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02/03: Review:
"All undefeated runs must come to an end"
By Martin Patching
First published in the Hemel Hempstead Gazette, 23/10/02

The 3-0 defeat at Gilingham was a slight setback - however, all undefeated runs must come to an end and I am sure a few lessons were taken on board by the squad. The Hornets dominated the second half and created several chances, notably when Heidar Helguson hit the far post with a looping header and Tommy Smith pulled out another fine save from the impressive Brown in the Gillingham goal. Tommy has been troubled with a groin injury of late but looked sharp in the second half after replacing Allan Nielsen at half-time.

On the subject of substitutions, Watford manager Ray Lewington and his right hand man Terry Burton threw caution to the wind in an attempt to pull back a 2 goal deficit. In fact for the majority of the second period Watford fielded three strikers and an orthodox lert-winger in Anthony McNamee. The team consequently defended from the front and apart from the odd breakaway and ultimately the third goal in the 90th minute, The Gills were unable to escape from their own half. It would be almost unheard of and of great surprise if Ray were to employ this system from the kick-off but it certainly worked and not too many teams in this division would be able to cope against it.

Onto Saturday, Sheffield Wednesday are the visitors, The Owls returned to form last week with a 2-1 home win against Yorkshire rivals Bradford City. Classy Gerald Sibon earned the points with two goals. Manager Terry Yorath is under pressure, so another tough battle for The Hornets. Wednesday's lowly position may seem false for a club of its stature in the game, but they flirted with relegation for much of last season and appear bogged down.

The crystal ball has been a little hazy of late(as my fixed odds account proves) but if The Hornets can contain the elusive Sibon, a home win looks on the cards. Watford will be holding their anti-racism day at Saturdays match. A busy time at Vicarage Road of late, Tuesday saw 1,500 people enjoy an open day at the stadium - despite the rain, the fans took a tour behind the scenes and watched a full training session on the pitch. Watford reserves narrowly defeated Tring Town in Tuesday night's Herts Senior Cup tie. The home side gave a good account of themselves with goalkeeper Gary Clark pulling out several fine saves. Watford defender Matthew Langston scored the only goal of the game with a close range header from a Neil Saunders corner kick.

Back to that crystal ball and as I predicted way back in the middle of last season in this column some form of wage restructuring is being discussed at Football league level. A reduction in a player's contract should his club be relegated seems a popular proposal. It would come as no surprise to me if in fact a maximum wage is unofficially agreed between the chairman of the top Nationwide League clubs.

Watford grasped the nettle in being possibly the first club to ask its playing staff to take deferments of pay, the rest followed very quickly and it will be interesting to see which club faces a revolt from its players and the consequences of such a refusal. The professionals in the 2nd and 3rd divisions earn little over the national average, but should the gate money not cover the outgoings I fear some clubs will fold.

The supporters will be encouraged to form Trust funds, the first of these was set up at Northampton Town. The Cobblers are now in trouble again, proving a Trust fund is no guarentee of long term survival. Watford's Trust fund is growing fast and is now the 5th largest of its kind in the country. Excluding Sir Elton, who owns 70 million shares, the Trust fund have the largest shareholding outside the Watford board of directors. They will shortly be working, alongside Watford F.C, in the forming of the prospectus for the new share issue. Within the next six weeks the members will meet to decide a course of action regarding the cash which has been raised.


In the charts:

Football League Division One
Watford 2 Norwich City 2
Sherwood, Patching(who?), Terry, Bolton, Rostron, Callaghan, Taylor, Jackett, Barnes, Blissett, Jenkins.
Scorers:Terry, Jackett.

Reproduced courtesy of Gazette Newspapers