Tuesday, 24 May 2011

How much is Danny Graham worth?

The sun is only just setting on a better than expected season for the Hornets, yet we are hearing that an offer has already come in for our player of the season and the Championship's top scorer Danny Graham. Now I guess we expected some interest in the close season and if we're realistic, it's doubtful we'll see Danny in a Watford shirt come August. But for it all to kick off so soon? I have my theory – Neil Warnock's getting in early just in case Swansea and our old friend Mr. Rodgers come sniffing around post play off final. What could be good for us though is that it starts off a bidding war as other interested parties join in, not wanting to miss out on the goal getter. And this seems to be the key conversation topic amongst fellow fans. How much is Danny worth?

Friend of the podcast from across the pond @Curtiford asked fellow fans on Twitter that very question. I responded with an off the top of my head figure of £4 million, maybe £5 million. And that seems to sit somewhere within the general consensus, looking at the responses to the very same question asked by the Watford Observer online. But that doesn't seem very scientific does it? The club must have their ideas of what constitutes a good price, the minimum they would take if no-one reaches the valuation come 31st August, the “offer we can't refuse”. They're the pro's so will know what they're doing, hopefully! But we'll take a look, in particular at previous Championship top scorers, to see if we can work out how much cash we can expect for our star striker.

In the previous three seasons, Peter Whittingham & Nicky Maynard shared the award and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake won the other two. And none of those three have left their clubs since, although Ebanks-Blake did move from Plymouth Argyle to Wolves for £1.5m halfway through the first season he won the award. Going back a further season, Jamie Cureton was top scorer with 23 goals in 44 appearances for Colchester United. He left at the end of the season for a mere £825,000. However comparisons with Danny are poor. Cureton was turning 32 at the beginning of the following season and had expressed concerns at the ambitions of his current side, eventually stating that he would like to return to old club Norwich City. I do not recall Cureton being talked about in terms of Premier League potential at that stage of his career and the Canaries were heading donwards rather than the lofty heights they are heading for now. Not surprisingly, Cureton is no longer part of the setup at Carrow Road and is now turning out for Exeter City.

Next? Well we're now in the 2005-06 season. Some bloke called Marlon King got the award that season. We all know what happened to him! If you need reminding, he was injured for a large chunk of the season and all my non WFC supporting mates told me we'd probably have stayed up if he'd been fit all season. Not sure I agree with them. Still, he seemed to believe his own hype and seemed more interested in playing for himself at the beginning of that 2007-08 season, eventually securing an “undisclosed” £3-4million move to Wigan. Did we get any of those add ons? I'm not really sure, but then who does know what happened to a lot of the money coming in around that period?

As for the top scorer in 2004-05. Now we're getting somewhere! 24 goals in 45 games – same as Danny's record. He was 23 at the start of the season, only a couple of years younger than Danny at the beginning of this season and had previously plied his trade at a lower level. However, Nathan Ellington had already cost Wigan £1.5m to get this far. At the end of the 2004-05 season West Brom signed Ellington for £3,000,001 – activating the clause in his contract that allowed him to leave for any offer over £3m. And then despite a less than successful time at the Albion, Aidy Boothroyd splashed out an initial £3.5m (rising to £4.5m with add-ons) on the striker.

So does that help put a value on Danny Graham. I don't think it does!! All these players had different circumstances – age, experience, baggage! I guess that Ellington comes reasonably close. And had Plymouth held onto Ebanks-Blake until the end of the season & sold him to an EPL club in 2008, that might have given us a better idea. What else can we look at? Craig Mackail-Smith of Peterborough is this season's League One top scorer and he's being talked about in terms of £3.5m. He only managed 10 goals in the previous season in the Championship, but had a 20+ season the year before back in League One. So with Danny getting his big haul at a higher level in a mid table team, rather than a big fish in a smaller pond, does that make him more valuable? That would put him in the £4-£5m bracket, which is where I had him at the start of this blog piece and is where I think I'd put his value now.

One more reference to use. Last season the League Champions' leading goalscorer managed 17 league goals. Not as many as Danny, despite playing in the best team in the division. In January 2011, that same player, Andy Carroll, was sold to Liverpool for £35m. Well we can dream can't we?



Remember you can get these blog posts straight into your inbox by entering your email address in the "Subscribe by Email" box in the right hand column of this page. Or if you're really technical you can use this RSS code

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Watford's season on aggregate

23 oppositions played home and away. A Championship season is 46 games, each one lasting 90 minutes, each giving a result - Win, Lose or Draw. However, what if every Championship result was done on aggregate?

With that thought on my mind, and for a bit of fun and to take a different look at the 2010-2011 season, I've put together the home and away results for every Watford results from the last season to see if things looked a little different. Oh, and away goal rule was enforced.

10 wins, 12 losses and 1 out and out draws.

I'd kind of hoped for a significant difference, a way of showing that we've had a season worthy of higher finish in the league. It certainly felt like a finish higher then we achieved. But the results still make sense for a club that finish 14th out of 24.

A few things stand out - The most boring games were our clashes against Barnsley - only 1 goal in 180 minutes. And the most entertaining seems to be our games with Leicester and Cardiff - 11 goals in each tie.

One interesting point is our record against the clubs that finish top and bottom of the league.

Top 2 - both wins - and we beat both at their place.
Playoff places - 1 win, 2 losses and a draw.
Bottom 3 - Only 1 win and 2 losses.

So does anything stand out for you, do any of the aggregate results paint a better picture of a the performance you saw on the pitch and do any of them make you proud?


Remember you can get these blog posts straight into your inbox by entering your email address in the "Subscribe by Email" box in the right hand column of this page. Or if you're really technical you can use this RSS code

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The (Preston North) End of the season

Watford’s last game of an eventful season took place at Deepdale, the home of relegated Preston North End. Despite the unhelpful early kick off time (12:45?!) over 500 Hornets fans made the long trip North. Among them was ‘From the Rookery End’ listener Anthony Halpin, who shares his thoughts on the trip below.

A huge thanks to Anthony for taking the time a) to go to Preston and b) to write about it for us. Enjoy

I set off for Watford Junction, catching a train to London Euston at 7:28am, which I’m sure you’ll agree is rather uncalled for on a Saturday morning. After catching the Preston train, our early morning efforts were rewarded when my friend and I managed to obtain free First Class Tickets. I could tell you how we got them, but I’d have to kill you!

Shortly after getting comfortable, we were greeted by the unmistakable sight of Mr Bassini and Mr Panos Thomas. They approached us in a polite manner, before asking us to move – apparently we were in their seats! For the rest of the journey they appeared to be in deep conversation with current Board Member and Ex-Chairman Stuart Timperly, and several other unidentified people. Not wanting want to risk interrupting anything important, we left them to it.

The walk to the ground was one of the easier ones I’ve had, a twenty minute walk to Deepdale from Preston Station. After having a short look around the town, it was decided that the best bet would be to head straight to the ground for a few pre match drinks and by using a combination of my phone’s GPS (Incredible things these days) and simply following depressed people in white football shirts seemingly in a depressed state, we quickly found ourselves at the ground. Once there, I forked out £3 for a flimsy programme that made ours look like an encyclopaedia (Not every programme is lucky enough to have a From the Rookery End page! – Ed).
About 30 minutes prior to kick off, I knew it was going to be one of those days. With the players warming up and taking shots at Scott Loach, I noticed a large sign saying “Warning! Balls may be kicked into the stands during the warm up. Please take care!” It proved to be a wise warning, as Danny Graham, Lee Hodson and John Eustace all blasted balls into the crowd within the space of about 45 seconds. Not a good sign.

Preston, like us, decided to have their annual awards on the pitch just before the game, however most of the fans would have been looking at something else. A plane flew over Deepdale four times, with the message “Poor Little Preston, Enjoy League 1” which raised a laugh from the Watford supporters.

As the match kicked off, the atmosphere felt like a home game, with the “Yellow Order” making all the noise at the back and the quieter supporters at the bottom, nearer the front. Had we not had some really good seats, we most likely would have moved up to the top to enjoy the atmosphere.

The game started really well for Watford, with the first twenty minutes starting like we had for most of the season, bursting out the blocks, creating several chances and scoring, with selfless Danny Graham turning provider for Andreas Weiiman who turned in his cross to give Watford the lead.

Watford created several other chances, with Sean Murray catching the eye, before what seemed to be the turning point in the game took place. Martin Taylor has been an absolute rock this season. Not only is he a giant lump at the back who’ll win any header, but he’s a really good footballer too. In the space of twenty minutes on Saturday, he intercepted countless Preston passes, whilst completing a number of his own too. The game changed when he went down injured in front of us at the Watford end, his frustration clear as he took of his boot and slammed it to the floor as he struggled to stand on his ankle.

As we applauded ‘Tiny’ from the pitch we were treated to a Watford debut for young Tommie Hoban, who for the rest of the first half played extremely well. Despite a bright start, the Preston equalizer was a major disappointment. I’ve only seen the goal once since I got back, but it looked as though Loach could have done better with what was a shot from distance. Preston smelled blood, and took the game straight to us, cracking efforts against the crossbar twice before the end of the first half as Watford struggled to create chances.

The half time highlight came when just before the second half began, the plane made another appearance! This time the message behind it said ‘We are always superior, love Blackpool FC’ causing more laughter from the away fans and miserable faces among the Preston faithful. However, their team soon gave them something to smile about, beginning the second half as they ended the first – well on top.

Prior to their third goal, we knew it wasn’t going to be our day, when Marriappa missed a header that on any other day would have gone in, Doyley’s goal bound shot was blocked by a Preston defender, and Weiiman missed a good opportunity all in quick succession. Of course Preston’s third came as we were seeking that elusive equaliser. The defence, like so many times this season went to sleep and after a bit of fancy footwork from the Preston player, Loach was beaten for the third and final time.

As the final whistle went the Watford players headed to the away supporters, throwing their shirts to the crowd, including John Eustace who gave his to a 7 year old lad, with his hair coloured red and yellow, which was a touch of class. As the supporters applauded the players and Malky for their success and efforts this season, there was a connection between the two groups which I’m sure a number of us felt.

On the journey home I thought about the whole season, and realised that it has been a real success. Danny Graham, top scorer in the league. Malky Mackay delivering some great results.. The academy proving its worth yet again. It’s been a season full of positives. However, I’d like to finish by simply saying thank you. Thank you Malky Mackay, thank you Watford Players, thank You Graham Taylor, thank you Julian Winter, but most importantly of all, thank you Watford Football Club.

And thank YOU Anthony for sharing your thoughts on the season finale, great stuff. Don’t forget, if like Anthony, you would like to get involved with ‘From the Rookery End’ you can visit the Facebook page at facebook.com/rookeryend or get in touch by emailing us at podcast@fromtherookeryend.com

Come on You Horns!


Remember you can get these blog posts straight into your inbox by entering your email address in the "Subscribe by Email" box in the right hand column of this page. Or if you're really technical you can use this RSS code

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Proud to be a Hornet

This post was originally in the Watford vs QPR matchday programme, hence the QPR references, on Saturday 30 April 2011.

Has it really been 9 months since the season started? Mike Parkin of the ‘From The Rookery End’ podcast looks back at the highs - and there were plenty of them.

Well that's it then. Vicarage Road is closed for (football) business until the new season kicks off again in a few months. It looks like our visitors today will be plying their trade in the Premier League next season thanks to the contributions of a battalion of ex-Hornets, including legends Tommy Smith and Heidar Helguson, so it's only right they pop in and express their gratitude to us today. What's that? You couldn't have done it without us? We know, we know...

Of course, we haven't had a bad season ourselves have we? Things are never usually dull at Watford for one reason or another, but it's been a true joy and privilege to be a Hornet this season, so I thought I'd use this edition of the programme to recount a few of my highlights.

This has been the first full season for me as a Dad and the club have made ensuring my daughter grows up a Hornet easy. From meeting John Eustace, Malky and Harry the Hornet at the pre-season open day, to the helpful attitude of the stewards as Florence, her pushchair and what felt like a thousand bags made their Vicarage Road d├ębut against Doncaster, Watford have done a magnificent job in living up to their famous 'family club' image.

The slightly older generation was catered for away from the action too. A series of 'At your place' events gave us mere mortals the chance to quiz the likes of Malky, Julian Winter and a number of high profile first team players at an array of local venues. Questions weren't censored and were answered with honesty and no little humour. Illuminating and heart warming in equal measure, it isn't every club that would let the management and senior players loose in a pub with 200 or so fans.

There was some pretty pleasing stuff on display on the pitch too. Martin Taylor and Don Cowie have been exceptional, whilst Will Buckley has shown enough to put a smile on supporters faces and a horrified look on those of opposition defenders. Scott Loach has been called into numerous England squads and John Eustace has firmly underlined just how important he is to our club. Before the season began, many of us were concerned that we were going to be reliant on youth. We needn't have worried. Matty Whichelow, Marvin Sordell, Piero Mingoia and Adam Thompson have played an enormous part this year and have showed themselves to be hugely impressive young men and professionals whilst also highlighting the importance of our Harefield set-up.

Not missing anyone am I? Ah yes, you there, with the tattoos and the vest under your shirt. Graham isn't it? Yes, Danny Graham. You appear to have done reasonably well, developing a desire to score goals. All the time. Let's have 40 next year though eh?

The entire squad have played their part and in doing so have put on some unforgettable performances. Today's visitors won't enjoy being reminded about playing host to us in front of the TV cameras and if Kenny Jackett was expecting any favours from his former employees, he was sorely disappointed. Six times. Then of course there was the seven game winning streak in which we demolished promotion hopefuls Cardiff, before eventually coming unstuck in the return fixture.

That trip to Cardiff saw us take the 'From the Rookery End' podcast on the road and listeners will have heard the disappointment of defeat and being told to 'Do one' when requesting an interview with Craig Bellamy was negated by a quick chat and a picture with boxing legend Joe Calzaghe. You never know who you might run into supporting Watford! Doing the podcast has really reaffirmed how lucky I am to be a Watford supporter and has been the main highlight. My fellow presenters and I have met many of you during the course of the season, including Curtis and Geoff who came all the way from Denver to watch the Hornets in action. We've been lucky enough to interview players, the manager and the Chief Executive. We've watched training and seen the youth teams in action. We've even met Lloyd Doyley. It's been brilliant, due in no small part to the club trusting and appreciating us, the fans. It's a nice feeling – long may it continue.

There have been mistakes this season, but in the main the club has played a blinder. Thanks to everyone involved for making the 2010/11 season one to treasure and remember.

Come on you Horns!

Remember you can get these blog posts straight into your inbox by entering your email address in the "Subscribe by Email" box in the right hand column of this page. Or if you're really technical you can use this RSS code

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Red Shorts... Where to start?

So our beloved Golden Boys have not long completed their home campaign, sporting the new kit for next season. As John Eustace led the boys out on Saturday, dressed in their new matchday fatigues, a common phrases was heard through out The Vic - "Oooooh Red Shorts!"

Personally I'm a black shorts man. Not sure why. I'm going to put it down to the kit from the 88-89 season. When I first started supporting the Hornets in 1980, they wore red shorts. And that was the way it stayed until that first season back in Division Two (that's in old money folks). Now there were certain things in football that got me excited with anticipation. They still do, despite me being in my thirties! The F.A. Cup Third Round Draw, the release of the fixtures for the new season and of course, a new kit. Forget the thought of having to pay out another £40 some time over the summer for a new shirt, I want to know what gloriously yellow number I'll be sporting every other Saturday in the Rookery End. Anyway, when I first saw that kit during the summer of 1988, there was a definite “Whoah” moment. Black shorts! This departure from the norm was not the Watford I was used to. It was a little bit daring, a break from the tradition I knew. A talking point for my WFC supporting friends and I. And I liked it. So that's me – black shorts.

But what do the history books tell us. Well, the last time we were promoted to the Premier League, we wore red shorts. And the time before that. And the time before that. In fact every promotion that I've witnessed as a fan, and there's been four of them, we've worn red shorts. So it's got to be a good thing, right? Newton's Third Law states that for very action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And likewise, for every football fan who has followed their team for a number of years and seen them promoted a few times, more often then not, you'll have seen them relegated as well. That's four times for me. And the shorts count? Three red, one black. So we could be pedantic and say that's net one for the red's, but that would just be, well, pedantic. However we did get to the FA Cup Final & to the UEFA Cup sporting red shorts as well. So history seems to favour it.

We could psycho-analyse it. What does red mean to you? Aggression, passion, fire? Sin, pain, danger? Many countries use red in their flag as a sign of courage. Three of the so called top four in the Premier League (okay, I'm being kind to Liverpool) wear red. And apparently research tells us that men find women wearing red more attractive. Not sure if that means anything in the context of WFC players wearing red shorts next season, but I now expect to see an increase in spending by the male population in the Hornet Shop on Christmas Eve!

And black? Strength, authority, power? Death, darkness, fear? The All Blacks wear it. Obviously! And they're known as a dominant force in the rugby world. The Japanese see black as a symbol of nobility, age and experience. Hardly seems appropriate for our young squad! But does any of this mean anything? Do our opponents line up in the tunnel alongside our boys and look at their kit, their shorts even, and feel any sudden emotional or psychological change. Aidy Boothroyd will probably tell you they do. Graham Taylor will probably tell you you're talking a load of cods-wallop.

I'll leave the last word on the subject to the good people at the University of Munster in Germany. They showed videos of Taekwondo bouts to over 40 experienced referees and asked them to score them. In each bout, one competitor wore blue & one wore red. Then they replayed them with the images manipulated so that the colours worn by the competitors were swapped. The result? Those wearing red the second time round won 13% more bouts than before, with the scoring changing in the closer contests. So maybe, just maybe, in those tight games at Vicarage Road next season, we'll get the odd extra free-kick, corner or even penalty that'll be the difference between one point or three. And who knows where that will take us.

I still prefer black shorts though!



Remember you can get these blog posts straight into your inbox by entering your email address in the "Subscribe by Email" box in the right hand column of this page. Or if you're really technical you can use this RSS code


Morning Watford FC fans. A quick note - it's worth remembering that any QPR fans in home areas will have been bought tickets by a Watford fans. The club cannot legislate for Watford FC fans buying and passing on tickets to opposition fans, which clearly plenty did. We were approached outside the ground by QPR fans asking if we were on the database and if we could buy them tickets. We said no, but others may have done it for a few quid.

The club have made an official statement to apologies to fans for yesterday's problems and will be reviewing the ticketing system and procedures for high profile games like this one ahead of 2011-2012 season.

Let's forget QPR, it's about us. Watford FC have had a great season and have performed beyond expectations both on and off the pitch. We should be proud of what club have achieved and remember a great season. Not a few isolated incidents on Saturday - We're better than that.

Plus, just think, a bit of horse poo might help the grass grow back a bit quicker.

Mike and Jon

Remember you can get these blog posts straight into your inbox by entering your email address in the "Subscribe by Email" box in the right hand column of this page. Or if you're really technical you can use this RSS code