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Season Preview 2020 – Part 6 11/09/2020

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.


INS: James Chester (Aston Villa, Free); Steven Fletcher (Sheffield Wednesday, Free); Morgan Fox (Sheffield Wednesday, Free); John Obi Mikel (Unattached)

OUTS: Mame Biram Diouf (Hatyaspor, Free); Adam Federici (Macarthur, Free); Stephen Ward (Ipswich Town, Free); Josef Bursik (Doncaster Rovers, Season Loan); Lasse Sørensen (Franchise FC, Season Loan); Ryan Woods (Millwall, Season Loan)

OUR EX-POTTERS: Daniel Bachmann

THEIR EX-ORNS: Billy McKinlay (Assistant Manager)

2017-18 0-1 0-0
2016-17 0-1
2015-16 1-2
2007-08 0-0 0-0
2005-06 1-0 3-0
2004-05 0-1 1-0
2003-04 1-3 1-3
2001-02 1-2 2-1
1995-96 3-0


Smith             Chester              Batth              Fox
Mikel                   Clucas
Campbell            Powell                McClean

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: We’ll get on to our lot further down.  But the danger in overestimating the difference between the bottom of the top flight and the Championship is most aptly demonstrated by the Potters.  When they went down two years ago I won’t have been the only one expecting a strong challenge the following season.  Potters fans closer to the day-to-day of the squad might scoff… but this looked like a squad retaining a lot of quality more than capable of pushing for a swift return.  It didn’t prove so, and that’s perhaps a warning against our own overconfidence.

City have finished 16th and 15th in their two seasons in the Championship, but don’t be fooled.  I’m putting together these pieces in the absence of much actual insight of my own by pillaging the messageboards of the clubs concerned, and “watch out for Stoke” has been a recurring theme.  In Michael O’Neill City have a manager who is pulling things together, and the squad looks ridiculously experienced and deep.   Indeed it’s a very very large squad with a huge number of experienced players not in the line-up above due to injury, or wanting outness… or sheer competition.  Ryan Shawcross and Joe Allen fall into the former category, but both will be in contention soon.  Benik Afobe, Peter Etebo, Tom Ince and Kevin Wimmer are amongst those who haven’t quite clicked.  But the line-up above also misses Jack Butland, James McClean, Bruno Martins Indi, Lee Gregory…  in particular with five attacking players in Vokes, Gregory, Afobe, Campbell and new signing Steven Fletcher City have lots of attacking options.

A sign of a club that’s on the right path is also the evidence of attention to detail off-pitch.  The clubs “red and white season ticket” which sees fans pay for half the season’s fixtures (by choice, the red half or the white half) and streaming of the other half is innovative, giving supporters the much missed ability to plan their lives around (at least some) football as and when.

Play-offs minimum, you’d have thought.


INS: Jamal Lowe (Wigan Athletic, Undisclosed); Korey Smith (Bristol City, Free), Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolverhampton Wanderers, Season Loan); Marc Guehi (Chelsea, Season Loan); Freddie Woodman (Newcastle United, Season Loan)

OUTS: Kees de Boer (ADO Den Haag, Free); Erwin Mulder (Heerenveen, Free); Courtney Baker-Richardson; Jefferson Montero; Brandon Cooper (Newport County, Season Loan); Jack Evans (Paphos, Season Loan)

OUR EX-SWANS: Ben Wilmot

THEIR EX-ORNS: George Byers, Andy Scott (Head of Recruitment); Julian Winter (Chief Executive)


2017-18 1-2
2016-17 1-0 0-0
2015-16 1-0
2010-11 2-3
2009-10 0-1
2008-09 2-0


Cabango         Rodon           Guehi
Roberts               Grimes         Smith               Bidwell

Lowe           Ayew

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: Swansea fall into a similar box to Brighton for me…  decent club, well-run, good place to visit, happy if they do well as long as they don’t do anything uncivil like beating us.

Having crashed into the play-offs last season you’d expect something similar again I think, “there or thereabouts”.  The crown jewels – centre back Joe Rodon, right back Connor Roberts are still there for the moment, good experience in the likes of Ayew and Wayne Routledge (yes, really) and some decent loans, particularly Wolves’ highly-rated Morgan Gibbs-White.

The financial realities of being in the final year of parachute payments are beginning to bite however, and there’s a general distrust of the club’s American owners.  This underlying anxiety rose to new levels last week with the departure of experienced, popular and transformative chairman Trevor Birch to a senior role at Spurs.  His replacement is a former Watford face Julian Winter, who Swans fans ought to trust to do a decent job.  One of his first decisions might be to respond to any offer from our direction for skipper Matt Grimes, widely touted as a replacement for Doucs.  The club’s anticipated handling of any such approach seems to being a barometer of the ambition of those American owners which is revealing in itself.  There’s none of the “don’t be ridiculous” stuff that you’d expect if such a move was out of the question.

The Swans were terrible by all accounts with a fairly strong side in losing at Newport in the League Cup at the weekend.  They are expected to be chasing a striker and a centre-back, perhaps related to the losses of loanees Rhian Brewster and Ben Wilmot, and their squad isn’t the deepest.  No worse than mid-table, and a play-off shout with a prevailing wind.


INS: Daryl Horgan (Hibernian, Undisclosed); Uche Ikpeazu (Hearts, Undisclosed); Jason McCarthy (Millwall, Undisclosed); Curtis Anderson (Manchester City, Free); Giles Phillips (Queens Park Rangers, Free); David Stockdale (Birmingham City, Free); Ryan Tafazolli (Hull City, Free)

OUTS: Sido Jombati (Oldham Athletic, Free); Jamie Mascoll (Bolton Wanderers, Free); Jacob Gardiner-Smith; Craig Mackail-Smith


THEIR EX-ORNS: Uche Ikpeazu


2012-13 1-0
2003-04 1-2
1997-98 2-1 0-0
1996-97 1-0 0-0


Grimmer              Stewart             Charles         Jacobson
Horgan              Pattison       Wheeler       Gape        Onyedinma

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: As I may have mentioned, my day-job is as a statistician.  Understanding and quantifying uncertainty, really.  Specifically…  do these results prove that I’ve improved the properties of this product?  Or might I have just got lucky.  For example.

Doing this job for 25 years tends to steer you away from absolute statements.  If there’s a fence, I’ll sit on it.  If there’s a caveat, I’m all over it.

The relevance here is that Wycombe Wanderers are in their first season at this level.  Indeed, since consecutive promotions out of the Conference and into the third tier in the early nineties they’ve not troubled the top end of the table since finishing 6th in that first season, despite spending more seasons in the third tier than the fourth.

So they’ll be high on everyone’s lists of teams to get relegated.  A small club, a small budget, punching above their weight, overreaching?  And such is a possible eventuality, sure.  But definitely and probably aren’t the same thing.  There’s a margin of error around any prediction this season of all seasons, and Wanderers have a shout.  For one thing you can guarantee at least a couple of basket cases in this division, Wednesday look early candidates (but only probably…) and a well-run small club unhampered by expectation ought to be fancied over a flailing one with loftier ambitions.

Then there’s Gareth Ainsworth, who has enough personality to fill an olympic swimming pool.  Any side managed by him and with Akinfenwa in the dressing room isn’t going to be short of personality, one suspects.  The football will be quite direct, the threat from set pieces and the wings.  Wycombe will probably struggle.

But only probably.


INS: Stipe Perica (Udinese, Undisclosed); Francisco Sierralta (Udinese, Undisclosed); Jeremy Ngakia (West Ham United, Compensation to be agreed); Glenn Murray (Brighton & Hove Albion, Season Loan)

OUTS: Abdoulaye Doucouré (Everton, £20,000,000); Dmitri Foulquier (Granada, £1,800,000); Lewis Gordon (Brentford, Free); José Holebas (Olympiacos, Free), Callum Whelan (Oldham Athletic, Free); Heurelho Gomes; Ryan Cassidy (Accrington Stanley, Season Loan); Cucho Hernández (Getafe, Season Loan)


Cathcart            Kabasele             Wilmot
Ngakia                    Hughes                 Cleverley             Estupiñán
Quina                                Sema

VERDICT: And here’s where the veil is removed from the foolishness of the 23 bits of flannel that preceded this one.  Because, predicting what’s to come,?Who the hell knows, frankly.  And if I can’t make a call on the team that I, you, we spend half our lives ruminating about, what sort of insight is half an hour digging around for info on Rotherham likely to reveal?

The Spurs win was tremendous, obviously.  But as was emphasised in the report on these pages, it’s impossible to know which of the 18 (eighteen, Teleprinter fans) missing senior players will be back in the fold in the longer term.  Except Doucs, obviously, so that’s one fewer degree of freedom.  Good, ish.  I suppose.

Who do we know is staying?  Strictly speaking nobody, but I’d be willing to venture that the new signings, Bens Wilmot and Foster, Cleverley, Dom Quina are as nailed on as it gets.  Frankly the prospect of a side with the two wing-backs, Quina, Wilmot in it with Ben Foster behind, even if it ends up being you, me, your Mum, Harry the Hornet, one of the guys from Fry Days and a bollard filling the starting eleven, is unspeakably exciting.  Energy.  Drive.  Wanting it.  Bring it on.

Even our relegation no longer upsets me quite as much as it did.  I mean, that’s a lie, obviously…  the relegation was a miserable, pathetic, avoidable disaster.  But being in the Championship isn’t, or wouldn’t be if things were “normal” and we could revisit old haunts and gorge ourselves on midweek games (remember those?).

Which isn’t to presume that we’ll be successful.  “Ripping the division a new one” is a possible outcome, but only one possible outcome and certain much less enjoyable outcomes are also plausible.  Vladimir Ivić has got a job on to mould a cohesive unit amidst this chaos, more even that Gianfranco Zola did eight (yes, really) years ago in the midst of the major overhaul as the Pozzos moved in.  Now as then it might take a bit of time, even if everyone is in a bit of a state of flux after the briefest of summer breaks and given the current financial uncertainty.

But at the moment, at the very least, it looks like a load of fun.  And heaven knows we all need a bit of that.

Bring it on.   Yooorns.


1. Ray Knight - 11/09/2020

Great anaylsis Matt. Good to see you left the best (we all hope) to last. So much uncertainty. The main thing I dread is early October due to the EPL/EFL extended transfer period. Something clearly designed for the big boys to literally asset strip teams like us of our talent at knockdown prices. Hope Gino holds his nerve so we still have enough left to challenge this season.

2. A. Watford-Fan - 11/09/2020

Cheers for all the preview stuff, it’s been a good read. COYH!

3. MartinG - 11/09/2020

Thanks for all the previews. Interesting as always.
Looking forward to the game tonight as hopefully we’ll play with a bit of the zest that was sadly lacking last season. Warnock’s an awkward customer though so could be a nervy game.

4. Kristoffer - 11/09/2020

It is so difficult to get overly excited when so much is still to be settled. I spoke to a colleague today about our chances. I said the risk of us going down is a great as the chance of promotion. But even if all our “big names” leave, we still have massively exciting talents who couldn’t get a nod in the prem but who – with a full season of first team football – could turn into premier league players. Wilmot and Quina obviously. Chaloba, Hughes, Sema, Pedro and maybe even Penaranda and Success could possibly evolve into valuable assets – who knows.

If a few of last season’s first teamers stay and a handful of youngsters step up – we’ll be fine. And by fine I don’t mean promoted. I mean we’ll enjoy it as fans.

Matt Rowson - 11/09/2020

I don’t agree that our chances of promotion are comparable to the risk of relegation. At all…

5. Roger Boon - 11/09/2020

Thanks as always,Matt. I was really frustrated last season when underperforming players held their place despite the presence of so many talented but inexperienced youngsters. Do you remember how well Quinas and Wilmot performed in the league cup against a very strong Spurs side? Why was Pedro so heralded and never played especially given his exciting cameo at the end of our final game? Our two young wing back acquisitions look really promising as was the style of play adopted in the Spurs game. The Pozzos deserve real credit for their hunt for young talent and many of them displayed a surprising amount of confidence against Spurs. I am really looking forward to seeing how our new coach blends the experience with the emerging talent. Clearly GT’s work ethic is back but it would be nice to see a bit of humour. Mind you all the best teachers I knew were strict to start off with and relaxed once the standards they established had been adopted. One thing for sure I am like you really looking forward to this season and providing we don’t expect too much while he discovers his best group and the uncertainties get clarified, this could be a really exciting one. Enjoy! (Hopemole)

6. Roger Boon - 11/09/2020

And thanks again for all the unpaid hard work you put in to give us your well researched insights.

7. Roger Boon - 11/09/2020

And thanks again for all the unpaid hard work you put in to give us your well researched insights.

8. Sequel - 11/09/2020

Ah, the legendary teleprinter. Watford 8 (eight) Sunderland 0.

Matt Rowson - 11/09/2020

indeed. and well done on replying with the correct example.

Kristoffer - 12/09/2020

The reason for my point of view is the number of players we will lose and those who will end up remaining but wishing they were elsewhere. There are so many examples of clubs who have slipped straight through the division. On paper we should not be in trouble but on paper we shouldn’t be in this division either.

Objectively speaking the risk of relegation is much smaller than the chance of promotion. But if there is pne thing I am not when it comes to Watford it’s objective. Much more of a glass half full kinda guy.

9. Harefield Hornet - 11/09/2020

With the players that were available the coach deserves great credit for the battling winning performance we saw tonight.

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