Sunday, 19 July 2015

Enough is enough?

Am I the only Watford fan who is beginning to be concerned about how many players we’re signing this summer? This morning’s announcement of Jose Manuel Jurado brings the total to seven, and with the transfer window open for another six weeks, that number may well reach double figures before we’re finished.

I happily confess that some of my misgivings are founded purely on sentiment. Last season was very special, with head coach, players and fans forming a special bond as we strove for promotion – a unity that was strengthened after the horrific attack on Nick Cruwys. So it would be nice to see those players given a chance to show what they can do in the Premier League. And, given that we’ve repeatedly been told over the past couple of years that the Pozzos have been recruiting with the Premier League in mind, it seemed reasonable to expect that a fair number of those players would get that chance.

Yet as it stands, when the Hornets run out at Goodison Park in a few weeks’ time, it’s not unfeasible that Gomes and Deeney will be the only survivors from the promotion-winning team. And that would be a shame.

My other objection is more practical. While it was always obvious that some strengthening would be required to cope with the rigours of the Premier League, it seems rather reckless to start the campaign with a whole team’s worth of new players, even if they don’t all make the starting eleven – not to mention a new head coach as well. Yes, there’s continuity behind the scenes, and that’s great, but still, we seem to be gambling on the team gelling very quickly.

We’ve been here before, of course, when the Pozzos first arrived and presented Gianfranco Zola with a pick’n’mix selection of players from which to fashion a squad. And, to his immense credit, he did, after a slightly chaotic start, so maybe I’m worrying about nothing. But that was in the Championship; I dread to think what would have happened if Zola had had to find out whether Neuton and Jean-Alain Fanchone were up to scratch by fielding them against the likes of Everton and Manchester City.

Personally, to prepare for the Premier League, I would have strengthened the team with four or five new signings, used loans to fill in any gaps, and then reviewed the situation at Christmas and brought in additional players as needed in the next transfer window. But what do I know?

What I do know is that it’s reached the stage where, every time I read the phrase “Watford have confirmed the signing of...” my heart sinks.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Bye-bye Johnny

I’m probably late to the party with this one, but it was only on reading the latest issue of Mojo that I discovered that Johnny Keating has died. No, not a long-lost Watford midfielder from the 1970s, but a significant figure in Hornets history nevertheless; Keating was the man who composed the Z-Cars theme which the players run out to before games at Vicarage Road.

Although the club dates back to – what was the year again? Oh yes, 1881 – it was in the late 1950s and early 1960s that the modern Watford FC as we know and love it really took shape. That was when the club colours changed to yellow and black, when the ‘Hornets’ nickname was adopted, and when the Z-Cars theme was first played over the tannoy. The story goes that it was manager Bill McGarry’s favourite TV show, and from the day in 1963 the players first ran out it to it, they didn’t lose another home game all season. The tune was seen as lucky and has  welcomed the Hornets onto the pitch ever since.

Well, almost. Over the years, a series of club employees who understand a bit about marketing and  very little about football have looked down their nose at Z-Cars and replaced it with something more modern, in imitation of other clubs.

As a result, I’ve come to view the running-out music as a barometer for the spiritual health of the club: as long as Z-Cars is being played, we’re in good hands. In this regard (as in so many others), the Pozzo regime has shown itself to be trustworthy – though I didn’t like the way the music was quickly turned down last season once the players were on the pitch, depriving us of the glorious jazzy solo in the middle of the tune.

So RIP Johnny Keating, unwitting contributor of an essential component of the Watford Way. Oh, and if anyone can tell me what instrument it is that the jazzy solo is played on, I’d be very grateful. Is it an oboe? A treble saxophone? It’s been bothering me for years.