Happy Premier League Survival Day, Hornets fans! Okay, it was actually yesterday, but I think we can safely extend the celebrations across the entire Bank Holiday weekend.
PLSD (as no one but me calls it) has come a bit later this year - we reached 40 points on the 16th and 17th of April in 2016 and 2017, respectively – and I’m sure I’m not the only Watford fan who spent most of the second half of the game yesterday wondering if it was going to come at all. As Newcastle battered our defence (aided by some decidedly odd substitutions by Javi Gracia), it was all too easy to anticipate a defeat, followed by results elsewhere going against us in midweek and leaving us needing to get something from the game at Old Trafford next Sunday.
In the end, we got the win we probably should have managed weeks ago. In truth, we haven’t been playing badly for the past month, but we’ve made critical errors at both ends of the pitch when it mattered. You may have seen that Watford came top of the Guardian’s ineptitude index for this season, and the reasons were on display again yesterday; countless misplaced passes, chances spurned (there were two breakaways late on that should have been converted), a missed penalty. And it was ironic that Abdoulaye Doucouré picked up the Players’ Player of the Season award at the end of probably his worst game of the campaign. A cynic might suggest that he played like someone whose signature on a big-money transfer has already been pencilled in.
Against that, Roberto Pereyra again showed the skills we’ve missed all that time he’s spent injured, Etienne Capoue continued his remarkable transformation into a latter-day Roger Joslyn, and Andre Gray demonstrated what we all knew – that he needs another striker to play alongside in order to be truly effective.
And so we can look forward to a fourth successive Premier League season, without ever having truly been in danger of relegation in the first three. We’re over halfway to matching what Elton and GT achieved in the 1980s, and that’s worth celebrating. I finally got round to reading Rocket Men recently, the Tales from the Vicarage book which focuses on that era. The unspoken implication of that title is that all space rockets eventually plummet back to Earth, but for all the frustrations and irritations of this odd season, it honestly doesn’t feel like the Pozzos’ rocket is anywhere near the peak of its trajectory yet.