Thursday, 12 May 2011

Everyone’s a winner

Despite the disappointing run-in, there’s no doubt that 2010/11 was a good season for the Hornets. We were never in serious danger of relegation (a first in recent times), achieved a comfortable mid-table finish in a competitive division, and played some lively, entertaining and goal-strewn football. Oh, and we did all this with the youngest team in the Championship.

So, without further ado, here are my personal end-of-season awards – although, as the title of this post says, everyone’s a winner:

Player of the season
I can’t find fault with the official club award here. Plaudits to Martin Taylor and John Eustace in particular, but Danny Graham was the stand-out player, a striker who contributed off the ball as well as mastering the all-important skill of whacking it into the net at regular intervals.

Young player of the season
At the start of every season, there are a clutch of youngsters who seem to be on the verge of breaking into the first team, but most end up spending more time on the bench than the pitch. Of this year’s hopefuls, Matt Whichelow showed a lot of promise, giving new impetus to the attack when coming on as a sub, and Piero Mingoia showed signs of being the new Gary Porter. But the award has to go to Marvin Sordell: 15 goals in his first full season is not at all shabby, even if he couldn’t quite maintain his best form week in, week out. That will come.

Most disappointing player
This is all relative, of course, especially given the age of the players involved. Having said that, Scott Loach’s increasing flakiness as the season went on was worrying for a player who’d already appeared in a couple of senior England squads – although if it’s put off potential buyers for a while, that’s no bad thing. As for Will Buckley, his pace and trickery are so thrilling to watch (when he’s on song, at least, though there are also games when he vanishes) that it’s frustrating that he delivers so little end product.

But my biggest disappointment was Danny Drinkwater, the latest in a long line of loanees from Old Trafford, but the first to completely fail to ‘get’ it. He looked promisingly skilful for the first half an hour of his debut, but it soon became apparent that he just didn’t fit into this Watford team. The fact that Malky only gave him three starts and nine substitute appearances in half a season suggests that he agreed.

Invisible man
An honorable mention to Josh Walker, who arrived from Middlesbrough with an impressive pedigree, but made only five substitute appearances and spent most of the season on loan. Then there’s Liam Henderson, who didn’t appear in a Watford shirt at all, but kept up his record of failing to score for the first team (any first team) at Colchester, Aldershot and Rotherham. I doubt he’ll be back in August.

But the real invisible man was Tom Aldred, signed (or so it seemed) to provide much-needed cover for Taylor and Mariappa in the centre of defence. All he has to show for his first season as a Hornet is seven appearances for Stockport (the last of them in January) and a random 90 minutes on the bench against Coventry in April. And when we were desperate for a defender in the last game of the season, it was 17-year-old Tommy Hoban who Malky turned to, not the older Aldred, described on the official site as a “commanding centre-half” who we had to fight to sign, so coveted was he by other clubs. Very strange.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

You’re gonna lose in the playoffs

Having written in my last post about the logic of adopting Queens Park Rangers as Watford’s new rivals, there was a certain grim satisfaction in the way Saturday unfolded at Vicarage Road. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is already looking forward to their return, tail between their collective legs, in a couple of seasons’ time - or, indeed, next season, if the Football League impose the points deduction their own rules would seem to mandate.

It’s taken me a few days to get around to writing about the QPR game because I was just so angry at the time. Angry at the QPR fans who not only infiltrated the home end, but then brazenly celebrated their team’s opening goal, inviting trouble; angry at the Watford fans who rose as one to watch the ensuing shenanigans rather than the match; angry at the twats who invaded the pitch, and especially those who decided to taunt the Rookery at the end of the game; and angry at the stewards and police officers who made so little effort to catch the worst offenders.

Above all, I was angry that an occasion for celebration - the last home game of a fine season, on a sunny Saturday afternoon - had been hijacked, not just by another club, but by a reminder of the stupidity and nastiness of days gone by. The much-delayed lap of honour by the players and staff was less enjoyable than usual as a result – and from the general lack of singing while it was happening, I suspect many others felt that way too.