This article first appeared on The Two Unfortunates.
If this is wrong I don’t want to be right (or I’m sorry I’m not sorry)
Not so long ago, in a satellite town not very far away (from London), Aidy Boothroyd’s spell as Watford manager was reaching an unpleasant conclusion. Those who hung about to witness the end saw some of the most depressingly clueless football ever seen at Watford. It was a sad end to what had initially been a very successful period for the club. But, the problems didn’t end with Boothroyd’s departure; the club was burdened with failed signings on ridiculously high salaries for several seasons. All the financial benefits of promotion to the Premier League were wiped out and we were back on the bread line. It was all that was wrong with modern football.
And then, only last season, we had someone in charge who claimed to be the owner, but who could never provide much information about where his money came from, or how he was going to pay for all the wonderful things he wanted to do at the club. Turns out he didn’t have any actual money – surprise! – and that his ownership was a complete farce that could have sunk the club. It was all that was wrong with modern football.
Thankfully, someone else was crazy enough to buy the club – enter new owners, the Pozzo family – and Watford are enjoying their best season in ages. They finished the calendar year in sixth place, scoring tons of goals, and with a playing cast that look incongruously skilful compared to the average in the Championship. Truth be told, it’s hard to recall a time when Watford have played more aesthetically pleasing football. Brendan Rodgers got them passing, but never with this level of incisiveness. Zola’s Watford team can look almost disinterested at times, then they spring into the life with a series of rapid passes and overlapping runs, like a flurry of punches, to leave their opponents bewildered and disoriented. There’s something tremendously satisfying about seeing your opponent’s goal keeper banging his fists on the turf and berating his confused defenders with a kind of terrified fury.
So, we’ve got nothing to grumble about, and plenty to be thankful for. The problem is, not everyone wants to share in our joy. There are some who want to take it away, to make us doubt. We’re all familiar with the criticism now – Watford are soulless; the endless stream of loans has destroyed the fabric of the club; what about the old community spirit; the home grown players have been thrown out on the street and forced to beg for food. Watford are all that’s wrong with modern football.
It’s all a giant, steaming pile of horse shit, of course, but it smarts a bit, having nasty things said about you. What do these people want, would they have us back with the previous regime and life of permanent uncertainty? It makes you want to react, to condemn articles and attack authors. And you only have to see the comments below the line on a hilariously ill-informed opinion editorial in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph for evidence. It’s fine to point out the inaccuracies, the trick is to keep the fury at check while doing so, otherwise it looks like the author has touched a nerve. Think about it; it’s only a short step from being a bit irked about some criticisms of your club to ‘Liverpool fan’. Is that where we want to be – leaping in en masse every time someone makes a critical remark about our club?
Graham Taylor didn’t raise us that way. We’ve always had to deal with haters, and it never bothered us much in the past. Yes, lot’s of people are getting it wrong about Watford, but imagine if the Pozzo family had rocked up elsewhere. Let’s suppose they’d acquired Charlton, and were packing their squad full of imports, while Watford struggled to pay for a first XI. We’d be properly green.
Instead, there’s probably plenty of Championship clubs feeling jealous of Watford right now. They feel threatened by our methods – our academy prospects, our access to a global scouting network, and the fact that we’re defying the early doubters and having a right laugh in the process.
We’ve got Fernando Forestieri – a highly skilled Argentine Italian forward with a weird Disney obsession; we’ve got Almen Abdi – an actual playmaker who can thread a pass like no one I’ve seen at the Vic in, well, like no one I’ve seen at the Vic; and, we’ve got Tommy Hoban – a child from our academy disguised as a monstrously brilliant centre-back. Of course Martin Samuel’s pissed off – it wasn’t supposed to work.
Who knows how long it will last, but when it does, no one is going to convince my club are destroying football. This season is supposed to be the one for bedding in, with a promotion push the following year, but football doesn’t work like that. You don’t always get to choose the moment you’re on the up. We need to make the most of now, forgetting about Samuel and Co. We should be singing and dancing and prancing our way to Vicarage Road. Hello Watford High Street! Hello the Church multi-storey car park! Hello Red Lion! Hello burger van outside the Vicarage Road End – is this food safe? It doesn’t look safe. Really? Ok, go on then, double cheese burger with lots of onions please! This truly is a wonderful time to be alive.