You already know the story. Little old Watford have been bought by Giampaolo Pozzo, the owner of Udinese and Granada and we now have loads of foreign players in on loan, something that has upset everyone’s favourite ranter Ian Holloway. You probably also know that as a result of this influx of quality new players we are sitting pretty challenging for automatic promotion. But what does this Watford fan make of the situation?
As I see it, there are three possible reasons one might criticize the new Watford way…
Reason one – It’s unfair
Well, even Holloway in his rant admitted that Watford are breaking no rules. The rules are the rules. If rolling subs were allowed in professional football, managers would use rolling subs in professional football. They can’t, so they don’t. The laws as they currently are allows an unlimited amount of foreign loan signings, so any team can have as many foreign loanees as they want. We have tonnes of them, and there is nothing unfair about it.
Reason two – “It’s destroying the heart and soul of the club”
I can understand why at the start of the Pozzo project, people may have been concerned that these loan players will come in, as short term mercenaries and then leave again, whilst local boys don’t get a chance in the first team. But this has simply not been the case. Since the Pozzo’s have arrived, academy product Tommie Hoban has made himself a fixture in the first team, Sir Lloyd Doyley, the world’s best, but most unfashionable footballer has played most of the time too, and several academy products have signed new long-term contracts with the club. There were also accusations that the academy had got ‘downgraded’ to add fuel to the anti-Pozzo fire. But no downgrading actually occurred; the Pozzo’s simply did not apply for the top rating under EPPP. They felt that at this point, the benefit of the top grade would not be worth the cost. There is no reason why we cannot apply for regarding in the future. They show no signs of killing off the academy either, as shown by the signing of Panos Armenekas, seen by many as one of the best U-16 players in the world…(Google him!)
Meanwhile, in terms of these loanees being temporary mercenaries, it doesn’t sound like this is the case. Ikechi Anya told the Watford Observer last week “We don’t feel like we are on loan. We are all one big group. I can understand where the negative comments are coming from because it is the first time this has happened but, as a team, we all feel like we’re a close unit.”
With Fernando Forestieri already signing a permanent deal, plenty more of the loanees are expected to follow suit shortly, with star players Matej Vydra and Almen Abdi have already stating their intentions to stay.
Reason three – The end of the ‘Watford way’
Over the last decade, Watford have consistently punched above their weight to stay at championship level. Year after year we have played against teams with far higher paid, more talented players, yet amazingly, we have survived. We have achieved this primarily through maintaining an amazing level of togetherness and an incredible work ethic in the squad. When coming up against better opposition, Watford players have responded by giving their all and busting a gut for the shirt, pressing the opposing team all over the pitch. One particular memory that typifies this for me is a 60 yard cross field run by Danny Graham when we wear already 2 up at Bristol City away a few years back which forced a corner from a dawdling keeper. This is just one of countless examples of the extraordinary willingness to give everything for the cause was typical of the Boothroyd-Mackay-Dyche ‘ Watford way.’ As a fan, I loved this. Despite mid table obscurity, I was able to have a huge amount of pride in my team, repeatedly living the underdog dream, whilst watching the boys giving their all and stealing points away at far superior teams across the land.
So, when the Pozzo’s arrived, I have to admit to being very concerned that a switch of manager from a no nonsense centre back to a stylish Italian Flair player, plus an influx of foreign talent was going to leave us with a lot of class, but result in us losing this ‘Watford way.’ But my fears were quickly allayed when I saw the new boys in action. Their work rate and commitment has been exceptional. I was particularly thrilled when in a recent home game, ‘Vydra pulled a Graham’ and ran a gut busting 70 yard sprint to force a corner when we already three ahead. This is not an isolated case. Every game, players are going in full-blooded for 50:50’s, chasing down lost causes and giving everything for the shirt.
This season has been the beginning of the new Watford way. The only difference from the old way? New Watford are a lot better at football.
Written by David Lawrence, We Are Going Up’s Watford blogger
David tweets at @davehlawrence
The original image from this article can be found here (photographer Alan Cozzi).