Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Decision time

Regular readers of this blog (and judging by the statistics, there must be one or two of you who’ve been reading my ramblings for a while) will know that at this time every year, I observe a quaint little ritual. I open the debate over who will be my ‘official’ favourite Watford player – and then promptly close it again by declaring that it’s still Lloyd Doyley. Indeed, back in 2007, the third post I ever wrote did just that, and even then I said that he’d been my favourite “for a few years”.

But all good things come to an end. Lloyd is still at the club, of course, but suffering from a protracted absence due to injury. Even if he makes a full recovery, there’s a question mark over whether he’ll be offered a new contract. And even if he overcomes that hurdle, I can’t see him making many first-team appearances this season, unless we go on a decent run in one or both of the cups. I think it’s finally time to choose a new favourite.

If you’d asked me at the end of last season, I’d have said the choice was a fairly straightforward one, between the silk of Almen Abdi and the steel of Troy Deeney. But, having witnessed our new-look team in action for the first time on Saturday, there’s suddenly a raft of potential new candidates. Among those who caught my eye were the tireless running and dynamism of Allan Nyom at right back; the midfield mastery and dribbling skills of Etienne Capoue; the solidity of Sebastian Prödl at centre half; and the tricksiness of José Manuel Jurado in the attacking midfield role. I still have my misgivings about the sheer number of new players we’re trying to integrate into the team, but on the evidence of the West Brom game, there’s no reason to doubt the quality each individual brings.

Still, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and all that. I think I’ll wait till the transfer window closes and make my decision in early September, when I’ve had a bit more chance to assess the candidates. It’s a nice choice to have to make.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Living on an island

It may just be my age, but I sometimes think there’s too much Watford FC news and comment out there these days. There’s 24-hour sports news on TV, blanket coverage in the newspapers, numerous websites and blogs devoted to Watford on the internet, not to mention dozens (hundreds?) of Twitter feeds and all the other social media I don’t bother with – Snapchat, Instagram, Vine and the rest.  It was bad enough last season, without factoring in the absurd levels of hype associated with the Premier League. I occasionally find myself pining for the days when the Watford Observer accounted for approximately 80% of all the coverage of the Hornets in the media.

So I’m quite pleased that I spent the week leading up to the start of the new season on holiday on the tiny Channel Island of Sark. Internet connectivity varied from patchy to non-existent (often from one minute to the next) and the availability of newspapers depended on the time of arrival of the boat from Guernsey. True, I did have access to a TV and radio, but no Sky Sports News. In practice, I deliberately restricted myself to the occasional half-hour of BBC News 24, just to check I hadn’t missed news of an imminent apocalypse.

Thanks to this (only partially self-imposed) media blackout, I’ve missed any number of pre-season previews, 95% of which I can confidently assert, without having heard/seen/read them, were pitifully ill-informed. This can only be a good thing.

I thus arrived at the first day of the season feeling refreshed, both in general, and as a football fan, and actually looking forward to the whole thing damn starting all over again. (This is my 45th season as a Watford fan; you’ll excuse me if I can’t quite summon up the boundless enthusiasm of the teenage me any more.) Our plane was due to land at Gatwick at 3.20pm, so I reckoned that I’d be able to listen to the second half on 5 Live on the car radio on the way home – something to look forward to on the seemingly interminable journey back from an island that is, after all, in the English Channel.

True, by the time we finally reached the car in the long-stay car park, it was still half-time, and I’d gleaned that we were one-nil up. Said car then decided to overheat while I was circumnavigating the M25, necessitating a stop at Cobham Services and a lengthy diagnostic process that finally revealed that the car was out of coolant.

When we were finally moving again, I switched on the radio just in time to hear news of Everton’s second equaliser, and spent a nervous few minutes in fear of an even worse announcement. In the end, a draw felt... okay, I suppose. We’re up and running, and I’m looking forward to going in to work tomorrow and taunting my Arsenal- and Spurs-supporting colleagues that we’re above them in the table.

Football’s back, and goddammit, I’m excited again. I may not be a teenager, but it still gets me every time.