Friday, 28 September 2012

Why it’s hard for humans to be Hornets

We've been very lucky to have lots of people email us asking if they can write a piece for our blog. We welcome such offers with open arms, and our latest excellent contribution comes from Jordi Connor

Jordi has been supporting Watford since October 1984. At his first game stood on his tiptoes in the Vicarage Road end watching Watford take on Coventry.His random Watford claims to fame include seeing Trevor Senior score, meeting Sietes, and scoring six goals during a charity match at the Vic a couple of seasons ago.

You may think it's an obvious statement, but read on to find out why it is hard for humans to be Hornets.

This is a human fly, not a human hornet!

On the whole, supporting a football team is great. Not only do you get the sense of community and camaraderie that we all crave, but as the famous quote goes, you also get to care passionately about something that doesn’t really matter.

Yet for all the tribalism and welcome escapism it provides from the churn of daily life, there are some aspects of being a football fan that clash with human nature – particularly so if you support Watford right now.

The reasons have rather fancy names, but if we recognise them and how they influence us, then perhaps we can enjoy the journey the club has just embarked on.

The Power of Now!

The first reason affects fans of all clubs and is called Hyperbolic Discounting.

In a nutshell it means we tend to give disproportionate importance to immediate rewards - we’d rather have a smaller prize now than wait for a bigger one.

For example, if someone offered you £100 right now or £120 in a year’s time, you’d probably be inclined to take the cash right away. It also explains why you’ll eat a chocolate bar now when you want to look good on the beach in a few months, or smoke when you know the painful consequences that may await you later in life.

When you think about it, it makes sense. You might not be around in a year to claim the money. And who cares if you eat that slice of cake, you can do some exercise to make up for it later. In humans, impulsiveness and weak willpower come as standard.  A bird in the hand and all that.

The problem is when Hyperbolic Discounting affects us as fans.

We picked our team years ago. Or it picked us. Either way, we’re stuck with each other for life.

Rationally, we should take the long term view. So what if we have some dodgy results now? Just so long as it is part of a plan to make us better tomorrow. Look at Manchester Utd, their fans are still reaping the rewards of their board’s patience when Sir Alex Ferguson made a slow start after being appointed manager.
At Watford we don’t even expect success; we’re not used to it. Surely we’d be prepared to accept some bad results at the start of a new reign - especially one that is being overseen by a group who has enjoyed success in Italy and Spain.

Well no. We lose 5-1 to Derby County and people are spitting feathers. Some even went as far as to demand Zola’s head.

Is he mad? Selling Martin Taylor! Get him out!

Never mind that

  • the transfer deadline meant all business had to be concluded by the end of August
  • we have Nosworthy, Hall, Neuton and Ekstrand in the squad who can play at the back
  • Taylor is 33 in a couple of months
  • he played when Derby stuck four past us two years ago
  • he was offered a longer and better deal by Sheffield Wednesday
  • he is from the North East and probably wanted to go anyway

No. What mattered is that we’ve lost RIGHT NOW. And we’re vulnerable to set-pieces. Forget the long term plan, forget seeing the bigger picture. We didn’t get immediate satisfaction and we’re angry.
Human nature in action.

The alternative is to show some willpower and overcome our natural desire to live in the present. I’m not suggesting we become robots, devoid of any emotion. We can, and should, still be upset and frustrated after a bad performance - but we should see it in context. Last season we were delighted with a mid-table finish. Can’t we accept that there will be some bad results as foundations get put in place? Shouldn’t we be prepared to write this and maybe even next season off? It might not be fun in the short term, but if it works our patience will be richly rewarded in due course.

It’s not as if we were likely to get promoted before the Pozzos turned up anyway, so what have we got to lose?

It’s hard to be a hypocrite

The second reason that it’s hard to be a football fan is down to something called Cognitive Dissonance. This is particularly relevant right now for Watford fans coming to terms with the new ‘Watford Way’.
In essence, Cognitive Dissonance is the feeling of tension that you get when you have conflicting beliefs. It’s what makes it hard to be a hypocrite.

Here’s an example of it in action…

A man who prides himself on being quite smart and astute with his money buys a new car. He’s quite happy with his purchase until he reads several reviews slating the model for poor handling at high speed. This upsets him because he considers himself to be shrewd and believes that a decent car should be able to be able to handle high speeds, yet is being told that his one doesn’t. This tension leaves him with three options.
  • First of all he can find other reasons that the car is still a good purchase and outweigh the bad features – it has a large boot, is cheap to service, is a reliable make, is very comfortable etc.
  • Alternatively, he can reduce the importance of the causes of the tension – he rarely drives on the motorway so handling at high speeds isn’t a major concern
  • Most drastic of all, he can change one of the causes of the dissonance – either sell the car or admit he’s not as clever as he thinks
So why does this matter to us?

Well, when you think that there are 90 odd teams in the top four divisions and plenty more at non-league level, it’s hard to rationally justify supporting the team you love. If the dream is to win every game, why would you pick a team that never wins anything? We all like to think we know about football and make smart choices in life. Yet we support Watford.

So when we try and rationalise being Hornets, either to ourselves after another defeat or amongst our friends who follow teams stocked with the world’s best players and who regularly challenge in the Champions League, we ease the dissonance by diminishing the importance of winning all the time.

We also start to elevate the importance of things like
  • supporting your local team
  • being part of the community
  • not being a corporate plaything
  • being loyal and promoting from within
  • having a great academy
  • having a team full of locally born players
  • match day affordability compared with top flight clubs
And so on.

The problem is that we are no longer locally owned but part of an international project based in Italy. What’s more, our first team squad suddenly looks rather cosmopolitan and our beloved Academy has been ‘downgraded’. Worse still, loyal and popular staff have been shown the door. And to top it all off, we are planning on getting promoted and staying up.

Many of the long cited reasons for being a Hornet have been pulled from under us. This has caused Cognitive Dissonance amongst many fans. As in the example of the chap who bought the car, an extreme solution would be to stop supporting Watford, something that very few of us would ever consider.

The other option is to embrace the changes, find new reasons to be cheerful and diminish the importance of the old justifications.

  • Do foreign players really care less than locals? Did Heidar? Barnes and Blissett were both born in Jamaica, would we rather they hadn’t signed?
  • Does it matter that we aren’t reliant on our Academy? I’m sure Harrow is a hotbed of young talent, but isn’t it better to have access to a pool of promising players from around the world, some of whom who have already represented their country?
  • Does it matter that our owner is foreign? Fair enough, we did alright with a bloke from Pinner, but would we prefer to go back to a Stanmore based businessman? Or have Englishmen like Simpson, Ashcroft and Petchey in the boardroom.
  • Haven’t we used loan players before? Cleverley, Lansbury, Webber, Cork et al. The difference now is that if they make the grade we’ve benefitted and can sign them - we’ll have developed our own players, not Man Utd’s or Arsenal’s. If they don’t cut it, we’re not lumbered with huge wages and long contracts like under previous regimes. What’s the problem?
The status quo has been smashed and change brings uncertainty which can make some people uncomfortable.

However, change can also bring improvement and opportunity.

If we take a moment to step back, we can see that there are still plenty of reasons to be proud and excited to be Watford fans, they are just different to the reasons we’d have given a couple of years ago. And many teams will envy us for them.

Come On You ‘Orns!

While supporting Watford is an emotional decision and not a rational one, it’s great to be able to list off reasons that make the club special. Out of the blue things have changed dramatically and no one asked us for permission. As fans we have to adapt.

Whatever happens with ‘Project Pozzo’, the Club at least (and at last) appears to have owners with real ambition. While there is no guarantee that they will accomplish their objectives, we can be sure that there will be many downs as well as ups as they try.

It’s going to take a while for them to achieve what they want, but they’ve shown with Udinese that they are in for the long haul. Like it or not, we are too. Those of us still around in thirty years will still be trundling off to the Vic every fortnight (hopefully the East Stand will be sorted by then) regardless of the division we’re in. 
So, as fans we have a choice. We can give in to human nature and moan and groan every time a result goes against us and ruins our weekend. We can snipe about the foreign players and wish we remained ‘Little Old Watford’.

Or we can choose to embrace the opportunity we’ve been given. Try to keep our eyes on the prize, fight our instincts when things don’t go our way and try to enjoy the journey, wherever it takes us.

I know what I’ll be doing.  

By Jordi Connor - @jordiconnor

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Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Pozzo's Watford: The case for the Prosecution

The Pozzo Revolution: This man/bear is not a fan.
A lot of normal, well balanced and pleasant folk will have today done something they would never normally dream of. They will have read an article in the Daily Mail. The article is by Martin Samuel and it represents the first high profile dig at the Pozzo family and what they are attempting to achieve at Watford Football Club. If you haven't read it you can do so here.

I'm not so blinkered as to think that everyone will agree with what is going on at Watford. It's radical and it understandably leaves a lot of people, Watford fans included, feeling very uncomfortable. I think a healthy debate about the right and wrongs of what is unfolding at Vicarage Road should be welcomed and encouraged, and as supporters we'd have been foolish not to expect our club to come in for criticism for their chosen direction of travel. Mr. Samuel is the first high profile journalist to publish an overtly negative view, and whilst he correctly identifies some of the issues currently challenging fans of Watford and indeed football in general, I feel the piece is wide of the mark in a number of areas.

1) Context. Mr Samuel paints a romantic picture of the club pre-Pozzo regime. He correctly singles out Sean Dyche for praise, his achievements as boss last season were astonishing and his sacking was obviously undeserved. What he fails to point out is the backdrop against which Dyche was working. It was a well known fact that Watford didn't have much to spend, but only now is the true chaos that was taking place behind the scenes coming to light.

The previous owner at the club was notoriously quiet, speaking out only to make outlandish promises that he would never keep. It also transpires that he wasn't running the clubs finances in quite the way we'd all of hoped. Suffice to say that if the Pozzo family hadn't taken over at WD18, there would have been every possibility of Watford ceasing to exist. The cold hard facts are this. It doesn't matter if you agree with the Pozzo methods or not. A future with them was the only viable option, it was their way or no way at all.

I'd be interested to learn what Mr Samuel would prefer - a club out of business for good, or a club operating a model which he disagrees with. Which is the lesser of two evils?

2) "This should not be allowed to happen" No-one is denying that the number of loans Watford have on their books is out of the ordinary. Even those with a full understanding of the Pozzo way of working will have been staggered by the number of players coming through the Vicarage Road doors. It's a shock. But is it wrong? Firstly, and this doesn't make it right, there are no rules against it. But what about morally? Are Watford devaluing the Championship by becoming Udinese's "tool"?

I don't think so.

The plan is clear. Improve the club with an influx of borrowed players. Attain promotion. Continue to use the scouting network to loan or purchase quality players and become an established top flight club, eventually becoming self sufficient with no need for loans or wealthy investors. A simple plan - no guarantees of course, but what's wrong with it? What are the options? Not to strive for success? To continue in a continually hard battle to simply stay afloat?

Why is this approach less palatable than watching on as eye-watering sums of money are pumped from various sources across the globe into the 'top' English clubs to ensure their success? The truth of the matter is that journalists, commentators and brainwashed supporters have spent too long fawning over the top of the Premier League, choosing to ignore the spiralling wages, increased costs of tickets and other warning signs, constantly seduced by claims of the self proclaimed best league in the world and Mario Balotelli. Whilst the focus of these people has remined the top four of the Premier League, the rest of football in his country has been fighting an increasingly hard battle to stay afloat. Not just to stay competitive - to stay in existence. "Yeah, but did you see that backheel from Sergio Aguero?..."

So now Watford are trying a different route to success, choosing not to continue down a route that may keep the club in business, but little else. Choosing not to fight consistently fight to just tread water. Choosing to try and move forward. The method of doing so has not been done before in this country, certainly not to this extent so raised eyebrows are no surprise, but just because it's different, it doesn't necessarily make it wrong.

Mr Samuel asserts that loans of this magnitude shouldn't be allowed to happen, so what is his answer? To stand by and applaud as the usual suspects buy their way to glory whilst the rest of the game suffers and stagnates? Watford have a plan, that if successful will see them in a position to be self sufficient. Who is closer to that goal? Watford or Manchester City?

3) The West Ham Three. An inexplicable amount of Mr Samuel's article is devoted to detailing the deal that took Savio Nsereko to West Ham. Apparently, the fact that he cost West Ham £10 million and didn't set the world on fire is enough to suggest that Gianfranco Zola, Gianluca Nani and Scott Duxberry are no good. Dig a little deeper and you'll learn that Savio had been named 'player of the season' at that summers U19 European Championships, making him one of the most sought after players at the time of his transfer, whilst a series of  health problems contributed to his troubled career.

Further examination of the tenure of Zola, Nani and Duxberry at West Ham reveals that Zola steered the club to ninth in the Premier League whilst CEO Duxberry managed to shave 40% off the wage bill - an urgent requirement after the gross mismanagement of the doomed Eggert Magnusson regime. Sullivan and Gold came in, sacked the lot and the club was relegated. Make of that what you will, but I have to question the relevance of one deal when it comes to assessing how equipped the trio are to succeed at Watford. I've been told Martin Samuel is a West Ham supporter. I don't know if this is true, but wouldn't it be disappointing if a national journalist was to let his allegiance cloud his judgement?

Of course that's not to say that the piece doesn't articulate the fears and concerns of many supporters. Watford losing their identity is an oft aired worry. Personally I'm inclined to agree with Gabriel Marcotti on this when he said; "For me, if you're a fan, your loyalty is to the shirt and the badge. Nothing else. The guys who wear the shirt and the guys who run the club are just caretakers." but when a club parachutes in 14 loanees, it's hard not to share those concerns.

The article also highlights Watford's excellent track record with developing youth and it's hard to believe that this hard earned reputation won't be damaged as part of the adopted approach, with players who would previously have been attracted to Watford by first team opportunities being forgiven for thinking twice about joining with a swathe of players ahead of them. Whilst reputational damage seems inevitable, how it plays out in practice will only become clear with time.

If the article achieves anything, it is to highlight the fact that these are uncharted and unsettling times for the majority of Watford fans, many of whom feel utterly contradicted by recognising and understanding both the good and the bad of the Pozzo plan. Whatever their feelings though, I'm sure Hornets supporters will be united in refuting Martin Samuels' claims that "Watford are a snapshot of all that is wrong with modern football". For that, I suggest he looks a bit closer when he returns to writing about the best league in the world.

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Sunday, 23 September 2012

A state of flux...

Well then. Bristol City. 2-2. It was all a bit weird really wasn't it? Watford and their hastily assembled band of loanees and new signings showed glimpses of hat could be achieved under Zola and the new Pozzo regime, whilst also continuing to treat us to enough kamikaze defending to last us a lifetime. And there were some people saying Watford had lost heir identity...

The crowd was very quiet - a definite trend for the season thus far, and I think it's because we're in a state of flux. There isn't really enough to get too excited about, whilst there is an underlying feeling (hope?) that the bad stuff will get sorted out - eventually. Personally I get the feeling that most Watford fans understand the situation we're in, and whilst none of us would choose to go on a winless streak, we recognise that Rome wasn't built in a day.

Personally I found it hard to sum up how I felt after yesterday's game. Semi-deflated, I guess. But that's just me - I wanted to know how my fellow Hornets supporters felt, so via the wonderful medium of Twitter, I asked Watford supporters to give me one positive and one negative from the Bristol City performance. There was a great response, and I have listed them below. We'd love to hear yours too, so feel free to add them in the comments box - it's really interesting to guage thoughts at a time that is proving quite hard to get to grips with.

Over to the good folk of Twitter (Thanks to everyone for their replies!). Remember, the question was one positive, and one negative...

@demonskot - Positive: We didn't lose, Negative: We didn't win.

@PatMcNicholas - Positive: Deeney's game changing performance, Negative: Cassetti and other loans.

@therumpokid1 - Positive: Deeney looked strong, purposeful and changed the game, Negative: Sean Murray has gone a little off the boil recently.

@Chris_G_ - Positive: Deeney, unfortunately, Negative: Defence.

@Chris_Nunn - Positive: Deeney looks very sharp and hungry, something that's been lacking. Negative: We can't seem to defend in the box.

@davesto - Positive: Can see what Zola's doing he needs time. Negative: Some of the loanees not good enough, too many in starting XI.

@benclarkewfc29 - Positive: We are getting better and starting to gel, Negative: Only Deeney seemed able to make a difference in the final third.

@BoltonsBoots - Posiive: Deeney's return made us look more likely to score, Negative: Defence still has work to do, still looking frail.

@SimonGrosse - Positive: Troy Deeney slotted nicely into the new team and had a big impact, Negative: Atmosphere at Vicarage Road needs a boost.

@alcastle01 - Positive: Tory Deeney, Negative: Defensive frailties.

@khvb2 - Positive: Playing two strikers in the second half, Negative: The defence throughout.

@willyworthWorth - Positive: Chalobah, calm, composed ad allowed midfield to play, Negative: 3-5-2, substituting defenders to win the game.

@Carlwfc - Positive: Troy Deeney back up front looked a different team, Negatve: defending (Cassetti) and Zola's tactics.

@ryankman - Positive: Predictions about Deeney's comeback proved to be pessimistic. Negative: Defence looked suspect and poor marking at times.

@corbyhornet - Positive: Great passing and ball retention, Negative: Can't defend to save our lives!

@goldenboyLB - Positive: Chalobah ran the midfield, Negative: Yeates is still playing.

@TheJordanllyas - Positive: Outplayed Bristol City all game, Negative: Still conceding sloppy goals.

@babyhornetdan - Positive: We created chances, Negative: most were tame and straight at the keeper.

@WFCPaul82 - Positive: The return of Troy Deeney, Negative: The tiredness in the last 10 minutes form everyone.

@AmyWFC - Positive: Vydra's goal was good, he's my favourite at the moment! Negative: Full backs are just not good enough.

@jonny18andrews - Positive: Deeney, Negative: Cassetti.

@Iveco76 - Positive: We were shooting loads, Negative: We're not very good at it!

@footbalcoachjr - Positive: The passing game is coming on well, no aimless punts, Negatve: The preventable goals conceded, especially the 2nd.

@onedavidlewy - Chalobah a massive positive and Deeney/Vydra looks like a promising partnership, Negative: Moving Chalobah to right centre half - and Yeates.

A wide range of views then, (why not give those that made them a follow on Twitter?) but we'd love to hear what yours were/are. Even better, how does Gianfranco Zola go about making the most of the positives and improving on the negatives? Let us know in the comments section below...

We recorded the new podcast at the game and you can hear it by clicking on one of the links in the top right of this page. It's got John Barnes on it!

Come on You Horns!

PS You can follow us on twitter too - we're @RookeryMike, @RookeryJon and @JasBailey.

Download the latest podcast via iTunesPlus, get FTRE blog posts sent straight to your inbox. Simply enter your email address in the "Subscribe by Email" box in the right hand column near the top of this page. Or if you're really technical you can use this RSS code.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Meaningful Lyrics

Here at From the Rookery End, we try to be as balanced as possible, and as part of that we welcome opinion from all Watford fans. We were therefore absolutely delighted when Kelly Somers got in touch to say she's like to share her thoughts with us and the rest of the world. Below is Kelly's first piece for FTRE - hopefully the first of many. We've no doubt you'll enjoy it. As always, feedback is most welcome.

If, like Kelly, you want to get involved then email us - - and we'll see what we can do. So here is Kelly's first FTRE blog post, reflecting after the Brighton home game.

Come on You Horns!


Hearing Coldplay belt out ‘Yellow’ at the Paralympic Closing Ceremony just a few weeks ago sent tingles down the spines of the majority of the nation. But what sent further tingles for me was seeing the Watford contingency of my Twitter feed sharing the lyrics (myself included) with a Hornets-esque tribute on the end. After all, in many of our minds, that song was surely written for us.

So, how very apt that when walking into the stadium on Tuesday night, that the same infamous song was blasting through the stadium as the players warmed up. Once again, the tingles were in my spine – the Horns were back at the Vic after the international break and a couple of indifferent, for want of better words, away results.

My excitement was soon subsided though as I made my way to my seat, as the feeling a little bit deeper within me soon resurrected itself – for my Mum behind me asked to stop and watch the players warm up to try and get a close up glimpse of ‘these new boys’, so she recognized them when the game began.  And so there that feeling was again, that feeling of uncertainty, that linger of worry nestling amongst the quiet excitement currently around WD18.

So as happy as I was to be back at the Vic – a place that has felt like home to me for some 12 plus years – there was a sense of worry and I am not ashamed to admit that. But, as I tweeted upon arriving home from Tuesday night’s defeat, upon reflection, I refuse to be downbeat. 

The first aspect that caught my eye was the passing, and the ball retention, - for the first time it started to look more convincing, and let us not forget we were playing against a side who themselves can pass it too – a side arguably who Mr Zola is modeling us upon. And when putting it in perspective compared to his good friend and opposition manager Gus Poyet, our manager has made these changes - changing a side often reknowned in previous years for it’s ‘hoofball’ style - in just two months, in comparison to the opposition manager’s two years.

Yes, there were no goals, and these have, unavoidably, been hard to come by, and I am still struggling to decipher a 15 goal man, or even a ten goal man. But lets not forget a certain Troy Deeney will, like it or not, soon be back in contention having played this week in a behind closed doors friendly, and Vydra on his day is more than capable of killing a game. And there are still the possibility of Beleck making an impression, and Geijo when fit.

And whilst I was unconvinced with the defence - particularly with Neuton at centre back - and I am unsure of Nosworthy’s longevity in this squad, they too are starting to gel and are, starting to come to terms with the inevitable difficulties we have had with set pieces. Chaboulah – though appearing to come on in midfield, is allegedly a defender, and looked comfortable and assured on the ball and though may also provide a welcome addition to solidify our previously leaky back four.

And of course, how can I not mention our multi talented, goal scoring, loveable, stalwart defender Lloyd Doyley here – for he put in a remarkable second half shift against agonizingly impressive former Hornet Will Buckley– again showing yet another manager why he just cannot, for all his attacking shortcomings, be overlooked for selection.

For me the stand out performer on Tuesday night though was Fernando Forestieri – who even managed to link up well with the eternal under-achiever Mark Yeates, and tick the boxes we have waited so long for him to fulfill. Forestieri was exciting, and quick, and took on, and beat, defenders with confidence and conviction – something Yeates has never particularly done, with his strengths lying in set pieces and crosses. He even managed to link up with the former, and whilst I feel that Murray and Forestieri would now provide our most exciting two wingers, perhaps Yeates can play with the Italian if necessary.

So yes, it was still a defeat, and these defenders did not stop the goal, nor did any of our impressive play lead to any goals (perhaps here I should also thank the referee for his part in this – but this is not part of this particular argument), however perhaps for me the most heartening aspect of the defeat was the manner of which it occurred. We did not lay down and die as we did against Derby, and the hoards of fans who left early after the lacklustre home defeat to Ipswich were still in their seats upon the final whistle. For this time we showed character and spirit and whilst we have this, I believe we can progress.

The players fought, and chased down every ball and they continued to do so, even when struggling to break down a resilient, and settled Brighton side. For me, seeing the reaction of the players when they missed chances, and particularly Zola’s when the referee dismissed our second and rather blatant penalty appeal (for those not watching he did an interesting fury sparked dance and threw his coat off in disgust for another member of staff to retrieve), I felt relieved. And the players, both home grown and not, remained on the pitch at the end, applauding the Hornets faithful – something of which was non existent compared to the previous ‘Italian revolution’ under he who must not be mentioned - Gianluca Vialli. These players, and staff, may or may not have had much choice when joining us, but they are here and they clearly want to impress.

So, having gathered my thoughts and feeling surprisingly heartened at what I saw, midway through the second half on Tuesday, I bought a programme – something I don’t often do.  I wanted to try and learn more about our new squad, as I decided that if I don’t attempt to buy into it, I may get left behind.

And before I am accused, of being disillusioned or as a romanticist, I am by no means suggesting we are the finished product or anywhere remotely close. However what I do put to fellow Hornets fans is this – the signs are bright, and this is the situation at hand, whether ideal or not, so let’s get behind the boys, and be part of it, not against it, as if not we may just miss it, in the words of Coldplay, ‘turn into something beautiful’.

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Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Creating the sum of our parts...

Lots of different parts. Can Zola put them together?
I think I'm what marketing experts would call an 'engaged supporter'. I care enough about my football club to pay for a season ticket, write articles like this, features for the match-day programme and to help put together a Watford podcast (which you all listen to, right?). I'm definitely an active supporter. There are a few things I'm not though. I'm not a 'happy clapper'. Despite dedicating more of my life than is natural to my football club, I don't stick up for everything they do simply because they are Watford. Neither am I a Pozzo family apologist. I don't necessarily think that what is currently happening at WD18 is ideal and won't blindly stick up for the 'project' just because we can now call Udinese and Granada 'brothers'.

So, there are my credentials, make of them what you will. What I'm trying to say is that I attempt to remain balanced, and I've been mildly surprised at the number of supporters who after a fourth straight defeat in all competitions, are struggling to cling on to a bit of perspective.

Before moving on, it's important to remember the context in which the Pozzo family took over our club.  They saved us from what was rapidly turning into a very messy end. Whatever Bassini claimed at the time or since, he was running our club into the ground and without the Pozzo family's timely intervention I have severe doubts as to whether we'd still have a team to watch. So, we're better off than we would have been had nothing changed - 5-1 defeats and all.

It quickly became apparent what would happen once the ownership of our club changed. We would be the beneficiaries of a number of loan signings, primarily from Udinese and some from Granada. Forward-wind a month or two and the influx has happened, and how. Even the most clued up of supporters has to have been surprised by the sheer number of players we have inherited. It's been unprecedented.

Most fans will have seen the upside very quickly. A host of decent players arriving at Vicarage Road that we ordinarily wouldn't be in with a sniff of attracting. Most fans will have also seen the pitfalls. How can you create a team from such a disparate bunch of players, all from different backgrounds, all speaking different languages - united only perhaps by a joint lack of prior knowledge of Watford Football Club. And that of course is the exact problem Gianfranco Zola now faces. In charge of one of the biggest squads ever seen in the Championship, there are currently more questions than answers when it comes to assessing how this year will end up for the Hornets.

However. Some things are clear. Firstly, we all of a sudden have some excellent footballers on our books. Abdi, Vydra, Pudil, Foristieri and Chalobah have already shown glimpses of what they are capable of, whilst a number of other players with good reputations are waiting in the wings. Loanees they may be, but the Watford squad is undoubtedly stronger than it has been for some time. This is good news.

Secondly, we're six games into the league season. Six. We've won two of them, lost narrowly in two, been poor in one and been hammered in another. Clearly a mixed bag, but hardly cause for an outbreak of panic. History has shown that patience is usually a virtue when it comes to Managers. They need time, and this has never been more applicable than at Vicarage Road. Zola, new to the club and new to the players he finds himself in charge of faces a big task - of that there is no doubt. There is also no doubt that six games in isn't the time to pass judgement on him and the Pozzo regime. Neither for that matter is six months. If the Pozzo's are serious about making Watford a sustainable Premier League club, and there is no reason to think they aren't, then I'd suggest we're looking at something more like six years...

Of course it's impossible not to be downcast after a run of defeats. It's impossible not to feel that this Watford team is currently (currently being the operative word) that is less than the sum of its parts and Anyone not angered by the performance at derby needs to question their status as a football supporter, but keep an eye on the bigger picture. Be critical, ask questions, make suggestions and argue - of course - that's what makes football great, but I'd urge my fellow fans to keep an eye on the bigger picture and to give it time. We're at the start of something, but it really is the very start. Don't write this new look club off before it has even got going.


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Saturday, 1 September 2012

Pondering the Pozzos

We regularly have people on the FTRE podcast to add to the views and passions of Jon, Jason and Mike and we love having them on the blog as well. Below is such a piece by Alex Delaney. Alex won our recent Zola prize and as a Journalism student he asked if he could contribute. We were more than happy to post his pondering on the Pozzo family.

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We hope to have more from Alex in the future and from you too.

Watching the Football League Show on the BBC a couple of weeks ago after Watford’s opening day victory over Crystal Palace, I couldn’t help but take in and think about pundit Leroy Rosenior’s comments that Watford fans were feeling ‘uneasy’ about gaining loads of loan players from the new owners’ fellow clubs, Udinese and Granada.

Yes, on one hand it does mean that some of Watford’s younger players might not get as much of a look in, however, it does mean we can get in quality players which offers us a better chance of success and it is far from the end for Watford’s youth players.

Two good, contrasting examples of youngsters at Watford are Sean Murray and Gavin Massey. Murray was given a run in the team last year and proved to be good enough to play at a time when we weren’t exactly running short of midfielders. He survived the change in managers and under Zola is still a regular in the team at the age of 18. Gavin Massey on the other hand moved to Colchester last week. Both he and Murray had reportedly attracted attention from big clubs in the Premier League a few years ago. Massey’s Watford career consisted of 9 substitute appearances under two different mangers, with no goals; he also had three separate loan spells at lower league clubs in which he managed 4 goals in 31 matches.

For me, this represents Massey receiving a chance. I didn’t see any of the matches Massey played in on loan at Yeovil or Colchester, however any striker who steps down a level should be averaging more than a goal every 8 games. The games I did see of Massey at Watford, he seemed willing to run but didn’t  make a significant impact in any of the games, hence why Watford have now let him go I would imagine.  

Since Massey’s departure, in an interview with the East Anglian Daily Times, he said there ‘wasn’t the same opportunities as there was before’ for Watford’s younger players. I think the case of Murray proves him wrong, along with the case of Lee Hodson, Jonathan Hogg and Connor Smith, all of whom are young players who have played at least a part in the current league campaign. Also, Murray has been given a new 5 year contract as reward for his performances, proving that if you’re a good enough player at Watford you will play a part no matter what nationality or age you are.

Another common view point is that Watford are now just a feeder club to Italian giants Udinese. This is yet another point of no concern to me. It is in the Pozzo’s interest for Watford to become a Premier League team; as it was in their interests for Granada to become a La Liga team, which they now are. It is clear that of the 8 loan players received most of them look like very good players. At the time of writing, we have scored seven goals in all competitions, five of which have been scored by loan players. This proves that they must have at least some quality.

Another positive spin on the whole takeover is that it seems Laurence Bassini had left us in a very bad shape so the Pozzo’s are putting us in a better position than we were in both on and off the field with minimum cost to the club. Our wage bill was one of the lowest in the division and I assume a lot of the players received are having their wages paid for by Udinese, which means our wage bill will remain low.

We are in a similar place to where Granada were when they were taken over by the Pozzo family in 2009 and they are now in their second season in La Liga. It is also clear that the Pozzo’s aren’t in it for a ‘quick quid’ as they have owned Udinese since 1986 when they were a Serie B side; they now regularly qualify for the Champions League.

My thoughts are that the Pozzo’s are sending us good players, a lot of whom have international experience, in order to get us promoted this or next year and then they will start to look at more long term plans. Chief executive, Scott Duxbury said in a recent interview that the stadium will be developed when it is being filled and that will only be achieved with success on the field. That is what the loanees have been brought in to achieve.

Before the new owners came in there wasn’t much hope for promotion and there wasn’t a huge fear of relegation, it was all getting a bit stale. Now though there seems to be a real opportunity of playing exciting, attacking football and climbing back into the promised land of the Premier League under Gianfranco Zola. After Gianluca Vialli’s first Italian revolution failed in 2001, maybe it will be a case of second time lucky. FORZA WATFORD!

Alex Delaney

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