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Coventry City 0 Watford 0 (06/02/2021) 07/02/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- I went to Bedford this evening.  To post a parcel, overdue Christmas presents for a nephew and niece who we were going to see but then didn’t.

Bedford’s our nearest town.  It’s OK as small towns go, but the most accessible post office that’s open this late is near the bus station.  Bus stations, in my wide experience of such establishments, are rarely in a salubrious part of town and Bedford’s is no exception.

It’s pissing it down.  It’s cold, it’s dark.  Most of the many interchangeable and ever-changing low-end takeaway restaurants are open, but  staff and proprietors vastly outnumber customers.  It’s miserable.  Nonetheless, having dispatched the parcel, I do a ten minute circuit.  It comes to something when a loop of the bus station in the rain is undertaken to cheer yourself up but that’s where we are.  It’s good to see people, any people and after this lunchtime’s fare the bar for entertainment has been set at an all time low.

I really really can’t face writing about this tedious bollocks again.  It’s painful enough to bloody watch it.  And yes there’s mitigation and no it’s not all bad, whatever social media warriors would have you believe (and incidentally, baselessly claiming to speak for the masses – “all supporters can see that” – “we all know that” – isn’t a good look.  Either your opinion stands on its own merits or it’s best left in the box).

But it’s so boring.  Reflections henceforth will be staccato and to the point, and interspersed with discussion of my favourite films.  This is purely self-serving, I need to do something enjoyable today.  Don’t feel obliged to read it, much less agree.  This is purely therapeutic.  I get to be self-indulgent, I’m writing the blog…

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Fantasy can be very effective when it’s so couched in believable, often mundane detail that suspending your disbelief really isn’t that hard at all.  Both the leads are tremendous; Jim Carrey is infuriating in his gurning comedy persona but is absolutely wonderful as a straight man here, and whilst I don’t have a thing for Kate Winslet at all this film is very much the “except”.  That’s acting, that is.

2- It all looked very wrong before the game even started.  In all sorts of ways and despite some good intentions.  Andre Gray’s protracted interview, released by the club late this week was a very good idea.  Tackle the issues head on, front up, build understanding at a time when we’re so distant in so many ways.  It was a good thing.  Until you actually watched it, and listened to him.  Despite all the encouragement, both overt in the setting up of the interview and in the open goals set up by the interviewer (insert gag here) Gray came across as surly, defiant and unrepentant rather than conciliatory, let alone apologetic. The team was announced with Gray in it and Zinckernagel and particularly Hughes not and you felt… as much as “oh god what’s he doing” – the team, it is argued pre-kick off, does look more plausible with an albeit misfiring Gray in it – you felt “this is going to be a bloodbath if it doesn’t go well”.  Xisco taking it on the chin for QPR… again, brave, taking the flak away from the players.  Too readily, perhaps, for me.  Too keen to protect his charges when they hadn’t merited it.  The admissions of failings completely lacking in detail or substance.  The promise of urgency, energy, change the most straightforwardly positive take from the post-match quotes.  We didn’t get that urgency though.  We weren’t going to get it.  This much – this little? – looked clear from the early shots of the players lining up quietly, edgily, waiting to enter the empty arena pre-kick off.  Chest-beating and back-slapping it wasn’t.  Bear in mind that the game hasn’t even kicked off yet.

The Usual Suspects
Am I still allowed to like a movie with Kevin Spacey in it?  Does he stain everything he’s ever appeared in?  I watched this three times when it came out, in Bedford, Le Mans and Düsseldorf. Tremendous in every language, a marvellous slight of hand with characters that are big and bold enough to be compelling in their own right whilst stopping just short of being cartoon characters.  Keyser Söze one of cinemas greatest villains.  Not watched it since the 2017 revelations though.  Ho hum.

3- Coventry aren’t very good.  “The Football Factory” puts that slightly less delicately.  My old school mate Howard, not a football fan traditionally despite having made occasional visits to the Vic since 1986, would repeat the less polite version at the drop of a hat.

In fairness, they’ve been promoted twice in three years and most recently in an abridged season.  There are clubs whose supporters are less deserving of a break, certainly.  They are also without their two leading strikers.

Good job really.  Despite their limitations they create a load of chances.  Only one of them ends up asking anything more than a straightforward save out of Daniel Bachmann who, other than one excited flap at a Coventry corner does a perfectly reasonable job all told, which is where our fortune at the absence of Godden and Walker comes in.  But they look vulnerable, excitable, get-attable.  We just don’t get at them very much at all.

Trainpotting only came out a couple of years ago, and yet somehow I’m working with people who weren’t born at the time.  Ho hum.  Funny, Sad, Exciting, Chilling, Inspiring, Depressing.  Some of the best characters in any movie ever, including the terrifying Francis Begbie, another brilliant villain because he’s so real.  Everyone’s worst nightmare on a night out.  Iffy language warning below…

4- It’s soporific.  We are soporific.  We’re outnumbered in midfield where Chalobah is energetic but sulky, a rush of blood away from a straight red you suspect.  Cleverley is running around to little effect.  Our forwards are doing very little with very little.  Gray is far from the biggest culprit on this occasion, his charge upfield as we break, providing an option ahead of the ball, is a minimum requirement but nonetheless he’s the one doing it.  But even when we show a bit of life in the second half – post the introduction of Hughes, perhaps not coincidentally – the lack of conviction is punitive.  We don’t know how we’re going to score goals, and our most potent weapon, Sarr, is contributing least of all.

No apologies here.  We lived in Germany in the early eighties when I was 11ish.  We had a VHS and whatever videos my dutiful grandparents dispatched from Watford along with the sports pages of the Watford Observer and X-Ray slips autographed by whichever player was in for treatment at Watford General where my Gran worked.  The VHS meant episodes of “The A-Team” and “Knight Rider”.  And Star Wars, which I must have seen at least 50 times.  “Stay on target”.

5- Trying to be positive.  It’s a point.  Not a defeat.  No away point is a bad point, in any division.  It’s another clean sheet, Xisco’s fifth in eight league games for all that the billing was a more enterprising style of play. In the current perverse environment with the dearth of entertainment and the responsibility football carries in that regard there’s surely an argument for deciding the league table on goals scored rather than points but until that happens clean sheets are very welcome.
And we’re still fifth.  We’ve not played terribly well terribly often, but we’re fifth.  Heaven help the rest of the division as and when we get our shit together.
Hang in there.
I need a drink.

*Bachmann 3*, Ngakía 2, Masina 2, Troost-Ekong 2, Sierralta 2, Sarr 1, Cleverley 2, Chalobah 2, Sema 2, Deeney 2, Gray 2
Subs:  João Pedro (for Gray , 67) 2, Hughes (for Chalobah, 73) 3, Perica (for Ngakia, 85) NA, Cathcart, Navarro, Wilmot, Zinckernagel, Hungbo, Elliot


1. thehornet35 - 07/02/2021

It’s very hard to like it at the moment.
I agree with the assessment of the Gray interview, he just can’t come across as likeable in any way, and ultimately you don’t mind a bit of a twat at your club if he delivers the goods. Gray doesn’t and hasn’t ever really.
Furthermore, the new manager hardly shook up the world of football today with his “brand new way of playing.”
Brendan Rogers had a very mediocre start with us and I’m put in mind of that time, it took a little while before we saw the benefit of his changes to the team. But I feel that he had a core of players who cared and worked damn hard, so even if they may not have been the most technical, they had desire to try for him and it did work. Hence why Reading came-a-calling and the success he has had since (like him or loath him).
And I think that’s the rub. We have a core of our players who have technical ability but no graft. It’s the opposite to the above, and no matter what manager / head coach / funky job title come in I don’t think they will ever have the work ethic to really give their all for them. Of course it’s not everyone, I think Bachman, Troost and Sierralta are likeable and seem to put in the effort and few others, but generally it’s a bit of a soulless team right now.

2. Richard Wigfield - 07/02/2021

Being a fellow Bedfordshire hornet also living in commuter land outside Bedford, I understand your frustrations Matt. Two hours of my life I wont get back and the joyful abuse from my “they who must not be mentioned” supporting friends. Danny Cowley summed it up for me in his post match comments. Some very talented individuals, but I dont see a team.

THe straw at which I am currently clutching at is waiting for everything to be revealed in a lightbulb Sixth Sense or Book of Eli moment when what has gone before suddenly makes things that have gone before, understandable.

We’ll see.

3. John V - 07/02/2021

We all needed that therapy Matt! Thank you!

4. Ray Knight - 07/02/2021

Hi Matt – Thanks again for your entertaining write-up. The beauty of listening in to a dire match is that you pay your £2.50 and don’t have to watch such poor fare. It also can make it sound more exciting. You know things are not going well when a trio of Coventry players are mentioned constantly by the commentators. The same old pattern emerges and Tommy’s observations are familiar. No midfield cohesion, no supply to the front line and hence no chances. Our backline under pressure, no crosses being cut out and Bachmann making save after save. You knew listening in that WFC were never going to score except via a penalty or in a final last gasp flourish. So where does that leave us? Well yes we are still in the mix. Beat Bristol City and gone on a decent winning run and HMS Pxss the League is off the rocks. However there are less signs of that now than any time start we started the season. Munoz is a deadman walking. I blame hime no more than I blame Ivic. Poor decisions have led us to this situation. Ironic that Glenn Murray, Doucoure and Garner have being playing blinders. There is something toxic at WFC at the moment besides Gray’s video by all accounts [someone I am not going to give any airtime to]. So all in all unless there is a sea change this week and someone takes charge I can’t see things getting better. We have lost our midfield creative players [losing Quina – what’s that about?] and over rely on Sarr. Drop Gray to the bench permanently, give JP and PZ a chance. Don’t care what formation we use, just stick by your own words Munoz and CHANGE SOMETHING. Regards Ray

5. MartinG - 07/02/2021

At the tail end of the Aidy B era I felt going to the games was an exercise in masochism, and it seems like that now watching this team. Your ‘tedious bollocks’ sums it up. How we are still in the playoff places is unbelievable.
We all keep hoping for the team to ignite but it seems as far away as ever from happening.

6. PEDantic - 07/02/2021

A horrible, depressing performance for which the blame cannot be laid solely at the manager’s door, despite the baffling team selections. However, if he is unable to engender some kind of effort, enthusiasm and attacking intent into the players he cannot be the right man for the job.
However, the saddest thing of all is the upset felt by our greatest ex-player as a result of his mention in the Gray interview. To turn Luther against the club is an awful outcome that will have alienated many of my generation of supporters. I agree the interview was well intentioned but it was also misguided. Gray had the opportunity to apologise for his lockdown transgressions but had nowhere to go with it because they were, of course, inexcusable. When it came to discussion about his form, what could he say but he was trying to rectify it? To compare him to Luther was ridiculous, the two are chalk and cheese in every way and an apology should be made by the club.
I despair of what is happening at our Watford FC and I say that irrespective of our position in the league.

7. Simon - 07/02/2021

The Gray interview (sigh). Whatever the intention behind it, I’m surprised they put it out given what they landed up with.

It all felt muddled, trying somehow to suggest that the view of him as a player is entirely influenced by his off-field indiscretions and vice versa. Possibly the paucity of ‘helpful’ information in the answers Gray gave but even the editing felt forced so as to intersperse the two.

The intimation (by both him and the interviewer) that his lockdown breaches were blown out of proportion due to his profile and on field performance is disingenuous. Both (particularly the second one which was arguably the more deliberate and flagrant of the two) were inexcusable, unprofessional and warranted both contrition and a full apology, neither of which were forthcoming. Those incidents are also specific and desperate to the “there’s a public perception of me that isn’t the real me and I don’t need to play the media to correct that perception” line. They were objectively wrong.

The use of the Luther miss-it line, for all I understand what the interviewer was getting at and I didn’t take it in any way as portraying Luther in a negative light also seemed crass. My impression is that the club’s relationship with Luther is not always as strong as it should be (not sure why, who might be at fault if anyone or whatever) so it is certainly something where they should be really careful about bringing up a reference that could be perceived negatively.

Perhaps that’s a rather harsh view on the intent but it does come within the context of a number of PR issues that have been handled clumsily at best (eg Mariappa, about which Scott Duxbury came over surly at the fans forum in my view, the lack of communication from the top; the consistent reports on how managers are dealt with when dismissed; the somewhat heavy handed “we’re watching if you’re there every game and will take your season tickets away etc….) The hierarchy do loads right and “mistakes” with the squad are perhaps excusable (my impression is not that the owners are bleeding the club for personal profit and, clearly, they have as much, if not more interest than us in being in the top division). Some of this really should be the easy stuff though and comes off as more than a little tone deaf.

Matt Rowson - 07/02/2021

To elaborate on one of your points above, there is a danger of reading ill into the best intentioned of the club’s actions in the current climate. Whatever the current situation they’ve done a lot more right than wrong in a difficult environment.

PEDantic - 07/02/2021

That’s certainly true, but I found it illuminating at the last online Fans Forum that Scott Duxbury seemed baffled at the suggestion that the club’s record of communication with the fans amounted to “radio silence”. Of course there are some things that the club cannot and will not disclose but in my view the information they release has been lacking throughout their tenure and this only serves to increase speculation and criticism of what is going on.

Simon - 07/02/2021

There’s certainly an element that the “club” will get hammered whatever they do when what’s happening on the pitch feels quite so angst-ridden (this isn’t unique. My recollection – dim in 88-89 – is that each of our post-relegation seasons has felt fairly similarly miserable when the wheels have come off, even under the Great Man – expectation seems to sit poorly on us).

I do think, though, that the PR side of things seems to a misjudged quite a lot of the time and it’s something directly within their control that can be remedied. Whatever the intent, they surely don’t look at the end product of that Gray interview and think “this is great -exactly what we needed”.

Should also add that they have worked really well to improve the direct supporter liaison side of things. The new “help service” is a good innovation and we’re hugely lucky that the club took time to create the supporter liaison role and that Dave Messenger is filling it. That isn’t the case everywhere and certainly wasn’t always the case at Watford.

8. Ray Knight - 07/02/2021

I lived through the great GT era. The Luther ‘miss-it’ line was a lazy tag originated by the media. Just as today anti-small club success at the highest level was expected from the press. Another one that AC Milan bought Luther by mistake thinking they had got ‘digger’ Barnes.Some of these comments had at least rascist undertones. I just wish the club PR dept had a better handle on such and researched their sources.

Matt Rowson - 07/02/2021

I think you’ll find that the club’s PR dept has at least as much awareness as you do. You might not agree with their judgement but don’t get carried away…

9. Sequel - 07/02/2021

Matt, thanks for putting in the effort to write about this drivel; much appreciated, and you’ve given us a new description of a poor performance: “That was worse than walking around Bedford Bus Station on a rainy night”

10. Harefield Hornet - 07/02/2021

The interview with Gray was a very risky idea that backfired spectacularly, not completely due to the fault of the interviewer, although the Luther reference was a clear misjudgment, but because of Gray’s clear lack of communication skills. It’s been evident before, so why they suddenly thought he would now deliver an eloquent apology for his brain-dead actions is beyond me? People with the same mind set as Gray exist everywhere, there’s a few who live along the road from me, and they will never change. Unfortunately he is easy prey for any cameraman looking for a nailed on “footballer not giving a toss about the rules” story. As for the match and result, I’m clinging to the hope we lost four on the bounce before one Friday night at Craven Cottage. COYH!

Matt Rowson - 07/02/2021

I don’t think it’s necessarily communication skills, he’s quite eloquent. He just doesn’t see the need to explain himself (for the covidiocy rather than his poor performances)

11. Old Git - 07/02/2021

I wasn’t going to bother to watch the Gray video. But after reading all the comments, I thought I would. I couldn’t help thinking of Prince Andrew’s famous car crash interview. A similar ill advised idiocy that undermines the interviewees credibility even more and only emphasises what sort of people we are dealing with. Gray should have been sacked after his second breaking of the lockdown. As a supporter I feel betrayed and I can’t imagine what his colleagues feel about him, bearing in mind he was happy to risk their health and the health of their families. And they have to train with him and play with him every week. Maybe it is his continued presence that is part of the reason there is no team spirit anymore. Just a thought…

‘And we’re still fifth…heaven help the rest of the division as and when we get our shit together.’ Cheers Matt. I can’t work out if this is irony, self-parody or hopeless optimism. Maybe you’re still in the basement of that pizzeria. I hope they are treating you well.

12. Harefield Hornet - 07/02/2021

By lack of communication skills I suppose what I really meant was that if he was in any way remorseful, which is debatable at best, he doesn’t actually seem to have the ability to put it across very well. TD on the other hand seems to be able to talk his way out of anything just by being brutally honest, and therefore believable and likeable!

13. Stephen Hoffman - 07/02/2021

Matt thank you for writing about this game. At the moment I prefer your reports to the actual games.

You say you cannot polish a turd,but you’ve written in a way that elevates the turd of a game.

The disappointment for me is its just so predictable at the moment as in we seem to play for a point away with little ambition of winning.

With a brief 3 months spell before lockdown under Pearson, we just seem so inhibited and putting this all on the manager of the time, which you always see on the WO comments feed is far too simplistic.

I’ve supported Watford since 1995 and am forever grateful that the Pozzos saved us from bankrupt Baz. If I’m being honest though watching Watford at the moment feels as much a chore as it was under Vialli. Obviously the tedium of lockdown does not help but it just seems that the players are not so much lacking effort, but seem to be playing with a mountain of fear on their backs.

Apologies for my meanderings and thanks again for the report.

Ray Knight - 08/02/2021

The last two posts hit the spot. Fear is definitely at work rather than lack of effort by most of the players. Our coaches know their tenure is likely to be a short one. It does not aid our cause. We need to get our mojo back soon otherwise this season is lost. Would have preferred if we had stuck with Pearson to give us the best chance. COYHs.

14. Crispticker - 07/02/2021

You capture the mood perfectly, Matt.

I just feel sad about the state we are in.
Sad there is no joy in the way we are playing.
Sad the players look so lost and clueless.
Sad about the collective body language, full of sulks and impatience.
Sad the youngsters are expected to shine in that environment.
Sad I have seen Sarr smile twice all season.
Sad we no longer have the clever corner routines that Ivic drilled into us.
Sad there is another set of rumours from the dressing room of player unrest.
Sad I can’t see us getting any better.
Sad that I fear it is going to end in tears again.
Sad we will then go around the same circle once again.
And sad that I am glad I don’t have to watch another performance like that until Saturday.

But I WILL hang in there.

15. Ian (Royston ROF) Dell - 08/02/2021

Matt, If ever you want a change iof scenery I can highly recommend Stevenage Bus station, it is full of incidents that a full time security staff is always available, a bit more than incidents that in the last few 90 mintes we have all watched.

For a bit of change I would play Wilmot as a 3rd centre half in place of Chabolah with his role as both a stopper and a play maker. He seems the only one who is willing to make progress forward up the field.
Perhaps we need to change the rules like basketball, you cannot pass back into your own defensive half of the field

Matt Rowson - 08/02/2021

Cheers Ian. I’ll add Stevenage to my “to do” list. Bedford isn’t bad; the vehicles are at least open air so you don’t get the heady mix of diesel fumes and urine that seemed to pervade Chelmsford bus station in the late 1980s, an all-time low.

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