By Ian Grant
My mum reads this website sometimes and, possibly, isn't the only member of my
family to do so. Many of my friends and acquaintances read it too,
whether genuinely interested in the fortunes of Watford Football Club or merely
using it as an easy source of information on how my life's going.
Of course, there are hundreds of supporters too. Some that I know well, whether virtually
or in the flesh, and some that I don't know at all. Some that are visiting for the first time, perhaps as a fan of the
opposition or a recent Net convert, and some that have been coming back for
So, this report will be read by people that I like and respect. People that, I
hope, like and respect me in return. It might be read by the woman who brought
me into this world, just as it might be read by my future, as yet undiscovered,
wife. It will undoubtedly be read by many people who, in the absence of
any other information, will use it to form an opinion about the kind of person
that I am.
It is, therefore, a shame that it must involve a very great deal of shouting and
Because, IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS LOGICAL, SANE AND REASONABLE IN THIS WORLD, WHAT THE
F***ING HELL WAS THIS? HAVE WE FORGOTTEN EVERYTHING? HAVE WE FALLEN
SO F***ING FAR THAT WE CAN'T EVEN KICK A FOOTBALL, LET ALONE KICK IT TO ONE OF OUR
F***ING TEAMMATES? WELL, HAPPY BASTARD CHRISTMAS TO YOU TOO, CHAPS....
Assuming that you're planning on squeezing some enjoyment from the festive season,
we'll try not to dwell on the whole sorry mess for too long. It is, after all,
the season to be jolly, even if managing that after yesterday's atrocity might
require considerable amounts of alcohol.
In particular, we'll avoid thinking too hard about the last Watford performance
that might've been this shambolic, shameful and amateurish. It wasn't recent,
though - we may not have shone brightly in any of our run of defeats but, Christ, we've
not sunk this low before. On too many occasions, a beaten team is heavily criticised
for the result alone. This time, they deserve nearly everything that'll be
hurled at them.
Even now, I'm using the word "nearly". The reason for that is simple. Whatever
the players did yesterday, there was one incident that went beyond even their
The huge cheer that went up when Allan Smart's substitution was announced was
absolutely bloody disgraceful. Even leaving past achievements aside, he was one
of only a couple of Watford players attempting to participate in something that
was vaguely recognisable as football. Unsurprisingly, there was no notable improvement
after his departure - he wasn't the problem. That's the kind of sickening, vile
thing that you expect to find at the worst Premiership grounds - spoilt, pig-f***ing-ignorant
fans with no understanding of the game, except for the rudimentary basics of victory
and defeat. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Really, don't feel obliged to
Not that any of us will be in a great hurry after this. If this is what happens
when confidence collapses, we'd be well advised to keep away and ask GT to
give us a call when the courses of counselling are completed. My God, this was
Being a charitable type, I can again forgive the lack of pass-and-move grooviness
from a team that's lost all of its previous cheek and verve. The football that we're
playing is, to say the least, not pretty. More importantly, it's not even
vaguely effective either and, for much of this match, there was nothing but
aimless hope. We knew that we needed to win, but we had no idea how that might
Thing is, it might've happened. Naturally, it would've required heaped spoonfuls
of luck...but, in the shape of another ludicrous own goal, we got exactly that. Yet it
made no difference, simply because our defence was flimsy and pathetic for the
entire ninety minutes. That a better side than Huddersfield would've left
with four or five goals is disturbing...particularly when you consider that, according
to the league table, every side we'll be playing for the rest of the season is better than
It began in the second minute as our back four stood around and looked vacantly at
the linesman while Facey charged through towards goal. You could argue about the validity
of the decision - Ndlovu was clearly offside in a central position but ruled not to
be interfering with play - but that's hardly the point. Thankfully, Facey's finish
was poor, dragging the shot across the face of goal as Espen Baardsen advanced. Still,
he needn't have worried - he was to get plenty of other chances.
The game was drab, smelly and ugly, like the newly-crowned City of Wolverhampton. Littered
with errors, it only occasionally hinted that anyone might be getting paid for their
involvement. Peter Kennedy mis-hit a volley at Vaesen from twenty yards to produce our
first shot on target after eight minutes.
Shortly afterwards, Baardsen managed to get a hand to Gallen's close range prod from a
corner that had been flicked on at the near post. In all honesty, he shouldn't have been
able to do anything about it - had the Town striker made better contact as he swung his
boot, he would surely have scored. Again, we were left to stare in disbelief at the ease with
which our opponents were able to create clear-cut chances. Despite the presence of
the mercurial Ndlovu, there was no magic involved here.
After some briefly rousing support, Vicarage Road was now quietly, but very irritably,
settling in for the duration. As Allans Nielsen and Smart managed to lose the ball on the edge
of the box by being over-intricate, we heard the same frustrations being voiced again. Attacking
the Rookery after the visitors had switched ends, it seemed that we were already chasing three
points that were slipping away.
Plenty of hard graft, precious little inspiration. Smart struck a tame half-volley at
Vaesen from a tight angle, with no support to give him a better option; Nielsen headed
over from Kennedy's cross but was penalised for a push anyway. Then a quite delightful
touch from Paolo Vernazza - energetic, imaginative and, of the starting eleven, the only
player to come up with anything that you might've bought a ticket to watch - put Smart into
a bit of space. Although Vaesen got his fingertips to the low shot that resulted, it
was probably going wide anyway. Still, some cause for hope.
Unfortunately - and typically - Huddersfield took the lead within sixty seconds, extinguishing
that hope in an almost eerie fashion. Once again, it was a catalogue of errors...but not a
catalogue that you'd want to buy anything from, natch. For a start, Paul Robinson nearly succeeded in
shinning a harmless cross into his own net. Then Baardsen failed to do anything particularly decisive
with the corner and, as the ball was half-cleared, the defence pushed out in an unconvincing,
this-is-what-the-boss-says-we-should-do sort of way. That left Ndlovu all on his own to receive
the header back into the box and gently flick the ball past the despairing
keeper. Everyone watched in silence as it bounced slowly towards the goal and,
when it nestled in the bottom corner, that silence was hardly broken by the celebrations of a
few hundred visiting fans. What a bloody shambles.
Although, it has to be said, not as much of a bloody shambles as the equaliser. I mean,
at least we required some assistance from the opposition when we managed to cock stuff up. Such are
the small measures of consolation that we must cling to, sadly.
After Carlton Palmer had headed weakly at Vaesen from Robinson's free kick, the scores were
levelled by Heary's howling own goal. There was nothing happening at all as Vernazza floated a fairly
aimless ball towards the Huddersfield penalty area. Vaesen came off his line to collect, Heary diligently
tracked back to nod it into his keeper's arms. Neither of them took any notice of where the other one
was or what they might be doing, and you can imagine the rest. Such a phenomenally stupid goal that
you rather expected the referee to disallow it for unprofessional conduct or somesuch.
Of course, we hoped that the general idiocy was at an end. Nope. It had only just begun. It continued
with a challenge in midfield by Kennedy that represented his only truly decisive involvement in the game.
It was two-footed, over the top of the ball and thoroughly worthy of a red card. He only received a
yellow, presumably because the official didn't get an especially good view. Still, an act of complete
Vincent dragged a long-range effort wide. Smart nearly got onto the end of a Mooney flick and, from
the corner, Mooney headed over. Really, this had all the qualities of a particularly dour
battle between sides in the relegation zone - mistakes all over the place, horrible passages of
purposeless scrapping, hardly anyone with the confidence to spend more than a couple of
seconds with the ball at their feet. As the referee looked at his watch, Paul Robinson took a free kick
on the halfway line and, without bothering to look, belted it into Steve Palmer's backside from ten yards
away. For f***'s sake.
For fifteen minutes at the start of the second half, you felt that this was a game that we could win. Not
by actually winning it or anything like that, but just by waiting for Huddersfield to lose it. Ndlovu drove a low
shot at Baardsen; substitute Stephen Armstrong volleyed erratically over; Baardsen flicked Vincent's free kick
over the bar just to be sure.
Then, complete despair. As Facey bounced eagerly towards goal, Steve Palmer kicked air and fell on his arse when
given the opportunity to intervene. Robinson was next in line, succeeding only in missing the ball with a challenge
so weak that you had to double-check which player was responsible. Immediately, Facey smacked a shot towards goal...and, to
add insult to injury, Baardsen was beaten at his near post. The idea of defenders is, presumably, to prevent the
opposition from scoring rather than merely make sure that someone's around to watch them doing it.
On a scale of one to ten, the rest was zero and eleven at the same time, and really bloody awful. To put it into
properly punctuated and constructed English is to do it an honour that it doesn't deserve. Yes, we
had opportunities to equalise - again, mainly thanks to the thoroughly cack-handed Vaesen - and were slightly
unfortunate not to take at least one of them. However, our defending deteriorated to the point where you began
to wonder if we shouldn't simply abandon it altogether.
Take Darren Ward, for example. You know, Darren Ward - "he's big, he's tall, he always wins the ball". What the hell
is going on there, then? The player who once made John Hartson pull out of a fifty-fifty challenge is now being
brushed aside by all and sundry. After twenty minutes, a completely harmless ball over the top nearly resulted in a second
goal for Facey, who received barely a murmur of protest as he waltzed past Ward and others to reach it first. Having got
there, he poked the ball goalwards and only Baardsen's left foot got in the way. I mean, what is that all about? Are we
so deep into our depression that we can't even put up a fight when someone tries to muscle us out of the way? Are we
even aware of what's happening around us?
There were moments, of course. Had we grabbed an equaliser, we might've gone on to win it. Then again, we thought
we'd go on to win it when the first equaliser dribbled in. Three points wouldn't have made the performance any
better, they would simply have made it disappear altogether.
Offering compliments of the season, Vaesen managed to catch and drop a hanging cross in front of Heidar Helguson. The
striker - who is no longer a special case, in that he needs a goal about as much as everyone else apart from Mooney
needs a goal - thumped it goalwards, only to find that a defender had got back to divert the effort around the post. From the
corner, it was Mooney's turn to be denied - after the ball had bounced around for a while, his shot was blocked on the
line and muted appeals for handball were waved away.
That sudden, unexpected burst of pressure should've heralded a full-on assault. It didn't, though. After failing
to score, our heads went down again and, apart from one or two players (Vernazza and Armstrong spring to mind), we continued
resorting to the most basic methods imaginable. Gallen volleyed acrobatically over, Carlton Palmer headed tamely at Vaesen.
We were losing badly, and we didn't know what to do about it.
Indeed, Huddersfield might've rubbed salt into our already weeping wounds. Quite simply, we couldn't stop them -
even the most basic defending seemed to have stopped being in any way natural to us. So, again, everyone stood
and stared at the linesman as Gallen broke down the right wing before wastefully prodding a shot wide. He headed at Baardsen
You have to draw a line in the sand, ultimately. Set some targets, some fundamental standards that won't ever be
compromised. If you can't always play constructive, attractive football elsewhere
on the pitch, that's fair enough. You can at least dominate your own territory. Whatever his faults, it's difficult to imagine Robert Page
ever allowing opponents to pass the ball around inside our penalty area without meeting with a challenge. Forget
the football club, that's about taking pride in yourself. After forty-three minutes, Facey again pushed Ward away to get
in a cross from the left. No Watford player touched the ball as it was knocked around inside the box, finally reaching
Holland for an angled blast that was pushed over by Baardsen. Disgraceful.
By that stage, Tommy Smith's belated arrival had brought minor excitement at the Vic Road end. With Armstrong sticking to the
left touchline, we were at least able to play with some balance - Vernazza had done well on the right, without convincing anyone
that he wasn't being played completely out of position. Although Smith nearly netted after Vaesen had managed to
spill a weak shot from Vernazza, it was too late. Thinking of the future and possible solutions to these
desperate problems, however, the fact that we still have players - Armstrong, Vernazza, Smith - capable of standing
up for themselves is surely something to build from.
People booed at the end. This is not surprising.
As previously noted, this was completely off the f***ing scale. The faces in the pub afterwards were beyond despondent. There was
virtually nothing to cling to here, no sign that we will ever be able to win a football match again. We will, of course....
There's little more to say. No constructive criticism, no sensible conclusion. If you've made it this far, I admire your
Happy sodding Christmas, one and all.