Nationwide Division One, 24/10/00
By Gary Parkinson
To reply to Matt Rowson's energetic memories of Wembley and its aftermath: I still get reminded occasionally by Watford fans that I caused great tremulousness by dismissing the longball game as ugly. Why would you suppose that is? I find it hard to make a case for Taylor's 1999 vintage playing nicer football than Todd's contemporaneous team, but whatever the relative merits and demerits of those sides - nay, those ethics - things have moved on apace. A gallant season in the Prem seems to have taken Watford away from the sort of football deemed necessary to climb from the Second Division and as a result, the Hornets are now playing the kind of football we (hell, even I) like to see.
And, oh irony of ironies, since then Bolton have discovered the boot.
Following the sort of financial disaster which awaits football clubs who aren't as careful as Watford post-Premiership, Sam Allardyce has been installed as boss. As you will have seen by now, we have on occasion taken to the boot. The pages of "Tripe 'n' Trotters", the Bolton fanzine I used to edit, have been buzzing with debate as some enjoy the success brought about by Sam's motivational powers while others remain mortified by the knock over the top. The first six weeks of Sam's reign saw boos ring round the Reebok until the long balls subsided; by the end of the season we were knocking it about nicely, hence the late run into the play-offs. However, an early season injury-and-sales crisis has left us bereft of wingers but with a surfeit of nippy strikers.... By the time you read this, tonight's game may have been played and you may have discovered this for yourself.
I still abhor the long ball. It's not the football I grew up loving. I wouldn't have enjoyed the season we got 98 points and 100 goals if they'd have been bludgeoned in the manner of Sheffield United or Burnley. I can see its potential usefulness, and if my team won a Play-Off Final 1-0 with Jaaskelainen kicking it long for Ricketts to run on to and hit first time, I would celebrate. But if, the following season, the majority of games were going to rely on the same ploy, I for one wouldn't renew my ticket.