Saturday, 5 September 2015

What a life

I finally got round to trying out the My Premier League Life tool on the BBC Sport website the other day, and very illuminating it is too. I never knew that I share my birthday with Michael Essien and Christian Benteke.

More pertinently, I learnt that, of the nine ‘trophies or promotions’ Watford have achieved in their history, eight have occurred in my lifetime (the one I missed being a 4th-place finish to win promotion from Division 4 in 1959-60). Looking into the details, I was reminded that we’ve only ever actually won three trophies: the Division 3 title in 1969-69 and 1997-98, and the Division 4 title in 1977-78. In other words, we’re not bad at getting promoted, but we’ve rarely done it in style.

Here’s the thing, though: if we stay up this season, there’s a pretty high probability that we won’t win another trophy in my lifetime.

If we don’t stay up, then there’s always the Championship title to play for; with the Pozzos’ backing, we’d have a decent chance of going one better than last season. But if we do stay up, and we establish ourselves as a Premier League club, then it’s probably not worth investing in a trophy cabinet.

Look at the records of some of the mid-ranking Premier League clubs that we can realistically aspire to sit alongside in the years to come:
  • Newcastle United – last trophy: Fairs Cup, 1969 (apart from the Championship title or equivalent, which they won in 1993 and 2010)
  • West Bromwich Albion – last trophy: FA Cup, 1968 (apart from the Championship title, which they won in 2008)
  • Stoke City – last trophy: League Cup, 1972 (apart from the 2nd Division title, which they won in 1993)
  • West Ham United – last trophy: FA Cup, 1980 (and they won the 2nd Division title the following year)
  • Southampton – last trophy: FA Cup, 1976 (surprisingly, they’ve never actually won the Championship or equivalent)
You see the pattern: the only way for clubs like these – like us, potentially – to win silverware in the last 30-odd years has been to drop down a division and come back up as champions.

There are occasional exceptions, of course. Since the turn of the century, Swansea, Wigan, Birmingham and Portsmouth have all won one of the two cup competitions, though only one of those is still a Premier League club.

That’s our best bet, though. Unless something cataclysmic happens to English football, the Premier League title will remain out of Watford’s reach, as it is to all but a handful of clubs. The European competitions? I can see us qualifying for the Europa League in a few years’ time, if all goes according to plan, but winning it? Since it switched to the current format, the only English club to win the trophy are Chelsea.

Maybe we’ll win the FA Cup or League Cup one day, then. But that does rather depend on whether we actually take those competitions seriously, as Southampton, West Ham and the others listed above did in the 1970s and 80s. A cup run was something special in those days, the three-week gap between rounds filled with eager anticipation. Nowadays, the only thing we have to look forward to when the cups come around is the chance to see players in action who spend the rest of the season warming the bench if they’re lucky.

(I don’t blame Quique for selecting the team he did against Preston in the League Cup, by the way; in the circumstances, it was the only chance he had to see those players in competitive action. I do blame the players for being rubbish, though.)

So there you have it. If I’m lucky, I’ve maybe got another 30 or 40 years of supporting Watford ahead of me before I pop my clogs. But I doubt I’ll ever see them lift another trophy, unless we get relegated. Which is why I’ll never forgive them for chucking away the Championship title against Sheffield Wednesday in May.

1 comment:

Neil Mulhall said...

I feel the same. We threw away the best chance we had of a trophy in years back in May. I couldn't celebrate after the game, it felt more like a wake. The fact that Bournemouth won and their celebrity supporter Lee Probert fixed it for them just rubs salt into the wounds.