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Season Preview 2022 – Part 1 24/07/2022

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

As much discussed, I didn’t need a break anyway.  Four today, four tomorrow and so on…


INS: Przemysław Płacheta (Norwich City, Season Loan), John Ruddy (Wolves, Free), Finley Thorndike (Aston Villa, Free), Dion Sanderson (Wolves, Season Loan), Auson Trusty (Arsenal, Season Loan)

OUTS: Iván Sánchez (Real Valladolid, Undisclosed), Fran Villalba (Sporting Gijon, Undisclosed), Kyle Hurst (Doncaster Rovers, Free), Archie Matthews (Swansea City, Free), Kristian Pedersen (1.F.C.Köln, Free), Oriol Soldevila (Intercity, Free), Ivan Šunjić (Hertha BSC, Season Loan), Jérémie Bela, Renedi Masampu, Kane Thompson-Sommers, Connal Trueman, Yoane Zohore, Tahith Chong (Manchester United, End of Loan), Lyle Taylor (Nottingham Forest, End of Loan)


THEIR EX-ORNS: Troy Deeney, John Eustace (manager)


2020-21 3-0 1-0
2014-15 1-0
2013-14 1-0
2012-13 2-0
2011-12 2-2
2008-09 0-1
2001-02 3-3 2-3
2000-01 2-0 0-2
1999-00 0-1
1998-99 1-1 2-1 1-0 / 0-1
1995-96 1-1 0-1
1983-84 3-1


Colin                    Sanderson           Roberts             Trusty
Woods        Bacuna      James
Płacheta                        Leko

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: Despite our Championship season two years ago – which after all was largely played in front of empty stadiums – it’s been a while since Watford fans had any kind of proper feel for the state of clubs at this level.  Club colours, sure, histories, key confrontations in the past (depending on how old you are) will all still be there, but not the feel for opponents borne of familiarity.

So… markers indicating the current state of play are welcome, and there are few more clear-cut or explicit than the threat of association with Laurence Bassini.  A dead giveaway, rust on the undercarriage, the stench of damp.  We wouldn’t wish this on anyone of course, and Blues fans seemed to be under few illusions as to the credibility of their mooted new owner despite the uncertain state of the club’s current ownership – mercifully that threat subsided. Instead the new Hornet on the block is John Eustace who comes infinitely more highly recommended having, by all accounts, narrowly missed out on Rob Edwards’ job earlier in the window.

St Andrews is mid-rebuild, so home games lack atmosphere and a side short of goals with a threadbare set of defensive options as I write will struggle this season.  Having Troy (and John) in their corner is never going to be a bad thing but at 34 and with another injury-limited season behind him his on-pitch impact has been limited and whilst there are some useful prospects coming through you’d want a more solid base to introduce them around.  Definitely under threat, in more ways than one.


INS: Callum Brittain (Barnsley, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Luke Brennan (Wigan Athletic, Free), Harry Chapman (Bradford City, Free), Sam Durrant (Sheffield Wednesday, Free), Bradley Johnson (Milton Keynes Dons, Free), Darragh Lenihan (Middlesbrough, Free), Ryan Nyambe (Wigan Athletic, Free), Joe Rothwell (AFC Bournemouth, Free), Jacob Davenport, Connor McBride, Joe Nolan, Ryan Giles (Wolves, End of Loan), Reda Khadra (Brighton, End of Loan), Ian Poveda (Leeds United, End of Loan), Jean Paul van Hecke (Brighton, End of Loan), Deyovaisio Zeefuik (Hertha BSC, End of Loan)




2021-22 3-1 3-2
2014-15 1-0
2013-14 3-3
2012-13 4-0
2000-01 0-1 4-3
1995-96 1-2


Brittain         Ayala         Wharton         Pickering
Buckley       Travis       Dack
Dolan             Gallagher          Brereton-Díaz

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: Those of you who old enough may have shared and will therefore remember the trauma of Graham Taylor’s first departure in 1987.  All sorts of emotions jumbled around, but the one I remember most distinctly as a then 14 year old was the crushing sense of inevitability of the collapse and misery that would follow.  There was a brief window two months later, a few minutes as Dave Bassett lead his new charges onto the Vicarage Road pitch where I thought, maybe I’d been wrong.  Maybe everything would be ok after all, It didn’t last long.

You may recall other such moments where a chasm opened up before you, both in watching football and elsewhere in life.  At the risk of being provocative, it doesn’t really take much effort.  I wonder if Rovers fans feel the same about the Venkys takeover in 2010.  The preceding 20 years or so hadn’t been without bumps in the road but Rovers had won promotion, challenged pretty much immediately, won the Premier League in 1995 and were solidly mid-table at worst for most of what followed. Since relegation in 2012 they’ve not as much as made the play-offs, and spent a season in League One five years ago.

Under Tony Mowbray a solid Rovers side spent some time in the play-off picture last season before falling away, but reports suggest that this was a half-decent mid-table side reaching rather than a genuine promotion contender suddenly losing form.  Since then the departures of key senior players in Lenihan and Rothwell on frees out of contract suggests that being a mid-table obstacle is the best Rovers can hope for this season, though new head coach Jon Dahl Tomasson is a bit of a wild card.


INS: Lewis Fiorini (Manchester City, Season Loan), Rhys Williams (Liverpool, Season Loan)

OUTS: Ethan Robson (Milton Keynes Dons, Free), Oliver Casey (Forest Green Rovers, Season Loan), Cameron Antwi, Ryan Grant, Johnny Johnston, Matthew Liptrott, Charlie Monks, Sky Sinclair, Grant Ward, Tyreece John-Jules (Arsenal, End of Loan), Charlie Kirk (Charlton, End of Loan), Dujon Sterling (Chelsea, End of Loan),

OUR EX-SEASIDERS: Craig Cathcart, Rob Edwards, Dan Gosling, Richie Kyle

THEIR EX-ORNS: David Kerslake (assistant head coach)


2014-15 7-2 1-0
2013-14 4-0
2012-13 1-2
2011-12 0-2
2009-10 2-2
2008-09 3-4
2007-08 1-1
1997-98 4-1 1-1
1996-97 2-2 1-1


Gabriel          Ekpiteta            Keogh         Husband
Bowler            Dougall           Stewart           Anderson
Madine         Yates

VERDICT: As above, it’s been a fair few years since we were in stadia, crossing swords with many of these clubs.  The lack of such encounters has tamed some of the rivalries; there’s no Bournemouth or Palace in the division for the moment, no rival whose basis is competitive rather than geographic.  Those will come if we hang around here long enough, but for the moment it’s possible to feel more warmth towards some of our opponents than we’ll probably be feeling after a crotchety 0-0 draw in January and on that note it’s good to see Blackpool fans being able to enjoy watching their team again after some thoroughly unpleasant and difficult years during which protesting against the ownership of the odious Oyston family was necessarily a focus.  As we’ve discussed on here before, watching your club is the first objective above watching your club win stuff.  It’s a given, a minimum requirement.  Difficult to do so with a clear conscience for Seasiders until relatively recently.  Their recent successes and those of Brighton for instance, both back from different flavours of misery, are surely a source of hope for supporters of clubs currently struggling.

Last season was Blackpool’s first at this level since 2015;  as we left the division in one direction, the Seasiders were leaving it in the other (7-2 wins and so forth) – the first of consecutive relegations.  A steady enough 16th last year was perceived as plenty good enough for the moment thank you, but the loss of highly thought-of boss Neil Critchley to Aston Villa was a blow after two good years.   Replacement Michael Appleton, who had a remarkably brief and unsuccessful spell at Bloomfield Road ten years ago, is a wily coach who inherits a tough, hardworking team with dashes of quality in winger Josh Bowler and centre back Marvin Ekpiteta, but you’d imagine that emulating last season’s inconspicuous but untroubled finish would once again be just fine.


INS: Stefan Bajic (Pau, Free), Kai Naismith (Luton Town, Free), Mark Sykes (Oxford United, Free), Kane Wilson (Forest Green Rovers, Free)

OUTS: Tyreeq Bakinson (Sheffield Wednesday, Undisclosed), Saikou Janneh (Cambridge United, Undisclosed), Kasey Palmer (Coventry City, Undisclosed), Louis Britton (Cork City, Free), Robbie Cundy (Barnsley, Free), Callum O’Dowda (Cardiff City, Free), Owura Edwards (Ross County, Season Loan), Taylor Moore (Shrewsbury Town, Season Loan), James Taylor (Cheltenham Town, Season Loan), Khari Allen, Barney Soady, Nathaniel Williams

OUR EX-ROBINS: Ben Hamer, Danny Rose

THEIR EX-ORNS: Nigel Pearson (manager), Andi Weimann


2020-21 6-0 0-0
2017-18 3-0 2-3
2013-14 1-1 / 2-0
2012-13 2-2
2011-12 2-2 2-0
2010-11 1-3 2-0
2009-10 2-0
2008-09 2-4
2003-04 0-1
2001-02 3-2
1998-99 1-0 4-1
1997-98 1-1 1-1
1996-97 3-0 1-1 2-1


Kalas      Naismith     Atkinson
Wilson               James          Scott              Dasilva
Martin          Semenyo

BLUFFER’S GUIDE: The big win over City in February of last year was transparently a turning point for the Hornets.  Three games without a win at that stage and Xisco’s positive start looked in danger of petering out but six goals against City pre-empted a run of ten wins in eleven games with only a contentious defeat in Dorset blotting the copybook.

Meanwhile at Ashton Gate, boss Dean Holden was sacked ten days later.  His replacement was a familiar face in Nigel Pearson and whilst slipping from City’s traditional mid-table slot to a slightly more precarious 17th isn’t a good look, there are reasons for cautious optimism.   City scored 62 goals last season, more than anyone else outside the top six…  Andi Weimann enjoyed comfortably the most prolific season of his career with 22 a full decade after his most recent loan at Vicarage Road, and he forms a decent forward line with Chris Martin and Antoine Semenyo.  Over-reliance on Martin, only six months younger than Troy, may be an issue and Semenyo, linked to the Hornets a couple of times last season, misses the start of the campaign with an injury picked up with Ghana but having a decent forward line with question marks is a better state of affairs than most of the teams in the division can boast.  The problems have been defensively;  only Reading and relegated Peterborough conceded more.  Recruitment has been reasonably encouraging with Kai Naismith a surprise steal from Luton and Kane Wilson another to have been linked with the Hornets coming in at right wing back.  There are, by all accounts, good kids coming through with Alex Scott, part of England’s U19 Euros winning side, another name to watch. Nonetheless, you’re probably looking at City being a bit more comfortable with a puncher’s chance of a play-off place at best.


1. Ray Knight - 24/07/2022

Hi Matt – A big welcome back. Looking forward to your more reasoned balanced reports after a summer of negativity on many WFC fans forums.

Matt Rowson - 24/07/2022

Thanks Ray. Have to confess that from my end it doesn’t feel as if I’ve been away…. 🙂

2. An Athleticzale Holds Forth - 24/07/2022

You mentioned the former captain’s injuries meant he had little impact on the Blue Noses season. However, when he joined they were on the fringes of the playoffs, when the first injury occurred they were just above the relegation zone. His second shorter spell in the XI, coincided with another dip in form. Presumably though, as it happened twice, there must be some correlation with their positioning in the table.

Matt Rowson - 24/07/2022

I didn’t watch Blues play, I’ve no idea how effective or otherwise Troy was. If your account of their success or lack of with him in the team is accurate then it doesn’t look great but “must be a correlation”, having worked as a statistician for 25+ years, is a bit of a reach…

Paultheshrink - 24/07/2022

My limited knowledge of statistics suggests a correlation but with a large p value?
Shall I go back into my corner now?

Matt Rowson - 24/07/2022

Correlation doesn’t imply causation directly whatever the p 😊

3. Kristoffer Vad - 25/07/2022

Nice to get back to a regular part of getting in (fan)shape for the new season – these previews are always enjoyable, but as you allude to yourself Matt, this time round we are getting reacquainted with teams we haven’t really experienced for a long time – despite playing most of them behind closed doors a couple of seasons ago.

As a Dane I feel I should add to the part about Jon Dahl Tomasson. The player who is tied for most goals for Denmark, 99% tap-ins from inside the 6-yard box. He managed Malmö FF in Sweden with great success winning the league and doing reasonably well in Europe. But this was with one of if not the strongest squads in the league. His previous stints in management have been mediocre at best.

Matt Rowson - 25/07/2022

Thanks Kris. Wonder whether he has a sort of celebrity pull in the way that Zola may have done at Watford – particularly in Scandinavia. If he does, Blackburn don’t seem to be exploiting it.

Kristoffer Vad - 25/07/2022

He might have some celebrity in the Nordics and in Holland, but nothing like Zola. But he will have contacts in clubs like Feyernoord and Ajax that could lead to loans. But I doubt he could attract talent beyond what a championship club could attract anyway.

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