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End of Term Report 2021 – Part 2 20/05/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

7- Philip Zinckernagel

Lots of good bits and lots of iffy bits.  If Zinc had been here five years, say, like Isaac, you’d be underwhelmed.

As it is, the focus is very much on the good bits.  The ability to cross a ball, to craft a pass.  The versatility.  The willingness to do whatever job is asked of him.  The ability to keep his head when all around are losing theirs.  And that’s without making any allowances for being parachuted into a season at a radically different level to that which he’s been used to and after minimal break after a full Norwegian calendar-year season (in fairness he’s no different from everyone else this year in that regard).  In the Premier League you kinda want players to be at least pretty good at everything, but being really good at some things is a good start.

The reservations are equally clear.  Zinc has been guilty of getting caught out defensively, sometimes calamitously so – although admittedly less so as time has gone on, either because he’s learning or we are.  He tends to want too much time on the ball, can disappear from games.

But at the very least there’s a lot to build on, a distinct type of weapon for our armoury, and the possibility that a summer break and pre-season will see an excellent player emerge merely than just a useful one.

Next Season:   The ability to chip out a goal in a tight game will make all the difference in the top flight.  We’ve got to hope that the rough edges continue to be smoothed out.

8- Tom Cleverley

At the end of last season in this piece I reflected on all the things that are great about Tom whilst lamenting that he was injured quite so often.  Tremendous therefore to be looking back on a season in which Tom has featured in 34 of 46 league games, and haven’t we benefitted from it.

Difficult to fathom that Roberto Martínez had Clevs marooned wide on the left when we visited Goodison Park on our last return to the top flight six years ago. Since his re-signing at Vicarage Road, fitness has been his only obstacle to being a force for good in the Watford side;  he’s a dynamo, and possesses the rare ability to be both an attritional pain in the arse and completely in control of his temper.  The Huddersfield goal was what I believe, in the modern vernacular, is referred to as “peak Cleverley”, the essence of the player in one moment;  the Norwich performance which won him display of the season the longer form version of the same narrative.

There are several players in this squad that you look at and think “how is he playing for us?”.  Tom is one of them.

Next Season:  A leader who has England caps, a Premier League winners’ medal, an eleven-year-old Watford Player of the Season award and who makes everyone else around him better?  I’m sure we’ll find a use for him…

9- Troy Deeney

He’s bled us white, the bastard.  He’s taken everything we had, and not just from us, from our fathers, and from our fathers’ fathers.

(And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers)


(And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ fathers)

Yeah, alright Stan, don’t labour the point.  And what has he ever given us in return?

(140 goals?)


(140 goals)

Oh. Yeah, yeah. He did give us that. Uh, that’s true. Yeah.

(Those penalties)

(Oh, yeah, the penalties, Reg. Remember what the penalties used to be like?)

Yeah. All right. I’ll grant you 140 goals and those penalties are two things that Troy Deeney has done.

(And the leadership)

Well, yeah. Obviously the leadership. I mean, the leadership goes without saying, doesn’t it? But apart from the goals, the penalties, and the leadership–

(Eleven years of service)

(Playing through injury)

(A bit of personality)

Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough.

(And talking straight, honesty)

(Oh, yes. Yeah..)

(Yeah. Yeah, that’s something we’d really miss, Reg, if Troy left. Huh.)

(Turning his life around.  Inspiration.)

(And it’s safe for our kids to take the field against Luton now, Reg.)

(Yeah, he certainly knows how to keep order. Let’s face it. He’s the only one who could against a team like that).

(Hehh, heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.)

All right, but apart from the goals, those penalties, the leadership, eleven years of service, playing through injury, a bit of personality, honesty, inspiration and protecting the kids against them up the road, what has Troy Deeney ever done for us?

(That goal against Leicester….?)

Oh. Leicester? Shut up!

Next Season:   None of that matters much of course, as regards Troy’s ongoing involvement.  If a sturdy track record was enough on its own, Gibbsy and Luther would still be in the side.  What matters is what Troy’s capable of now.  There’s been much suggestion that the skipper, the “Big Dog” according to Ben Foster, is past it, no longer able to contribute.  That may even be your opinion, or at least suspicion.  If it is… three things.  First, he’s more than earned the chance to prove you wrong.  Second, you’re going to need to be the one to tell him to his face.  Third, I think you’re mistaken.

10- João Pedro

The story’s a great one.  A kid from Brazil, identified, tied down before anyone – even, seemingly, his club Fluminense – realise quite how good he is.  We then have fifteen months of watching bigger clubs circling, with Fluminense asserting that being persuaded to sell their player before he’d even made his debut for less than he turned out to be worth was somehow underhand.  None of these threats get anyone anywhere and we get to feel very smug about the whole thing – the scouting, the decisiveness, the persuasive powers, the savvy, the end product.

Then he turns eighteen, and gets to sign terms and arrives in England. And with that sort of backstory… well, no pressure, son.  Within a couple of months of his arrival not speaking English and on the other side of the world to home everything goes pear-shaped, the world shuts down.  When it clunks back into gear again Watford are relegated and the Boy from Brazil is in a rather different environment to the one he perhaps anticipated.

It says a lot for Watford that he’s done so well.  It can only reflect well on the support afforded to him in circumstances difficult for those providing the support as much as for anyone else.  But it reflects well on João Pedro too.  In how many versions of this story does he flatter to deceive, or disappear into himself.  Maybe he’s got a trick but can’t communicate with or relate to his teammates.  Perhaps he’s just not able to show the ability that persuaded us to fork out that money for him.

Not a bit of it.  Nine goals and seven assists in his first full season, promotion secured in a campaign in which he was effectively a first choice throughout.  Sharp in front of goal, aware of what’s around him, a touch and control that allows him to float in possession, like he’s in some kind of protective bubble.  And he’s hard as nails too, no frail kid that’s going to get battered off the ball.  That goal at Derby… just ridiculous.  Outrageous. One of the best “go mental in the living room” moments of the season, so in control of the situation.

And he’s still a teenager by the way.  Yeah, he’ll do.

Next Season: That we need options up front doesn’t detract from the fact that João Pedro is a great option.  The only slight puzzle is in why, given the above, we’re not a little bit more excited…


1. Peter - 20/05/2021

Your summary on Troy is simply the best response to the constant harping of a bone fide Watford legend, by the faceless keyboard warriors that I have ever read – brilliant once again sir!

“He’s not the messiah! He’s a very naughty boy!” – but he’s our naughty boy and some people have forgotten that.

Matt Rowson - 20/05/2021

Thank you. Childishly proud of it.

2. ukmalc - 20/05/2021

Damn you Peter! Rushed here to say much the same. A very good summary Matt and as one of those referred to in the closing remarks, I hope I’m proven wrong.

3. Ben - 20/05/2021

It is still possible to acknowledge all that Troy has done for us and advocate for him taking a back seat or finding another club for his twilight years. It seems pretty obvious to me we have to move beyond him and sign a couple of better striking options pretty sharpish. Loved the Monty Python analogy though.

Matt Rowson - 20/05/2021

No question. They’re two separate issues – respecting what he’s done, evaluating what he can still do. I agree that we need new striking options, but don’t agree that he is out of the picture or past it. Given that he’s still on a contract that others won’t want to replicate in these circumstances or any other, he’ll be around whether folk like it or not. It baffles me that so many aren’t capable of saying “OK, I’ve got reservations but I hope I’m wrong let’s see”.

davidfishermusic - 22/05/2021

I suppose there will be those who question whether Deeney’s track record of shooting his mouth off might mean that his presence has the potential to be a negative, rather than at worst neutral.

I’m not one of those, and it seems clear that the mutual respect between Muñoz and Deeney means that Troy won’t be kicking off if he doesn’t get much of a look in for game time. I’d be surprised if Troy makes much of an impact next year, but as you say, I’d be delighted to be surprised.

4. Dougie Brimson - 20/05/2021

I rarely disagree with what you say Matt, but the Deeney stuff…

How many games have we walked away from games having seen Watford have barely a single shot on target, if any at all? How many games did he just go absent? How many times was he booked or sent off not because he was giving his all, but because he was overtaken by petulance?

And off the pitch, how many crass comments has he made? Not just the cajones remark (which subsequently caused all sorts of problems), or saying the penalty miss against Chelsea didn’t matter, but only recently when he talked about glassing managers? And what about the rumoured influences elsewhere within the club? The ongoing disrespect of Luther Blissett being a prime example.

Yes, he’s been a great servant to the club and yes, he carried us through more than enough games. But his time is up. To some, it’s a parting of the ways that’s long overdue.

Matt Rowson - 20/05/2021

As above Dougie, I think the two questions are largely distinct. What’s he done vs what can he still do.

As regards the latter, you say his time is up. You’re entitled to that opinion, you’re far from the only one to hold it, we’ll wait and see. And I think we WILL see, since I doubt he’s going anywhere. I’m far from convinced that he’s a busted flush.

But most of your preceding arguments amount to an assessment of what’s gone before. You acknowledge that he’s been a great servant to the club and carried us through loads of games, but your arguments pick at that assessment in a manner that I find imbalanced.

Yes, he’s been petulant at times but I think the answer to your question (how many times…) is not that many, not really. Not for a combative centre forward and captain. The number of times when he’s lost his rag and its cost us is dwarfed by the number of times when his competitiveness has won us games.

And crass comments? Some. Not many. You take the rough with the smooth… you don’t get a reputation for talking straight without saying things that will upset people but I don’t agree that he frequently oversteps the mark as you imply (and I’m speaking having been on the receiving end of some of his candour, albeit indirectly). The “cojones” comment came back to haunt him every time we played Arsenal, but it wasn’t crass or, indeed, inaccurate. It was just ill-judged in that it was all the motivation that Arsenal team needed.

So you’re entitled to your opinion on his usefulness. We disagree on that, and it’s a matter of judgement after all, not “facts”. But any reasonable assessment of what’s gone before comes to a very different conclusion to yours.

5. Ben Thornhil - 20/05/2021

As long as he is 3rd/4th choice, I am more than happy to have him around. I’d rather the club try to move him off the wage bill though given the financial backdrop but, as you say, no one will pay his current wages now.

6. Steve G - 20/05/2021

I hope that you are right, Matt, although I have to say that I haven’t seen much on the field in the last season (well, apart from the penalties, obviously) to give me the optimism that you clearly retain. I’m not sure if that makes me a member of the Popular Front of the Rookery or the Rookery Popular Front, although hopefully not just a splitter.

Where I do think that we’re in a better position is that I think his injury came at a helpful time, allowing Xisco to change the shape and try something different without this being ‘A Big Decision To Drop Deeney.’ The fact that others, notably Foster, but also Cathcart and Kabasele, have lost an automatic first team place without obviously doing anything wrong, puts this in a less dramatic context as well. Arguably now to bring back Deeney as an automatic first choice at the expense of João Pedro, say, would be seen as an equally big call.

I think Xisco’s now in a strong position – if Troy can win a place back in the first team on merit, that’s great. If not, then it won’t be such a big deal as it would have been a few months ago – and hopefully he’ll still be able to make an impact from the bench often enough to make us all smile. And we’ll always have the memories of all the good stuff.

Always look on the bright side…

7. Tim Wells - 21/05/2021

This is a tough one, re Deeney . He has given me some of my best memories as a fan and without him we wouldn’t have achieved half of what we have in the last ,6 years or so if you talk to any other fans of different clubs , casual fans who don’t know much who would they remember as being a Watford player Deeney is the answer unquestionably. That tells you what he has achieved in the top league. I can understand Dougie Brimsons point though

My take is that you shouldn’t write Deeney off he has guts if he can get injury free and start to enjoy his game again he will be an asset that experience and his fighting qualities and all round game will be important in a tough league . We need other options though . As long as he will accept maybe coming off the bench at times

8. Chris Hockin - 23/05/2021

Fantastic re Troy and totally with you (and Troy of course)

9. Vic Bait - 24/05/2021

The Deeney post, whilst entertaining, doesn’t actually assess his performance this season (unlike all the other players) – and that is the nub of the problem. We dropped down a division and Troy’s performances were for the most part, ineffective. And this is coming on the back of 2-3 seasons in the Premier League where he hasn’t been consistently playing well. The statistics are there and unarguable – he is not a goal threat from open play anymore. So does his all round game do enough to compensate for that? I’d argue no. It’s too static, too predictable, too interested in winning a wrestling battle near the halfway line. Obviously it would be great if he could prove me wrong but it would be very much going against the grain of the last few years which have seen a steady but unmistakable decline. It’s no coincidence that we sparked into life when he was out of the team this season. A legend. Yes. A Premier League striker these days? No.

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