No matter what club we support, we all as fans of football share certain traits. For example: we all openly fancy ourselves as dab-hand tipsters and like to share our wisdom as loudly and often as possible. And, by and large we all have blind faith in the ability of our team, that despite the rest of the world tipping against them.
As a Watford fan, it’s been a start to the season where I’ve realised both this painfully quickly. Having boldly predicted a similarly impressive season to last under rookie boss Sean Dyche, the Hornets have set about undermining my blind optimism collecting just one point and two goals from their opening four games, that in spite of a league high 31 shots on target during said games.
My rationale was simple. Even though we’d lost top-scorer Danny Graham, mercurial winger Will Buckley, workaholic Don Cowie and braveheart boss, Malky Mackay, we had strengthened the squad. The wide players had been replaced by Craig Forsyth and Mark Yeates. Chris Iwelumo had amply filled Graham’s vacated number 10 jersey, Carl Dickinson became our first out-and-out left-back since Mat Sadler lost favour in 2008 and finally, Prince Buaben and David Mirfin added further depth to our young squad.
In the dug-out, Dyche would provide continuity as a disciple of Mackay and someone who had filled most coaching roles at the club since returning upon retirement in 2007. A former Hornet who personifies discipline, Dyche looked every-inch Mackay Mk II.
On paper, all looked rosy. But as the cliché says, ‘football is played on grass; not paper.’ Don’t we just know it.
The opening day draw at Burnley was a tease. Out-played for the first 45 minutes we somehow came into half-time with a lead which was doubled shortly after the break. Any lingering worries had been alleviated and a good season was on the cards. Almost inevitably, the positivity was short-lived as Keith Treacy sparked a one-man come-back to secure his new side a point.
Since then there’s been little cause for a return to optimism. Having out-played Derby and lost, West Ham quickly reminded Dyche’s troops what a top-notch side can do as they cruised to a 4-0 away win before a frustrating goalless draw against floundering Coventry. Suddenly a re-arranged Carling Cup first round tie at League Two Bristol Rovers becomes very important indeed. A confidence booster hopefully, but surely a first win of the campaign.
The general consensus is further additions are needed and clearly owner Laurance Bassini concurs having granted Dyche extra funds to recruit a new striker and midfielder. Whilst Graham thrived on chasing down lost causes and flinging himself into 50/50 chances, Iwelumo is a different sort of player. Arguably more measured he has failed to impress so far but is ‘not 100% fit according to the gaffer’. Even when fit you suspect the Scot will score more headers than opportunistic strikes. A work-horse forward with pace and energy is required to inject some panache into our beleaguered front line.
In midfield, Ross Jenkins and John Eustace are carbon-copies of one another, programmed to calmly sit and screen the back four. They can’t play together as they drain the creativity from the midfield and when we’ve enjoyed the attacking talents of Tom Cleverley, Jordon Mutch and Henri Lansbury in recent years it’s easy to see why these two don’t match up. Not that we’d expect them to take the responsibility of creative fulcrum, but with Stephen McGinn sidelined until December at least somebody has to.
Returning to the earlier theme of blinkered positivity I’m confident (or hopeful), that our season will be up-and-running soon, but not before Dyche adds those final pieces of the jigsaw.
Where do you see The Hornets finishing this season?
By Tom Bodell – Watford fan – @TBBodell