Bed for sale
By Matt Rowson
I live in a flat.
It's not particularly flash, but it's mine and I like it. It's a bit of a tip most of the time...not dirty exactly, just messy, but always messy. The main bedroom is a particular problem containing, as it does, my bookshelves, my PC, and hence the detritus from too many match previews...CDs out of boxes, match programmes, empty Diet Coke cans, and so forth. It might, by a more objective outsider, be considered typical of a bachelor in his mid-twenties.
One problem. Even if I can get away with calling twenty-seven years and nine months "mid-twenties", my flat is no longer a bachelor pad. It contains a second resident...my fiancée, pretty tolerant of most of my foibles, but not a big fan of empty Diet Coke cans, match programmes etc in bedrooms.
The solution: things get shunted around a bit. Cupboard-sized spare room now becomes a very cosy study. This will involve shunting backwards and forwards of wardrobe, bookshelves, books, PC, a telephone extension for the modem and probably some painting. I also have to flog the spare bed. This grand plan was concocted about six months ago.
After some careful analysis, I have concluded that the first stage in the process is the sale of the spare bed. There is no longer any point pretending that the whole shebang is easy, or that I can fit it all in one spare Sunday evening. Yes, I am capable of shunting this crap around; no, it's not going to happen unless I get my finger out and sell that bed.
And, it occurs to me, my situation here mirrors that of Watford to no small extent. Early days, sure, but there's no denying that we're at the very least in the running for promotion back where we don't belong. Certainly, winning despite the odd ropey performance is a better recipe for success than playing okay and losing à la Stockport. We are on course...promotion is far from guaranteed, but it's very much in our hands.
Assuming that everything's going to be fine and taking the whole thing for granted, however, is neither a course of action best suited to getting us there nor the most enjoyable alternative. How we mocked the strangely placid Premiership grounds last season, whose crowds were so ambivalent to our visits. They WERE pathetic, even if those games meant so much more to us, but no less pathetic are we if we start taking the three points off the likes of QPR for granted. Yes, we're capable of going up. Yes, we can beat QPR - a side without an away win this season. No, it's not something that will happen without us making a bloody effort.
In goal for Rangers will be former Arsenal understudy Lee Harper. After several seasons as Ludek Miklosko's deputy, Harper stood in for the injured Czech last season and has been in outstanding form ever since. He was Rangers' man of the match in their last game at Bramall Lane. Miklosko is now his deputy.
Rangers have serious injury problems at the moment, which have hit them particularly hard at the back. Long-serving duo Karl Ready and Danny Maddix are out, along with the promising Matthew Rose, Chris Plummer, and the popular Ian Baraclough. One option as cover, former Ranger Darren Peacock, turned down a loan move from Blackburn this week; Gerry Francis is rumoured to be interested in his team-mate Marlon Broomes as an alternative. A popular signing on the part of the fans would apparently have been Darren Ward, who impressed greatly during a loan spell last year before returning to Watford and booking a first team spot by kicking Mark Hughes into the air.
Should cover fail to arrive by the weekend, the central positions are likely to be taken by England U21 star Clarke Carlisle, a summer arrival from Blackpool, and old-timer Tim Breacker, who is reputed to appear all over the pitch despite never seeming to move.
More cover exists in the full-back positions; Jermaine Darlington, a popular attacking option, was attracting Premiership interest until he signed a new contract last week. On the left, Christer Warren was another summer signing from Bournemouth. The Finn Antti Heinola is another possibility on the right, whilst former West Ham fullback (and a Watford target many moons ago) Keith Rowland has been ungently described as "the worst bit about losing Trevor Sinclair".
In midfield, Steve Morrow still looks just like he did when on-loan at Watford many years ago...can a hairline be "receding" if it never moves? Whatever, people are still trying to work out what he's for. Stuart Wardley, signed from Saffron Walden Town last season, scored an impressive fourteen goals last term, but his overall contribution was apparently less decisive. Australian George Kulcsar, a one-time meningitis victim, is a destructive influence in the middle. Paul Murray, once an England U21 star, has never truly blossomed, whilst Gavin Peacock's batteries have still not quite run dry.
Up front, Rangers have a number of options. Chris Kiwomya is still a talented striker (although perhaps not as talented as he thinks he is). Dutchman Sammy Koejoe has started to impress this season having arrived from Austria last term. Meanwhile Peter Crouch, a lanky 6'7", should be hard to miss. Karl Connolly will bring back memories of some unpleasant trips to Wrexham.
Not facing the Hornets will be Paul Furlong, back at St.Andrews with a knee injury having aborted his loan spell, Swede Rob Steiner, forced to retire through injury, and young Welshman Leon Jeanne. Following a string of personal problems and a drink-driving conviction, Jeanne looks set to join fellow reprobate Dai Thomas at Cardiff, where Sam Hammam and Bobby Gould seem intent on parodying the Crazy Gang.
This is a game that we can win, but not three points waiting on a plate. So let's make some bloody noise. If any further motivation is needed, just think back twenty years to Terry Venables' smarmy grin and the first side ever to be built around the offside trap.
Meanwhile, if anyone's looking to buy a bed....