Sunday, 17 February 2008

No one likes us...

Having seen two of the three games in what may turn out to be a defining week in Watford’s season (one of the oddest I can remember in my 38 years of supporting the ’orns), I’d like to make two observations about Aidy Boothroyd’s team.

The first is that we are *not* one of the two best teams in the Championship this season. West Brom made mincemeat of us at the Vic in the autumn, and in both games against Charlton, they’ve managed to make us look very pedestrian at times. Indeed, though it pains me to say it, numerous visitors to Vicarage Road – some of them nowhere near the promotion places – have shown far more attacking flair than the Golden Boys.

The second is that it doesn’t matter, because this Watford team has a quality of sheer cussedness that makes it more than capable of overcoming its limited ability. Defending a one-goal lead with 10 men for an entire half; coming back from the dead to steal two points from a promotion rival – these are feats not to be underestimated, feats that not many teams are capable of.

What’s also clear is that it irritates the hell out of opposing fans and managers, who – in the past week alone – have variously accused us of being boring, lucky and favoured by the referee. But who cares? We’ve already beaten 13 of the other 23 teams in this division, and we’ve got a second crack at eight of the remaining 10.

I still don’t feel qualified to predict where Watford will finish this season, but I’m pretty sure it will be somewhere between first and sixth. I just can’t see this dogged, bloody-minded (and occasionally brilliant, let’s not forget that) team letting even a play-off place slip out of its grasp.

Oh, and the two teams who’ve definitely escaped a beating this season? QPR and Charlton. And guess which two away games I’ve been to...

Thursday, 7 February 2008

The pecking order

One thing we can’t complain about this season is a lack of strikers. Even with Marlon gone, the hefty Hornets squad still contains eight of them by my reckoning (and that’s not counting young Liam Henderson, who made the bench for the Southend League Cup tie in August). What’s so fascinating is the constant ebb and flow in the pecking order among our would-be goal aces. Here’s my take on the current placings:

1) Darius Henderson
The top scorer in the squad since Marlon’s departure, Doris is the closest we’ve got to an automatic pick up front. I’m not his biggest fan (shouldn’t someone that tall score more headed goals?), but there’s no denying his workrate, his tenacity and his valuable ability to be in the right spot to knock them in from inside the penalty area.

2) Nathan Ellington
Finally getting the run in the first team he so obviously needed. Let’s hope his two goals to date are just the start, and that he goes on to make a key contribution in the run-in. He’s certainly got the pedigree to do so.

3) Steve Kabba
I know, I know. Who’d have guessed it? He’s never been so high in this list before, and he may never be so high again, but right now Steve is making a serious bid for a starting berth. As the commentator on Sky pointed out during last Saturday’s game, all that running rarely results in any worthwhile end product (and let’s face it, that far-post header isn’t going to win Goal of the Season) – but still, Watford fans love a trier, and Steve is trying with all his might right now.

4) Collins John
He hasn’t even made the squad yet, so he’s there purely on reputation and potential. And because he’s got to be better than...

5) Tamas Priskin
I'm sorry, Tamas. I've given you the benefit of the doubt for a year now, excusing your ineffectual performances on the basis that it’s hard to show what you can offer when all you get is the odd 10 minutes here and there at the end of a game. Aidy said earlier this season that of all his strikers, you had the potential to be the very best, and I usually believe what Aidy says. But this time I’m going to have to take issue with him. After watching that gutless performance against Wolves in the Cup, I just don’t think you’ve got what it takes.

6) Theo Robinson
I suspect (and hope) that if I compile this list in a year’s time, Theo will be several places higher. Aidy recognised the skinny youngster’s potential by giving him a debut at Loftus Road two seasons ago, and he didn’t look out of his depth then. A season on loan at Hereford has given him the chance to show he’s a genuine goalscorer (he’s got 10 so far), and I reckon he’ll come back next year and make a strong case for a place in the matchday squad.

7) Moses Ashikodi
I almost put Moses ahead of Theo, but in the end, his injury-plagued time at Vicarage Road counts against him. Put simply, he’s hardly played, though when he has (notably the FA Cup tie against Stockport, where he scored a classic poacher's goal) he’s looked pacy and hungry. If his current loan spell at Swindon works out well, he should be challenging Theo for that spot on the bench next year.

8) Will Hoskins
Would have been higher, but this week’s loan move to Forest (with an option to buy in the summer) signals that Will’s time at Vicarage Road is pretty much up. He was unlucky in that Aidy pitched him straight into a hopeless battle against relegation last year, and he never really got a chance to show the skills in front of goal that we’d signed him for. If he’d only had to step up one division instead of two, it might have been a different story.