Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Which one’s your favourite?

Yesterday’s endearing interview with Lloyd Doyley on the official site just confirms his status as my current favourite player. He has been for a few seasons, actually, and I hope he will be for a few more to come.

I always have a favourite Watford player, and although I don’t hold formal elections for the post, I tend to review my choice at around this point every season. I should point out that it’s not a scientific process by any means. Sometimes the chosen one has obvious qualities that it’s impossible to overlook – John Barnes’s mesmerising ball skills, Tommy Mooney’s furious competitiveness – but as often as not it’s something to do with an impression you get of the player as a person from the way they play. Does that make sense?

Nigel Gibbs came into that category, and it’s no coincidence that Lloyd has a great deal in common with him. They’re both right backs, for a start, and both manifestly the best defender at the club in an age where such skills are criminally undervalued. Poor Gibbsy would have smashed Duncan Welbourne’s club appearance record if he hadn’t been dropped by a succession of managers in favourite of ‘overlapping full-backs’ who couldn’t defend to save their lives (don’t get me started on Des Lyttle), and Lloyd has similarly suffered from a lack of managerial confidence in his passing and crossing. And of course, both joined the club well before their voices broke (I’m making assumptions here, obviously), and had put in more years in yellow before they even made their first-team debut than most players ever manage.

In Lloyd’s case, apart from his defensive abilities, he’s so obviously a worker, a trier - Aidy said as much early last season, when he explained why it was no coincidence that Lloyd had made more appearances in Aidy’s Watford teams than any other player. Okay, he was found wanting in the Premiership last season and lost his place, and with many players that would have been the last we’d have seen of him. But Lloyd has kept on working and won his place back, and I hope he keeps it for years to come, if only to prove that a proper full-back is always a better option than a winger who puts in the occasional tackle (James Chambers, come on down). And I hope I’m there when he finally scores his first goal in a Watford shirt. The celebration should be something to behold.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Oh well

So much for my powers of prediction. Sod’s law, I think they call it. Though I was right on the first point, at least.

Monday, 13 August 2007

What I won’t be doing tomorrow night

After winning his fourth Olympic rowing gold medal, Steve Redgrave famously said in an interview that if anyone ever saw him near a boat again, they had his permission to shoot him. I feel much the same about the first round of the Carling Cup. And this year, I really mean it.

It’s the sheer mind-numbing predictability I can’t stand. Every year we get drawn at home in the first round of what I still like to think of as the League Cup, and every year I go because, well, it’s the first or second home game of the season and I’ve been starved of live football all summer. And besides, we’re playing some inferior outfit from a division or two lower down the league, so it’s bound to be a goal-fest, isn’t it? Ah, the joys of watching football on a balmy August evening...

Except that it doesn’t turn out like that, does it? At the risk of spoiling your enjoyment of the fixture, here’s what will happen tomorrow evening:

- Aidy will select a side containing no more than four of the team who started against Wolves on Saturday. Several of the squad he picks will not feature again in the first team this season, other than in second round of the League Cup. Oh, and Richard Lee will be in goal. Richard Lee is always in goal in the League Cup. When he finally retires, Richard will be dismayed to discover how high a proportion of his first-team appearances were made in the League Cup

- Watford will start brightly and create a few chances, but without scoring. Then Watford’s blend of youthful enthusiasm and inexperience and Gillingham’s blend of relative experience and lower-division ineptitude will cancel each other out, leading to a bland stalemate that will last for most of the match

- If you’re lucky, Watford will nick a goal in the last 10 minutes and that will be that. More likely is a scoreline of 0-0 or 1-1 at full-time, leading to a mind-numbing half-hour of extra-time and, as likely as not, penalties. By this time you will be so far past caring that you may well decide to leave before the shoot-out - I saw plenty of people doing just that in the tie against Accrington last year. If you stay, you’ll probably witness a victory, but somehow it won’t seem like a great cause for rejoicing

By the way, I know that Steve Redgrave reneged on his vow and returned to the water to win a fifth Olympic gold medal. What a lightweight, eh? He should have been at the Accrington game; then he’d know what real pain is...