As a general rule I lean towards writing this column late into a Tuesday night/ Wednesday morning, a glass or two of wine at hand. The Wednesday lunchtime print deadline therefore restricts any reference to Watford's away trip to face Stoke City. Managerless and struggling they may be, but I take nothing for granted in this life, least of all the Nationwide First Division. A Watford win looks on the cards, let us hope it was.
One glass too many I may have had, but Tuesday evening's scoreline of Grimsby 6 Burnley 5...or was that my teletext screen reacting to the recent stormy weather? Fluctuating form de riguer presently as we find clubs scrambling to remain solvent, whilst mounting an assault on the play-offs at the same time - "strange days indeed" as John Lennon wrote.
Staying with the Tuesday evening fixtures, the Wimbledon-Rotherham game was watched by 849 fans, a gate revenue of let's say £10,000, equating to possibly two Wimbledon players' weekly wage. It cannot go on for ever, reform is very close and a major restructure of the Nationwide League imminent. Rotherham had, in fact, 200 travelling supporters at the game, a quiet night in the pubs of my home town!
Onto another town which holds many fond memories for me, Wolverhampton. Saturday's visitors to Vicarage Road are the once mighty Wolves. Wanderers have won their last three games, this coincieded with their manager David Jones handing Paul Ince the captain's arm band. Make no mistake, Ince is driven, committed to the Wolves cause and seeking a Premiership spot again. The men from Molineux have their tails up and it will be an extremely tough fixture, one which may have a bearing on the end of season play-offs.
Certainly, from what I have seen so far, The Hornets have as much, if not more, than the other candidates challenging for the top six. Danny Webber's injury and consequently his return to Old Trafford to recover from a dislocated shoulder is a blow. Tommy Smith, Heidar Helguson and Dominic Foley will now compete for the strikers' berths. Marcus Gayle is recovering from a short term injury and will soon be back in contention. Good news regarding Gifton Noel-Williams - Gifton is reported as being ahead of his scheduled Christmas come back and the big, skillful, popular striker will hopefully make a full recovery from a knee ligament injury.
Ray Lewington stressed that he wished to have Webber back at Vicarage Road, should Manchester United allow a further loan deal once the promising striker has returned to full fitness. Looking back to last weekend's home win against Sheffield Wednesday, where Helguson headed home a fine cross from Paul Robinson to earn the points - Watford's continued good home form is encouraging. The commitment on the pitch is a credit to all concerned at the club. The supporters are as determind as the players and management to turn the situation around. The Watford smile has returned behind the scenes, not the smile of confidence or optimism, but the smile of togertherness and respect, respect for each and every one who is playing their part. The fans and players must take the centre stage here, recently they have bonded together in a common cause and there is now the feeling that, no matter what, we are going to win, or at the very least, draw at home. On to the crystal ball, a win against a strong and in form Wolves side would be most welcome. However, I somehow see the fixture heading for a scoring draw.
A couple of players nominated for a special mention this week are home grown full-back Lloyd Doyley and Stephen Glass. Lloyd's display against The Owls was first class and a jinking, Brazilian style run, followed by a 35-yard shot on target almost brought the house down. In midfield, Stephen Glass continued to impress - Stephen recently came in for a little bit of "the only one left that Vialli signed " analysis. His skill was never in question and fired by sound performances all along the left-flank this term, his top flight experiance could prove invaluable and he looks committed to the cause.
20 YEARS AGO
In the charts:
Do You Really Want To Hurt Me by Culture Club (for the third week )
Football League Division One
Aston Villa 3 Watford 0
Sherwood, Patching, Terry, Bolton, Rostron, Callaghan, Taylor, Jackett, Barnes, Blissett, Jenkins. Sub: Armstrong
Reproduced courtesy of Gazette Newspapers