Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The proof of the pudding

Following on from my previous post, I’ve been thinking about what it will take for me to be reassured that Watford is in safe hands after the latest takeover. These, for me, are the five key areas:

1) The ground
The Pozzos’ press release acknowledged the need to improve the ground, and I would expect that to be a priority, because at the moment it’s an embarrassment. Bassini kept saying that work to complete the new media centre/changing rooms complex between the Rookery and Rous stands was imminent: I would now expect work to start before Christmas and for it to be finished in time for next season.

2) The traditions
The Pozzos say they understand and respect Watford’s heritage and traditions. If the players don’t run out to ‘Z Cars’ before the first home game of the season, that statement will be shown to be so much hot air. 

3) The fans
If there’s one thing Bassini’s brief spell in charge proved, it’s the importance of communication. Even though LB himself never turned up at a Fans’ Forum, others from the club did, to positive effect. If the Pozzos want to gain the trust of the fans, they should organise a couple of Fans’ Forums fairly early on, and make sure that key personnel attend.

4) The players
Zola started work, and the players returned after their summer break, just yesterday. I’d like to think that the new manager wants to spend some time assessing the players he’s inherited before rushing into the transfer and loan markets. We saw last season how disruptive it can be when you sign practically an entire team’s worth of new players at the start of the season. I’m not saying the current squad can’t be improved - I just want to see evidence of some thinking before the dressing room starts filling up with random foreigners.

5) The Watford Way
There’s been much discussion of what this phrase means on the WML over the past few days, and I’m no more certain of the definition than anyone else. If in doubt, though, I think the phrase “Would Graham Taylor have done that?” pretty much covers it. I haven’t got a recommendation for our new owners here: it’s more a case that we’ll know if they do something that is counter to the Watford Way.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Here we go again

I never felt particularly strongly about Lawrence Bassini. For all that many Watford fans tended to regard him as the devil incarnate, I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt until presented with factual evidence to persuade me otherwise. Maybe the full story will emerge in time and those of us who tolerated Bassini will be exposed as naive fools, as some on the WML insist.

Personally, I was upset that he forced me to sell my Watford shares – even if they were almost worthless by that point – and suspicious of the mystery surrounding his background and the source of his funds, but encouraged by the steady progress the club made during his tenure, both on and off the pitch. I suspect many Watford fans feel the same.

As for the Pozzos, there is no mystery about the source of their funds, which is a big plus point. Equally encouraging is the general perception (presumably being encouraged by the Italians themselves) that they’re not going to throw money at Watford in an attempt to gain instant promotion to the Premiership. That approach rarely works, as we’ve seen all too often.

Set against that is the worry that the new regime will change too much, too soon, and throw the baby out with the bathwater. The mooted replacement of Sean Dyche with Gianfranco Zola is not a good sign, and the scenario that sees Watford effectively becoming a nursery club for Udinese, with a team packed with cheap European and Latin American imports, is not an appealing one.

Then again... Since I started following Watford in 1970, the club has been owned (whatever that word means in a football context) by Jack Bonsor, Elton John, Jack Petchey, Rumi Verjee, Graham Simpson, the Russos, Lawrence Bassini and now the Pozzos. (That’s from memory – I may have missed one or two.) As with managers, it’s noticeable that the turnover of owners has become more rapid over the years.

Curiously, the only one on that list the fans actively protested against was Bonsor. Maybe that’s because we’ve become resigned to the fact that we don’t actually have much say in the matter (particularly now that the club is once again privately owned), but also because we know that if we don’t like this owner, another one will be along soon.

If the Pozzos are still in charge in 10 years’ time, I’ll be surprised (indeed, judging by recent history, they’ll be lucky to last five).  If they are, that will presumably mean that they’ve been successful. If not, Watford will still be around in some form – football clubs are hard things to kill off, as the examples of Wimbledon, Aldershot, Newport, Accrington and others show. That’s because we, the fans, are the club, when it comes down to it. We may not have a bit of paper to say that we’re the legal owners, but that doesn’t stop it being ours.