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.