Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Kids are spoilt nowadays

My 10-year-old niece was staying with us at the weekend, and I took her to the Huddersfield game – her first football match.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those ‘cute things kids say’ pieces: Susie sat silent throughout, to such an extent that I occasionally worried she might have frozen to death without me noticing. Nor am I about to expound on the insights gained from seeing the game from the perspective of a newcomer. Like I say, she barely spoke a word, so I’m none the wiser as to what Championship football looks like through a child’s eyes.

No, the main thing I wanted to say is that I simultaneously envy and pity her. Envy, because she witnessed a far higher standard of football at her first game than I did back in 1970, when I somehow managed to fall in love with a Watford team scuffling around at the bottom of the old Second Division. And as for that goal, I hope I managed to convey to Susie just how lucky she was to be there to witness it. She could watch football for the next 10 years and not see anything half as good.

But that may also be a reason to pity her a little. In football, as in life in general, good things are more enjoyable when you’ve had to go through some dross to get to them. For me, the Golden Era of Watford was all the more special because I’d watched us spiral downwards through the divisions. A fan who came on board in 1977 will have had a very different experience of watching the Hornets (though they got their payback in the late 80s and early 90s).

For the record, Susie assured me afterwards that she really enjoyed the match. (And she took the bitter cold in her stride; my teeth were chattering by the start of the second half, while she never even bothered zipping her coat up properly.) Maybe she’ll become a regular at the Vic, maybe she’ll never go again. Either way, I’m glad she got to see something a bit special.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Work in progress

Having missed all three December home matches due to family commitments, I enjoyed reacquainting myself with the Pozzos’ Watford on New Year’s Day, despite the result. 

Actually, even the result wasn’t so bad. Nice (and novel) as it is to be sitting in the playoff positions at the turn of the year, I really hope we don’t go up this year. Our last two visits to the Premiership were so brief and ghastly precisely because we went up too quickly, borne on a momentum that we didn’t have the resources to maintain once we reached the so-called promised land. If we are going to make another trip there, I’d like to think we might be able to stay up this time, and for that we need more time to prepare. It takes two years, as per the Pozzo masterplan, or three or four for that matter, so be it. By that point, we might have some financial stability – and maybe even a four-sided ground.

As for the team, my initial reservations haven’t entirely dissipated. True, I can now tell my Abdis from my Anyas, though I’m still a little hazy on the qualities of some of the less-featured loanees like Fanchone and Battochio. My knowledge of basic stuff like backgrounds and ages could be better, too. For instance, it’s only in the last few days that I’ve grasped that Vydra is a mere stripling of 20 (thank you Sky Sports), while Geijo is a surprisingly mature 30 (thank you the Watford programme). Maybe this will all sink in eventually, but I suspect there’s a part of my brain that is simply unwilling to devote any space to Geoffrey Mujangi Bia’s CV, given that he’s probably destined to be a very minor footnote in the history of the club.

There’s also the unwieldly size of the squad, which may start to be addressed during the transfer window. Sadly, that will probably mean players who have previously done a decent job for the club being palmed off on anyone who’ll have them: Chris Iwelumo, Carl Dickinson, Joe Garner (all right, I won’t miss him), Matt Whichelow, Ross Jenkins, Dale Bennett and Lee Hodson are all some way off making the matchday squad and may welcome the chance to start again somewhere new. And I wonder if we’ll ever see Stephen McGinn in a Watford shirt again? Without regular reserve fixtures, there’s no easy way for a long-term injury absentee like him to regain the match fitness he needs to get back in the thick of the action.

Sorry, this is all sounding a bit churlish. Of course I’m enjoying the unaccustomed sight of a Watford team playing brilliant, incisive attacking football, and long may it continue. But the Pozzo project is still a work in progress, and the fact that we’re currently sitting pretty in sixth place doesn’t alter that.