Sunday, 20 May 2018
There’s always a but
A week after the end of the 2017-18 season and the sense of frustration I wrote about a few weeks ago still lingers. There were so many good things that were ultimately undermined by personalities and performances and circumstances and sheer bad luck. Here are five of my biggest buts (no sniggering at the back).
It’s great that we had 17 different scorers this season – it’s not a bad thing when there are multiple players who are capable of hitting the back of the net. But the fact that not one player managed double figures, and that our top scorer, with an underwhelming seven, was a midfielder (Doucouré) whose last goal came on January 13th, points to one of the key problems: neither Silva nor Gracia came up with a system or a formation that consistently created chances for our forwards. That’s the key issue that needs sorting out next season.
It’s great that Troy Deeney is still at our club and looks set to start his ninth season in August – a rare feat in modern football. His talismanic status is universally acknowledged, and I think he can still make an important contribution if Gracia can find a way to play to his strengths. But, let’s be honest, this wasn’t his greatest season, lack of goals aside. Missing seven games on bans for violent conduct didn’t help us, or him, given that he is, by his own admission, a player who needs a run of games to operate at his most effective.
It’s great that we signed a couple of hugely promising young English players, Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes, who look set to have a big impact over the next couple of seasons if we can keep them fit. But the continuing lack of players coming through from our own Academy is disappointing. At least Mazzarri gave a few of them a runout, albeit mostly through necessity. This season, a handful of benchwarming stints by Michael Folivi, Carl Stewart and Joy Mokena – actually, they managed four between them, so not even a handful – is all we have to show for the club’s investment in youth. It’s rather depressing to think that Adrian Mariappa may turn out to be the last player we ever get to sing ‘He’s one of our own’ for.
It’s great that the 1881 have continued to improve the atmosphere at games this season with their banners and flags and confetti cannons (though a bit of warning might have been nice, lads – an old bloke near me nearly had a heart attack when they went off the first time). Sticking a drummer and a ‘conductor’ on the TV gantry outside the hospitality suite for a couple of games near the end of the season worked particularly well. But it’s disheartening to see so many empty seats at most games, suggesting that there a few thousand season ticket holders who aren’t actually that bothered about Watford, but can afford to spend hundreds of pounds a year to watch a handful of games that interest them. I know the club is looking into this, and it’s an emotive subject – you can’t force people to attend games. But all the talk of extending the ground seems a bit extraneous as long as we can’t fill it from week to week at the current capacity.
And finally, a personal bugbear. It’s great that the players still run out to ‘Z Cars’ – it’s part of the club’s heritage, something that is special and (almost) unique to us. But it’s bloody annoying that they cut it off once the teams have lined up and switch to some anonymous rubbish that is presumably the PL’s official anthem, or some such nonsense (I’m moderating my language here in case any minors are reading), thus depriving us of the chance to hear the tune in all its glory, complete with the bonkers clarinet (?) solo in the middle. I assume this is a PL rule – I noticed at the Bristol City FA Cup tie that ‘Z Cars’ got played in full – but that doesn’t make it any less irritating.