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End of Term Report 2021 – Part 5 28/05/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

18- Andre Gray

You know that thing about, “does a high transfer fee put pressure on a player?”…

Four years on, the case for the prosecution.  The transfer fee, widely reported as £18 million but elsewhere as £11.5 with the potential to rise still influences our judgement I think.  Had he come on a free, even if out of contract and effectively costing a lot more in salary and agent’s fees because of his negotiating position he would have been judged a lot less severely.

That said, his transfer fee isn’t the only thing making life harder for Andre Gray.  His surly manner, his transgressions during lockdown – once, understandable if not forgivable, twice suggesting contempt.  On the pitch…  once again, he’s looked like a half-decent player playing badly a lot of the time, either working hard for little return or just not fitting.  It’s been difficult to shake the old thing about his being too inflexible a tool, only useful at doing one particular job, incapable of adapting to what the team needed him to be.

He impressed pre-season against Spurs until a hamstring pull ruled him out for the first two months of the campaign after which he would start only 14 of 46 Championship games, his involvement spasmodic from the off.  It would be wrong to say he is or was awful… life isn’t as black and white as that.   Very occasionally he spluttered into life, and could be relied on to put a shift in off the bench.  It never felt like enough.

Next Season:  At his most effective Gray is waspish and belligerent.  Too often recently his frustrations have been channelled negatively. Rarely can a player have been in such severe need of a fresh start.  

19- Will Hughes

As discussed many times, a number of inconveniences collaborated to relegate us at the end of the 2019/20 season. However if we got a lucky break that summer, the hope left blinking from the bottom of Pandora’s box, it was Will Hughes’ unspecified “medical procedure”.  It kept him out for much of the season – he never started a game under Vladimir Ivić – but his absence from view may have dissuaded a Premier League club from moving in, leaving him free to pick up the baton at the back of the midfield.

From that point he was the side’s conductor, setting the beat, dictating the rhythm.  He’d been every flavour of midfielder in his Watford career up to the point… a ratter, a wide player, a continuity player, a bullet-loader behind the forwards – flexible in exactly the way that Gray isn’t, I guess –  but suddenly he was the most indispensable component of the side, and indeed didn’t miss a game from Bristol City until the final day. The only thing he’s ever missed is a bit of pace, and playing the metronome role that’s all but irrelevant.  A glorious half-season from a very fine player.

Next Season: It’s difficult conceive of many sides at any level that wouldn’t be improved by Will Hughes.  Tough, ‘cos he’s ours…

21- Kiko Femenía

This never seemed likely.  When we went down…  not someone you’d necessarily have expected to jump ship, but a return to Spain was rumoured and felt horribly credible.  Collateral damage of our relegation.

The move didn’t happen. Kiko stayed.  And not just that, but he didn’t skip a beat… whether filling in for Masina’s absence on the left or thundering down the right flank.  No sulking. No, “I’m better than this”.  Just an absolutely relentless, irrepressible overlapping machine.  My vote for POTS, for what it’s worth, since however temporary and forgivable the early frustrations of his partner in crime down the right flank they were frustrations that Kiko didn’t let hamper him in the same way.  Only at Kenilworth Road, of all places, did his levels slip.

But that right flank wasn’t half a terrifying thing once it got going. Doubling up on Sarr might have seemed like a good idea for any opponent until the first time Kiko charged past on the outside to hoover up the pieces.  It was devastating, exhilarating, and slightly unfair.

Next Season: There’s a credible argument suggesting that Kiko is a more effective right back in a dominant side, a side that will enjoy a lot of possession such that his attacking tendencies aren’t as exposed.  Whatever.  Kiko has three years’ Premier League experience and is huge fun.  We’re lucky to have him.

22- Isaac Success

Lots of good bits and lots of iffy bits.  If Isaac had just arrived, say, like Zinc, you’d be quite excited.

As it is… even those of us keen to see him harness his strength, touch and personality into a coherent, credible footballer are running out of patience. This was evident in the lack of sympathy, lack of allowance for the fact that Isaac had been out for over a year before returning to the side in March.  That’s not trivial.  A A Will Hughes, a Sarr or a Deeney would have taken time to get back into gear.

Isaac’s issue was perhaps that he’s never been in gear for long enough for folk to hanker after his top form.  His most convincing spell was perhaps as a centre-forward in Troy’s absence early in the Cup Final season… I do think that he’s more effective as a target man, holding up play, being a totem, than as a winger.  But we’ve not seen enough of anything for a sustained spell.

There’s clearly something there.  Xisco clearly felt so, giving the Nigerian a reasonable amount of match time on his return to the fold.  And if you wanted to squint at it a certain way there were reasons for optimism…  but for every neat touch or clever through ball there were instances of Success not making the run, not making the challenge.  Hugely frustrating.

Next Season:  The Swansea goal was everything good and bad about Isaac.  Good, because of the power, the control, the ferocity of the final goal of the season.  Bad because…  for pity’s sake.  This is what he’s capable of.  How rarely do we see it.  Isaac needs to pull his finger out before his career fizzles out altogether.  He’s already had several chances to do so at Vicarage Road and may not get another.


1. paullbaxter - 31/05/2021

Kiko was my Player of the Season, too. Great attitude and the highlight of the season was his link up play with Sarr. Success is such a frustrating player. I remember seeing him come on as sub at Manchester City and completely destroying Zabaleta- he was just too strong and fast for him. That was quite a long time ago now, though, and I think it is time for him to move on as with AG.

2. Fez - 31/05/2021

If only Gray and Success had one iota of the stuff that makes Kiko (also got my vote for PotS as we discussed in “Helping Hands”) and Will have to see them perform at a high level week in week out! It’s not something that can be taught, it’s something we lesser mortals have to make the best of our limited talents and understandably get frustrated when clearly more gifted individuals just do not seem to put in the required effort.
Do Watford stick or Twist? It’s like having 17 on the Blackjack table: potentially a winning hand, but unlikely to be enough. We’ve stuck for several seasons and the stakes have now gone up: Dealer, hit me.

Matt Rowson - 31/05/2021

I don’t see lack of effort with Gray. Lack of belief and flexibility more so.

Crisb - 31/05/2021

Yes, it’s one step forward and two steps back with Gray. Should have plenty of credit in the bank (that cup goal run amongst others), but has frittered it all away on lockdown parties and I’ll advised ear cupping…

3. David Wray - 31/05/2021

Kiko for me as well as POTs. Over the whole season he was so effective.

Crisb - 31/05/2021

Yes I would have bet on him taking the opportunity to go back to Spain, which he could have done without too many cries of anguish. The fact he stayed and knuckled down to boot was wonderful.

4. davidfishermusic - 31/05/2021

If rumours about Eddie Nketiah are to be believed (and I hope they are), it’s difficult to see Gray or Success getting a look in next year. I wish AG well and he could easily rediscover his form at a mid table championship side. Difficult to see who might want to take Success off our hands given the likely wage demands but perhaps a loan/transfer abroad.

A youthful front 3 of Sarr, Pedro and Nketiah looks deliciously tempting on paper, with plenty in reserve in the form of Sema, Deeney, Hungbo, Fletcher, Perica – Zinc and potentially Ashley Young (as with Nketiah -yes please) too as options in the wide positions. The squad will need some trimming and Gray and Success could well be first in line (I assume Stuparevic and Cucho are destined to remain on the list of Watford players who never play for Watford).

Get Young and Nketiah in and it’s difficult to see where else we need to buy. Strength in the first XI and in depth all over the pitch. On which note, I do hope Kiko continues to prove himself in the Premier League next year. Great to watch

Matt Rowson - 31/05/2021


Cucho I thought was supposed to be joining us next season, and would have done this had we stayed up. Perica barely got a game in the Championship…

Deeney as “depth”? As previously, you can be the one to tell him. But Nketiah does look fun.

I think we need midfield physicality. Without Doucs and Capoue, we might be bullied?

davidfishermusic - 31/05/2021

Fletcher being Ashley Fletcher. Can’t recall seeing him play but it seems we’ve been tracking him for a while and see him as a decent nothing-to-lose punt. Looked an odd signing to me but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

And yes, I certainly wouldn’t say that to Deeney’s face. I’d be surprised if he starts a huge amount of games next season but I’d be delighted to be proven wrong if he can still cut it at the top level. Thats good to hear about Cucho, will be interesting to see what he brings. What news on Peñaranda? And Quina for that matter.

You could well be right about midfield. Difficult balance to strike as you don’t want to block opportunities for the likes of Dele-Bashiru, who I thought looked an excellent prospect before his unfortunate injury. Though clearly would need to be surrounded by a bit of brawn.

Matt Rowson - 01/06/2021

I know who you meant by Fletcher. But for all the fanfare we never actually announced him did we?

davidfishermusic - 01/06/2021

Did we not announce him? I thought a pre contract agreement had been confirmed but I could very well be wrong.

Either way, we’ve got some exciting options for the front 3!

Matt Rowson - 01/06/2021

No. Not announced. All gone very quiet.

Crisb - 31/05/2021

Success has been visiting the last chance saloon for so long he has his own Tankard behind the bar.. to me he has all the hallmarks of someone who leaves at the end of their contract and not a moment sooner.

Matt Rowson - 31/05/2021


5. David - 31/05/2021

Success is without doubt the worst “good player” I have seen playing for watford in my 40 years. The definition of the worst good player will fall beneath Matt’s statistical standards but for me it is summed up by the phrase “never trust a player about whom it is said, on his day”.

6. Jeff Lloyd - 07/06/2021

Mark Viduka used to tail off towards the end of a contract then be the best footballer in Europe just as the contracts were being discussed. Success’ Swansea strike had that same feel to it…
I’m so pleased to be amongst fellow Kiko voters. To the point that I’m wondering how he didn’t win POTS.
I have just watched Gray notch for Jamaica. A really well taken goal. Instinctive. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that he’d have put that 3 feet wide of either post in a WFC shirt.

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