing their formation and tactics.
If I have one criticism of the Pozzo model it is that, otherwise for a small(ish) club like watford, it has suited us and I’ve no doubt will suit us in the future too.

Matt Rowson - 23/07/2020

Thanks Deezza. Don’t agree about start to the season tho. We were playing ok but being beaten easily anyway.

16. Watford Will - 23/07/2020

Thanks Matt (and Ian) for all your great reports over the years. As someone who doesn’t make it often to games (and never while we have been in the PL over the last 5 years), I really appreciate your insight.

However I can’t agree that sacking Pearson isn’t anything other than craziness. Up until this season, I haven’t had much issue with most of the managerial dismissals under the Pozzo era (except that of Dyche, but easy to say that in hindsight). However this season the decisions have been baffling:
1) Sack Gracia after 4 games – surely he deserved a bit longer to turn things round?
2) Recruit a manager you have previously sacked – utterly baffling
3) Sack a manager who has pulled the club out of the abyss and seemed to have the respect of the players, and replace him with a very inexperienced coach with 2 crucial games remaining – makes no sense to me, regardless of some poor recent performances. I’m saying this through gritted teeth, but even if we’d brought Big Sam in for a couple of games to try and keep us up I could have half understood it, but I’m afraid I can’t see any reason not to have kept Pearson on at least until the end of the season. And while most of what is written in the media about Watford is a load of rubbish, I do care that people think Watford are a joke (and in this latest instance I think they have a point).

As has been mentioned above, I don’t believe the problem lies with the manager but with the players, who are clearly not good enough. And what worries me most (as also mentioned above) is the total lack of any young players coming through. Where would you start with rebuilding next season, whichever division we end up in? Will Hughes, Sarr, after that I’m struggling.

To end on a brighter note, if we do get relegated I will at least start to come and watch Watford again. I hope it doesn’t happen, but if the worst does come to pass, Coventry away will be straight into my diary.

Matt Rowson - 24/07/2020

Thanks for the kind words Will.

Lots of stuff in your note, but I won’t reiterate the content of my article in response; you identify some decisions that you find baffling, I don’t find them baffling even if you can question the sense of some of them. There’s a lot of grey space between “probably a bad idea” and “baffling”

Players “clearly not good enough” is also iffy. The squad isn’t good enough, demonstrably, but the same players, largely, were mid table last season and in an cup final. We should have refreshed, no question, but as far as poorly performing individuals how do you separate form and class? Will the real Doucouré please stand up…

As for next season… whether Sarr would stay we’ll see. Cleverley, Dawson, Gray, Chalobah, probably Femenía, Cathcart, Kabasele, a fit Troy would all be fine in the Championship but it needs new faces. It’s not really about individuals.

17. Lozza - 24/07/2020

I read this brilliant site with relish in good times and bad and I avoid Twitter and the like so not sure about the reaction there, but unusually there were a couple of points didn’t sit quite right with me here this time Matt.

I completely agree that the business model and leadership are the right ones, but the element in question right now is the treatment of head coaches and I think that requires more scrutiny. I think there are consequences to the impression that this was a kneejerk reaction even though it’s certainly more complex. The lack of explanation has also served to highlight the interference question which adds to that damaging perception.

As said in another comment, reputation matters. So, while I hesitate to fall below the standard of reasoned and rational debate, I also wanted to convey how wrong this felt. It seemed so undignified, even by the standards of Modern Football. I’m surprised the phrases like ‘we’re a laughing stock’ are confusing because we’re all emotionally invested in this great club of ours and for me it does matter more than a little what others think. Not the Twittersphere or Andy ‘king Townsend but friends, family, people from work who ask you what’s going on because they are interested in what on the face of it seems a crass, hasty if not inexplicable decision. All the other times I’ve been able to explain; this time I haven’t been able to argue twisting with inexperience at this point is better than sticking with experience and I can’t definitely say it’s something behind the scenes we don’t know about. It just stinks and I’m embarrassed.

Matt Rowson - 24/07/2020

Fair enough. And I didn’t mean to argue that it was demonstrably the right decision and there were no concerns at all, just that it wasn’t without any logic or foundation. Again, I won’t reiterate the content of the article but there’s plenty to this.

As for “laughing stock”…. fair comment. I think you could argue that Pearson hasn’t done too badly out of this. His reputation is enhanced to at least the degree to which his achievements at Watford merit and the world thins of him as hard done by. There’s a clamour from Forest fans, if you believe the press, for him to replace Lamouchi who is one of the names we’ve been linked with, that would never have happened before this spell.

As for undignified… it depends on your level of expectation. Nobody plans for this many head coach changes, but it’s only unreasonable because we’re wedded to the “manager” idea and the expectation that each appointment should last three or four years or create a dynasty. That’s not realistic, and it’s certainly not the expectation in other major leagues.

Lozza - 24/07/2020

Fair points as ever in reply, Matt. I think it’s undignified and in the sense of not allowing him to finish the season. I agree it does let him off the hook too so still don’t get the logic of the timing as a business and tactical decision, even if there are other factors. Thanks again for your (and Ian’s) work – we’re so lucky so have such an insightful and intelligent perspective to counterbalance the usual banal punditry.

Ian Grant - 24/07/2020

My view, for what it’s worth, is that there was no reason to believe that we were going to get any points out of Man City and Arsenal, had Pearson remained. At the very least, that seems to me to be a reasonable interpretation of our form in recent weeks, particularly the absolute state of that performance at West Ham. Given that, and given the precarious league position, shaking something up doesn’t seem so illogical. You can’t usefully shake up the squad at this point, you don’t gain anything by shaking up the higher bits of the hierarchy either. Both of those need attention, but here and now, the thing you can change is the coaching staff. We might still get nothing out of those two games, of course, but there’s a chance – a small one, granted, but a larger small one than had we sat on our hands and done nothing – that you might get a season-saving performance out of what looks like a spent squad. All a matter of opinion, of course.

Lozza - 24/07/2020

My view is we’d have had more chance of sticking and having an experienced coach get one last performance out of his team rather than twisting with inexperienced coaches who have been part of the underperforming set-up.
Maybe that’s the only point of difference. I really hope you’re right Ian and they take that small chance.

18. Old Git - 24/07/2020

I find myself much more saddened by learning of the death of the wonderful and unflappable Alan Garner than I am by the impending relegation. Player of the Season in GT’s first season and a vital component of the team that won back-to-back promotions as the Great Adventure took off. And he played the game of his life at Old Trafford when we beat a top-notch United in the days when the League Cup was a major competition.
I remember my work colleagues’ patronising laughter when I left at lunchtime to get the train up to Manchester. ‘A third division side will never beat United’. What a night. What a team. What a player.

19. Harefield Hornet - 24/07/2020

Agree with above about Alan Garner. Also learnt our mad Greek full-back has left the club today. Love him or loathe him things were certainly never dull when he was on the pitch! Personally I enjoyed his enthusiasm and sheer will to win despite the red-must episodes! I’ll miss the miserable sod.

20. SteveG - 25/07/2020

Can I first of all echo the comments above about the consistently high standard of match reporting and the civilised nature of the debate in the comments section? We are indeed fortunate to benefit from having such a high quality site at which we can find some perspective to balance out some of the rubbish written elsewhere. Thanks as ever to Matt, Ian and all other contributors.

Watching the debate evolve on here in the last few days has helped to balance out some of the feelings of gloom that descended in the week before. It is all relative of course, and even if we are relegated we are definitely in a considerably better position than we were before the Pozzos took over.

Also slightly sad to hear that Holebas has managed to slip out without saying a proper goodbye. I’ve wondered whether it would have been a left-field selection (both literally and metaphorically) to give him a farewell slot in left midfield ahead of either Masina or Femenia – both to shore up the defence and offer a slightly more unpredictable threat going forward…it’s not as if we’ve been overwhelmed with crosses from the left or optimistic shots from outside the box. But now we’ll never know.

The final day of the Premier League season promises to be an interesting exercise in “who is the least crap team?”, and it would be stretching a point to say that I’m optimistic about us avoiding the drop.  It’s very easy to be selective about the “What ifs?”, but of course if Villa hadn’t scored that last minute winner we’d be virtually safe now.

It might be a fitting tribute to the general crapness at the bottom of the table if we lost tomorrow and still managed to stay up.

Matt Rowson - 25/07/2020

I’d take that. Agree about Holebas.

Ian Grant - 25/07/2020

I’d have loved to have seen Holebas recently. That whole mentality of not blowing individual defeats out of proportion is all very well, until it just leads to a line of defeats that weren’t taken out of proportion. Sometimes you need people who are going to take losing as if it’s a personal insult, drag it outside and give it a bit of a seeing to.

21. Harefield Hornet - 25/07/2020

Alan Smith – Evening Standard. Watford will have to radically change their approach if they get relegated – it’s impossible to win promotion from the championship if you change the coach four times in one season! ….. hang on just a minute!

22. John m - 26/07/2020

Very sad to see the low key Holebas exit. The angry Greek God. Perhaps it we had a team of 11 players with his anger, hatred of losing and sheer effort since the lockdown we would have had a lot of yellow cards, several evenings-off and a few more points. Goodbye Jose. We don’t have many such eccentric cult players these days, sadly.

John m - 26/07/2020

Sendings-off. Damn predictive text

Harefield Hornet - 26/07/2020

Evenings off is a more accurate description of what we have been witnessing!

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