Sunday, 29 April 2012


Following Part 1 of his look back at the 2011/12 season, Mike concludes his list of this terms champagne moments…

That’s it then.  Another season bites the dust. It’s been alright hasn’t it? Our Championship status remains intact and depending on this afternoon’s outcome we could beat last years points total. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty happy with that. Admittedly there may not have been the highs of previous seasons, there were no cup runs or six goal demolitions, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been moments to cherish. After my first batch of champagne moments were published in the last home programme, here are the second and final lot…

Anyone that listens to the From the Rookery End podcast will know that I am a big fan of John Eustace. To be honest, who isn’t? His wholehearted, committed performances, his patented dink/chip pass (minimum of 5 to be performed per game), the heated discussions with officials, his impossibly white gnashers. The bloke is a god. It was therefore a worry for all of us when the great man sustained a head injury in the home cup tie with Bradford. Blood spilling from his bonce at a fearful rate, Eusty’s game was clearly over. Except it wasn’t. Of course it wasn’t. Refusing to give in to something as petty as a massive hole in his head, our hero’s head was bandaged and on he played. He was to sport the bandage for a few games afterwards and for me it served as an illustration of his and his team-mates commitment to the cause. It showed that you’re going to have to work hard to beat this Watford team, and in the end, not many did.

Sometimes in football there are moments that won’t mean anything to the casual observer, whilst for others they mean the world - encapsulating all that is good about the sport and their club. Watford’s win at Millwall this season was one such occasion. Coming on the final day of the transfer window, all the talk ahead of this game had been about the future of Adrian Mariappa. Reports had suggested a number of bids from Premier League clubs and as the day wore on it seemed increasingly likely that our influential defender would be heading for pastures new. As is usually the case with Watford, things didn’t work out quite as expected. That night at Millwall, Hornets fans were delighted to see Mariappa in the line-up. The same could not be said of Marvin Sordell, who was on his way up North to sign for Bolton Wanderers. On one hand we’d kept one of our prize assets, on the other we’d lost our England U21 striker. No-one knew which way was up. Apart from those that counted. In an impressive display of togetherness and professionalism, the team turned in a fantastic performance to win at one of the least welcoming venues in football. To outsiders, a decent away win for an average Championship side. To us, a clear indication that our team will give their best, their absolute best – whatever the situation.
Finally, that boy Sean Murray. He’s one of our own you know. It won’t have come as a surprise to many that he’s a bit special, but after the hype, it’s nice to see him delivering on the pitch in some style. It’s Murray’s fellow Academy graduate Brit Assombalonga who provides my final highlight however. In making his first team bow against Coventry this season, Assombalonga became the 50th Academy graduate to play for Watford’s first eleven. You don’t need me to point out how important our youth set up is. You also shouldn’t need me to tell you how proud we should be of our record in this department. It is quite simply unsurpassed. Long may it continue.
So. No silverware. No glory. No real change there in all honesty, but plenty to savour - not least some timely reminders as to who we are and what we’re about. We’re Watford. We work hard. We do things the right way. Come on You Horns.

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Saturday, 21 April 2012


Here is a break down of the the habitat of one Sean Dyche between 3pm and 5pm during Watford home games!

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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

What I want from my football club – The Watford way

FTRE Mike has been known to write a blog post or two. In fact he's just written this one for The Seventy Two blog about why Vicarage Road is one of the most enviable clubs in the country for our faith in youth?

My Dad always told the young, stroppy, football sticker hungry me that: ‘I want, I want doesn’t get’. well, he;ll be pleased and perhaps surprised to learn that this seems to be one of the rare occasions when his wisdom struck a chord and has sunk in, as I like to think I’m a fairly undemanding character. At least I am when it comes to football (I still crave sweets and stickers).
As a Watford supporter, I’m fairly happy with our position in the great footballing scheme of things. Whilst a generation of football fans could be forgiven for thinking there isn’t much to be celebrated outside qualification for the Champions League, I can think of nothing better than taking my seat in our three sided ground to see us do battle with the likes of Burnley, Palace and Millwall in the Championship. The extent of my wish-list from a footballing point of view is that we A) Don’t get relegated and B) Score the occasional decent goal. That’s pretty much it. Reasonable, right?
Off the pitch however, I need a bit more from my club.
The good news? They are delivering. Against Coventry City last month, teeenage striker Britt Assombalonga made his full debut for the Hornets. Apart from his fantastic name, nothing too remarkable about that perhaps, until you realise that his was the 50th debut to be made by a graduate from the Watford Academy scheme. Set up in its current guise 12 years ago, Watford have handed first team debuts to players from the scheme at a rate of just over four a season. If there is a better hit rate than that, I would (genuinely) like to hear about it.
The best thing about this success (apart from the obvious benefits on the pitch) is that it bucks the prevailing trend in football to be short termist. The much heralded set up didn’t happen overnight, it took a lot of work, planning and finance – work, planning and finance that could have been used on more immediate projects, especially at a club with a paucity of ready cash. However, the club decided it was the way forward and we’ve been reaping the Ashley Young and Marvin Sordell shaped rewards ever since. I am of course proud of the results, and I’m proud that the club had the foresight to put these wheels in motion in the first place – however, this needs to continue. Having come so far, it is essential that the club continues to invest in the set up. 50 graduates is great, but we need another 50 if we are to continue to prosper.
Investment then. And there I was saying I’m not demanding. The bad news? I haven’t finished yet. I want more from my club. I say the club, I mean fans. I mean us.
The man now holding the purse strings at WD18 is Laurence Bassini, who purchased the club last year. Initial stories about the new owner weren’t encouraging, he had previously been made bankrupt and it was hard to find any evidence of any business success, let alone any history of being involved with football. Some time into his tenure Mr Bassini has continually and contraversially evaded the spotlight – twice citing illness as a reason for missing fans forums – and Watford fans are no wiser as to who this man is or why he is involved. My hope is that he is dedicated to the Hornets cause and that he is here to continue the good work that is going on at Vicarage Road. ‘Always assume positive intent’ was another piece of advice my Dad was keen on sharing and there is no reason to doubt Mr Bassini has anything other than the clubs interests at heart. However, with clubs bigger than ours being left close to extinction by unscrupulous owners and opportunists, as fans we have to take responsibility for at least trying to hold those in power to account. Question the owner, question the club. Write, email, phone. Ask stuff. Anything but apathy. Otherwise it could be too late.
So there you have it. In a nutshell Watford must not get relegated. Score goals. Continue to invest and develop our youth structure. And we as fans need to take responsibility for finding out what is going on at our club. Do all that and I’ll be a happy camper. It’s not too much to ask. Is it?

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The Home Straight

As the season winds down, Mike looks at some of his favourite moments of a memorable season...

 So, that's almost it then. Barring a set of staggering results, we're one Watford home game away from the end of the season. The tail end of the season always catches me out – for some reason I always think there are more games left than there are. I guess that's what happens when you are sitting comfortably in mid table. I don't doubt for a minute that the fans of Doncaster, Pompey, Coventry et al know how long is left of the season to the second; it's nice to be able to relax isn't it? So, for the last two home games I've decided to do exactly that. Sit back, chill out and share some of my highlights of the season. Enjoy!

My first highlight is going to be the most recent. Ahead of the game with Blackpool, a venue that is synonymous with Watford FC threw open it's doors for the first time since 2006. Last weekend my pre-match experience included The Red Lion pub. It was pleasing for a number of reasons, among them of course the fact that a few beers made an awful game slightly easier to watch. Many have argued that there isn't a business case for the reopening of what is an iconic venue for Hornets fans, I'm probably among them. However, once inside you can be certain of one thing: you are amongst friends. A stones throw from the ground (is there a pub nearer to a football ground anywhere?) the pub was jam packed with fellow Watford fans, all wondering if our amazing run could continue. After the game it was full of the same folk reflecting on how well we'd done to even be in that position in the first place. Of course, it must also be pointed out that this was something that the Watford owner Laurence Bassini promised us – and delivered. Let's hope he continues to make good his word.

Next up is the day I fell in love with the team of 2011/12. We knew this season was unlikely to be easy, and when the new look Watford side, flush with a teams worth of new faces won just three of their first 15 fixtures it was hard to feel much but dutiful support for our boys in yellow. Fast forward to Saturday March 3rd however, and we knew this was a Watford side we should be proud of. At 0-2 down at home to Burnley, we were in very real danger of being dragged back into a relegation dogfight we thought we were clear of. Or so we thought. A fearsome second half display saw the Hornets run out 3-2 winners and as the final whistle saw the majority of the team lying flat out, utterly exhausted on the turf, it was clear to see that this group of players wanted it just as much as we did. It was a great moment.

 The third champagne moment? The realisation that Jonathan Hogg is a fine player. A mighty fine Watford player. There is a very real chance that before the next home game, the ex Villa midfielder will be crowned player of the season. I'll be honest, before we signed him I hadn't heard of him. Don't you just love surprises? (Read part 2 of my memorable moments in the next home programme).

Come on You Horns!

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Tuesday, 10 April 2012

WFC in 100 Objects - #23: Steve Sims's Moustache

The winner of the best Watford FC moustache of all time was a massive debate at From The Rookery End. There have been so many in the history of the club that we had to include one in our list of Watford in 100 Objects. Thank you to everyone who sent us your suggestion; Jason has gone through them and put together a team of Watford players who rocked a 'tache. So who made the team and why did we end up putting in Steve Sims's moustache into the list?

The Watford FC Moustachioed XI

I have a selection dilemma already. Three goalkeepers spring immediately to mind. Eric Steele, Steve Sherwood and Tony Coton. But I think I'll plump for Steve Sherwood. The way he used to protect his 'tache by saving with his legs wherever possible, was most admirable. The other two used to be more conventional and used their hands to protect the Hornets net, thus risking mud splatters and such entering the facial forest which couldn't be good for it.

Full backs are pretty straightforward. Mick Henderson used to wear a very tidy looking number at right back. And Steve Harrison's mischievous looking moustache suited his playful personality.

At centre back I've gone for the complementary pairing of the thick bushy 'tache of Steve Sims and the slightly more trimmed Ian Bolton. In Podcast 2.7, when we inducted Steve Sims mustache into the Watford in 100 Objects list, we gave the deciding vote to former defender Steve Terry. Terry declared Sims moustache as the best at Watford FC due to the “thickness of it”. Steve revealed his namesake is now clean shaven and is “half the man without it”.

I'm opting for a 4-3-3 formation and in the midfield I am going to start with two gents of similar stature and hairstyle! Les Taylor, to this day, is the only man to captain a Watford side at the F.A.Cup final. Like you need reminding! The other curly haired midfielder to grace my XI with his hairy slug is Ray Train. I did consider Kevin Richardson for the midfield spot, but he was too wispy for my liking. Having said that, my third choice in midfield is Micah Hyde. He never wore anything full on under his nose, but this was the late nineties and his pencil 'tache was a thing of style.

Up front, Luther also sported something akin to a pencil moustache back in the seventies, but there are three clear candidates for me. Gary Penrice didn't get the nickname Porno for his acting qualities. That was a proper moustache. I was gutted when Jon told me he spotted him at Bristol Rovers earlier this season at the Carling Cup tie, minus face furniture. His partner up front is Gerry Armstrong. He always looked like he needed a haircut, yet the moustache was well manicured. Good on you Gerry! And Paul Wilkinson's moustache was so prominent that it was constantly getting caught offside. In this XI, that's a good thing! Worthy of a mention here (unusual for all time Watford XIs) is Devon White. He used to have a thin effort of a 'tache that looked like he wanted to grow a modern handlebar, without having the balls to drop it below the lower lip. Nice try Devon, but not for the first time, not quite good enough. 

We need a manager now don't we. Well, goatees are not permitted in this line up, but this man certainly kept his moustache separate from his beard ensemble at some point during his WFC reign. And whilst he didn't quite cut it as a manager at the second level of English football, he certainly cuts a dash style wise. So I look to Gianluca Vialli to lead our team. It's quite a good looking line up, but even if they struggle, I'm sure we can rely on Steve Sherwood to pull off some blinding shaves!

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Monday, 2 April 2012

WFC in 100 Objects - #22 1984 FA Cup Final Bottle of Benskins Commemorative Ale

One of our most suggested items for the Watford in 100 Object list was a "Benskins Commemorative Ale" for Watford trip to the 1984 FA Cup final. We had so many email about the Benskins that if we collected them all we would probably have quite a drunken night on our hands. I'm just not sure the quality of the beer would be as high with them being well over 25 years old now.The picture above was sent to us by Nick Corble. Here's his email:

Here's my contribution for your excellent series - a picture of one of the bottles of the commemorative ale brewed by Benskins to mark the 1984 Cup Final.  

For me it's got everything. There's the Benskins link (they used to own the ground), the FA Cup Final (of course) and the fact that it's adorned a shelf in every house I've lived in since (thus defying wives and girlfriends and a daily reminder of better days. And finally, memories of the special promotion Benskins ran at the time whereby they offered a free pint for every home goal scored that season (or something like that) - full house!

All the best, and keep up the good work

Nick Corble

I'm sure that Benskins had hoped the beer would have been heavily consumed after a Cup Final win, but many bottles seemed to have been sat on a shelf like Nick's. The Benskin brewery may have disappeared many years ago, but let's hope there are many more chances for Watford fans to drink lots of beer in the not too distant future.

- Jon

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