Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year, New Me

Mike shares his plans for making his 2012 footballing experience a little less stressful... With Christmas done and dusted there are now two things occupying our minds. Dealing with the credit card bills we racked up whilst buying our families jumpers, socks and bubble bath – and new years resolutions. Every year we tell ourselves we won't bother, but I bet there isn't one of you reading this that hasn't said to themselves “I'm definitely doing that in the new year...” Well, never one to be left out, I've made a few resolutions of my own, each designed to make my life as a Watford fan more enjoyable.
As those of you who listen to the 'From the Rookery End' podcast (If you haven't listened to it it yet – there's your new years resolution right there!) will know, I don't have the sunniest of dispositions. Well, it's probably worse than you thought. I go to every Watford game expecting us to lose. Seriously. I'm so negative I make Jack Dee look like Santa Claus. I know why I do it – it's self preservation. John Cleese summed it up perfectly in the 1986 film 'Clockwise' when he said; 'I can take the despair, it's the hope I can't stand'. I want Watford to win so much, I daren't let myself believe it might happen. Well, I've decided that it's no way to be and 2012 is going to see me heading to Vicarage Road with a spring in my step and a grin on my face, full of positivity and the promise of goals and points.

My second resolution should have happened years ago. Like many sportsmen and spectators, I'm superstitious. If I've worn a particular outfit to a game we've won, I have to wear it to the next game. If we score and I have my hand in my pocket, my hand stays in my pocket until we score again. If we haven't conceded whilst I'm holding my bottle of drink, I can't put it down for fear of letting one in. Well, it's all going to end. Not only are my superstitions obviously completely ineffective – if they worked we'd be top of the league - but they get in the way of me enjoying the game. Instead of getting on my feet to applaud the latest Nosworthy wonder tackle, I'm too busy trying to stay still in case any movement results in a change of fortune on the pitch. Well no more! For 2012 there will be no superstitions – it's all up to you now lads...

My final resolution is a clear indicator that I'm getting old. I'm going to stop barracking referees. Whilst many would argue that a verbal volley towards a referee who has denied you yet another blatant penalty is an integral part of the football supporting process, for 2012 I'm going to side with the men in black. It's a tough job they have out there (although it would be easier if they just listened to John Eustace when he tells them what's what) and I'm sure they aren't completely useless on purpose.
So, there you have it. My 2012 New Years Resolutions. Ah. But it's still 2011 Isn't it? In which case; congratulations Doncaster on your inevitable win, keep that lucky clover close to hand and REFEREE – ARE YOU BLIND?!

Come on You Horns!

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Friday, 30 December 2011

10 Great Watford Moments from 2011

What's that, you've already seen 100 different Top 10's of 2011 in the media this week?

Yes, us too, but we (along with your suggestions on Facebook and Twitter) have put together a From The Rookery End - 10 Great Watford Moments from 2011. They aren't in order but they are all moments that make being a Watford fan enjoyable, 'interesting' and most of all proud.

Ashley Young signing for Manchester United - Thursday 23rd June
It may not have been a signing that is going to help Watford much now, well some cash from a sell on clause, but it is great to see a player who came through the Watford Academy play on the biggest stages football has to offer.

Tommie Hoban making his senior debut at Preston North End - Saturday 7th May
Why this player in particular, well he is the current Captain of the Under 18's, a future prospect and his debut meant he was the 22nd home grown player to play in the Watford first team in the 2010-2011 season. No homegrown players have made debuts so far this season, a clear policy change under Dyche, but our Academy players continue to grow out on loan playing regular competitive football.

Martin Taylor scoring an injury time equaliser at home to Birmingham - Sunday 28th August
Goals don't have to be spectacular over head kicks or even lead to a win. Martin Taylor's header was such a goal and it gave me the feeling of a win as I left Vicarage Road that day. It was the first home point we'd seen this season after 3 were professionally taken from us by West Ham and 3 were stolen by Derby with very little effort or grace.

Lee Hodson 1st goal at Leeds United ending 2-2 - Saturday 16th April
For the expression of sheer joy, excitement and happiness on his face as he ran towards the travelling Watford fans.

Adrian Marriappa's Bobby Moore style tackle vs Leeds - Saturday 10th December
Maybe liking it to Bobby Moore's tackle of Jairzinho in the 1970 World Cup is a bit too much, but it was one of those tackles where the defender makes the tackle, stops the ball dead and then calmly passes it out of defence. It's one of those moments where you feel that the player is in complete control or their game. And that sums up Mariappa this year - He's been fantastic!

The team announcement at home to Peterborough - Saturday 29th October
After our recent signings this current season we must have the greatest combination of first names and surnames in the entire world of football. At that game against Peterborough names on the Watford's team sheet included Marvin, Troy, Iwelumo, Hogg,  Prince, Bauaben, Nyron and Nosworthy. Even Mariappa is a bit special, but we've got used to it in the last 6 years. What a wonderful ensemble of names we have at Vicarage Road.

Laurence Bassini taking over Watford Football Club - Friday 1st April
Is this a positive or negative things for the club has yet to be decided 100%. What we do know is that it's given us on the podcast, and many other Watford fans, plenty to talk/worry about. We hope for good and  regular communication with Laurence in 2012, in whatever form it may come in.

Johnathan Hogg signing his Watford contract - Saturday 27 August 
We've had far more signings at Watford this year then anyone would have imagined. Many of them have added a little something to this squad, but none more than Jonathan Hogg. He is able to defy Physics by being in every part of the pitch simultaneously and passes the ball like an American quarterback setting up a wide receiver to take the game forward. Oh and he's keeping Johnny Eustace out of the starting XI. The battle of player of the season has start early and Hogg and Mariappa are currently streaks ahead of the crowd.

Sean Dyche's 'COME ON' gesture after Ipswich 1-2 Watford - Saturday 3rd December
It wasn't our first away win of the season, but it was our first comeback away win and Sean's face and punching of the air summed up the feeling we all had after a battling win! It was also sort of aggression you'd expect from a man with a voice that sounds like he's eaten a few exhausts.

Danny Graham showing his vest - Saturday 1 January
Danny was the Watford star player of 2011 and he was pretty niffty at scoring goals (like you didn't know that), but he was also a dab hand at Table Tennis. So much so he won the "2010-2011 Watford FC Table Tennis Championship". Danny proudly showed off his win by lifting his shirt reveling a message, written with a black marker, on a his vest after scoring in the 69th minute vs Portsmouth on the 1 January 2011. A few months later when, after scoring against Millwall, he showed us that the Watford squad are a close squad and used another vest to hope Stephen McGinn a quick recovery from injury. It also inspired us to create 'Wear a Vest for Danny Day'. He may have moved on to greener pastures, but we will always thank him for the goals he scored in the 2010-2011 season and giving us a fun way to celebrate the season.


So there are our 10 Great Watford Moments from 2011. Thank you to Darren Lapthorne, Steven Wynbar and Luke Green for their contributions via Facebook and Twitter and if you have your own favourite moment then put it in the comments section below. It's not been a vintage year for Watford, but as always it's great to support a club that creates special moments like these!


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Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Hornets Half Term Report

After contributing to the Guardian's championship pre-season preview, Mike has now contributed to their bloggers' half-term report. You can read how other Championship Bloggers are feeling about their team on the guardian website, but below is how Mike feels the first half of the Championship season has gone for the Hornets.

How's it going?
Following the departure of talismanic striker Danny Graham and the wholesale defection of our management team to south Wales it would have taken rose-tinted glasses of Elton John proportions to have viewed the season ahead as anything but a struggle. But after a shaky initial period, the team are starting to look cohesive and, crucially, hard to beat. Sean Dyche brought in 10 or 11 players pre-season and many fans questioned this approach, hoping instead to see more products of Watford's much-heralded youth setup. Dyche has stuck to his guns, though, and has done well to win over sceptical Hornets fans, who are heading into 2012 hopeful that Watford can achieve this season's goal – survival.

Who's been the star? 
Home-grown defender Adrian Mariappa has again looked imperious at the heart of defence. With Watford's defending historically pretty madcap, he's a pleasure to watch. Special mention must also go to Nyron Nosworthy, who having endured a nightmare debut at Vicarage Road for Sheffield United a few seasons ago has conquered his demons to become an instant hit at WD18.

Biggest disappointment? 
Our propensity for conceding last-minute goals shows no sign of abating and I'd have liked to see us score more ourselves. Also giving me cause for a furrowed brow have been the introduction of the elite player performance plan and the willingness of England fans to get excited about the European Championships so soon after the 2010 World Cup abomination.

Grade C+ 

Mike Parkin, From the Rookery End (@RookeryMike)
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Monday, 26 December 2011

He's Behind You!

Mike looks at the transformation from hero to villain... With Christmas well and truly upon us, many of you will have a trip to the pantomime pencilled in a part of your festive itinerary. Even those of you not heading to the Palace Theatre to see Jack and the Beanstalk will know that an integral part of any such show is the pantomime villain, a character identifiable by his dastardly deeds and the chorus of boos that accompany his every move. Of course, such characters aren’t limited to the stage at Christmas, football is awash with characters that we all love to hate...

Malky Mackay is back at Vicarage Road for the first time since his departure for Cardiff, and I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t afforded a good reception by the Vicarage Road crowd this afternoon. The same can’t be said of his predecessor, Brendan Rodgers who also left Watford for Wales in more acrimonious circumstances. After cultivating a Watford side that was playing the best football seen at WD18 for many a year, Rodgers was the subject of much speculation linking him with jobs elsewhere. He was quick to publicly quash any rumours, boldly stating that anyone suggesting he would leave was “questioning my integrity”. Days later he was announced as the new Manager of Reading and his name was instantly chalked off the Christmas list of anyone connected with Watford.

Our club are rightly proud of the home grown youngsters we produce –there will be a number on display today and youth team graduate Lloyd Doyley is entering his testimonial year. Not all of them work out how we would have liked though, with David Connolly a prime example. Connolly burst onto the scene in 1996, a striker with a happy knack of being in the right place at the right time, with hat-tricks an apparent speciality – Connolly scored three in his short spell with the club. Watford fans quickly realised they had unearthed a potential gem, but sadly for them, it was opinion shared by the player himself who soon made it clear he wanted a move away from the club. A number of petulant and unnecessary statements from the player, combined with some forgettable performances on the pitch meant that his departure on a free transfer to Dutch giants Feyenoord left Hornets fans with a bitter taste in their mouth and Connolly assured of a hostile welcome should he ever return to the Vic.

Equally prone to a less than warm welcome from Watford supporters is one time fans favourite Lee Cook. That rarest of commodities - a left footed attacking midfielder, Cook flourished under Ray Lewington and was unplayable on his day, giving the supporters as much pleasure as he gave opposing defenders grief. Ultimately though it was the fans who were to feel hard done by as Cook departed for rivals QPR, a move that still rankles with the Hornets faithful.

There have been others of course. Midfield workaholic Andy Hessenthaler didn’t do himself any favours by announcing he wanted to leave to play at a bigger club only to drop a division to join Gillingham, whilst more recently Jamie Hand made sure my plan to rename the East Stand after him will never come to fruition by joining that lot up the M1 and proceeding to claim his new club are bigger than his previous employers. The buffoon.

For every villain there has to be a hero and the current crop will be out there in front of you this afternoon. As fans we have to make sure the bad guys know we’re on to them, but the good guys need and deserve our support too.

Merry Christmas and Come on You Horns!

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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

TAKE 3: Laurence Bassini to answer fans questions

Jason, Mike and I have talked at great length over the last few months about Laurence Bassini. It all started when, at the last minute, he pull out of a Fans Forum at Vicarage Road and a week or so later he pulled out of a Fans Phone In on BBC Three Counties. Like many fans we have a few questions for our new owner, in fact we have 5 simple questions we'd like to ask Laurence:

1. Why did you decide to 'invest' in football?
2. Why Watford?
3. As owner, what will represent a successful tenure?
4. What are your plans for the Stadium redevelopment and the timescale for completion?
5. Where is the money for bond repayments, stadium redevelopments and future player purchases going to come from?

Some listeners to the podcast may of thought of us as three overly worried Watford fans. And worried we were, however our worries aren't born out of paranoia, merely out of a lack of knowledge and understanding that comes from poor communication.

I, and my co-hosts, started to feel better when the Watford Supporters Trust published their notes from their one-on-one meeting with Laurence. Yes, we got some new information on the work at Vicarage Road, but we have begun to understand a little bit more about Laurence as the owner of Watford Football Club. And that is why we came up with our 5 simple questions. They weren't aimed to catch him out, ask him personal information or get to see his bank balance. We just wanted to get to know him better as a businessman. The WST meeting helps us to begin to see his aims and intentions during his tenure and I recommend all Watford fans have a read of the notes in full. For me his biggest issue seems to be the fact he isn't a limelight grabber and perhaps he isn't good in front of a crowd - not many people are.

The great news today is club has announced that Laurence will be doing an on-line Q&A in the new year. So this is ours and your chance to ask a question of our owner and get an answer to make us feel more positive about how our club is going to be run. Is it a public forum where I can ask my questions directly, no, but I for one hope we now have a way for fans to have a regular means to communication with the owner of Watford Football Club.

Fans wishing to ask a question of Laurence (one per person) should e-mail with the phrase 'Bassini Q&A' in the subject line. You have until 5PM ON FRIDAY 23RD DECEMBER to get your email in.