It’s been a feature of recent years that I don’t get to see much of Watford’s start to the season. Having a wife whose birthday (which is invariably celebrated lavishly with family and friends) is on August 4th doesn’t help, and the Bank Holiday weekend is another regular occasion for family gatherings a long way from Hertfordshire. The fixture computer is rarely helpful, and I can’t remember the last time I actually got to see the Hornets’ first home game.
This year it’s been spectacularly unhelpful, to the extent that my first home game will be against Charlton on September 14th. So I made a point of marking yesterday’s game at Reading on the calendar early and ringing it in red pen. I wanted to see this latest Watford team for myself.
My first impressions weren’t great. Just as in the early months of last season, the Hornets looked a bit lost. There was clearly an ambition to play a silky passing game based on a combination of patient possession and rapier-like penetration, but it simply wasn’t working. Giving away a goal in the first five minutes didn’t help, of course.
But after the break (and especially after Fabbrini’s introduction) it was a different story. I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow account; you can read plenty of those elsewhere. I just wanted to say that as we built up attacking momentum, it was absolutely thrilling to watch. You could sense the Reading players thinking “Holy sh*t, where did that come from?” The draw was absolutely deserved, and given another 10 minutes, I’m sure we’d have won.
As Gianfranco Zola has been at pains to point out, this team is still very much a work in progress, with a number of players who are new to English football, let alone Watford. If that’s what they can do (against, let’s not forget, what’s likely to be one of the stronger teams in this year’s Championship) when they’re still getting to know each other, god help the rest of the division once they really get into gear. I haven’t felt so excited about a Watford team since John Barnes was thin.