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03/04: Review:
July 2003:
Sex, Drugs and Finland
By Mike Peter

My mate has an addiction. It's rather sad and pathetic, really. He's even taken his laptop on holiday to satisfy it. Yes, laptop. I'm sure the thought that has come into your head is: what sort of freak is this person? (Actually, I don't think you thought that. Why would you think it when naturally you can just read on and find out?) So what is his sordid little secret? Does he constantly hack into government files, hoping to become the subject of a Spooks episode? Nope. Does he have a hidden collection of Cherie Blair porn downloaded off the Internet? I bloody well hope not, although I wouldn't be entirely surprised.

No. My friend is addicted to Championship Manager.

Now I'm sure many of you won't be aware of this fantastic game, so I'll fill you in. Championship Manager, now in its fourth incarnation, was created by Sports Interactive - a company headed by fellow BSaD contributor Miles Jacobson. Basically, you can take the role of manager at numerous clubs around the world. See if you can do better than Ray! Get Luton relegated! Take Bolivian side Bongo Bongo to world glory! It can be rather addictive and I'm afraid John is hooked. He can list the entire Georgian squad. He can win stuff with West Ham. Awful, isn't it?

An addiction to Champ Manager is not exactly the coolest of addictions. I'm sure drug addicts would look down on John, probably from wherever they are flying. But then I'm sure they also look down on people who go to pre-season tours to Finland. (Hurray! The tenuous Watford connection.)

To many normal people I'm probably thought of as a bit of a Watford anorak. However, I'm sure these "normal people" would be shocked at the fantastic fanaticism that took a fair number of Watford fans to watch their team rip apart various Finnish teams.

I am certainly happy to be using the term "rip apart". So far this pre-season Watford are unbeaten and are averaging over three goals a game. Ray is experimenting with a 4-3-3 formation. When I first saw this I was a little surprised, but it seems to be doing the business. Of course, we are yet to see the attacking threesome of Dyer, Helguson and Webber (look out, Coventry!) but it is a prospect I look forward to. Jimmy Davis I have heard nothing but praise of, and again his presence makes the new season even more exciting.

The one surprise inclusion this summer, for me at least, is Sean Dyche. I presumed that Dyche had destroyed any hope of becoming a regular Watford starter when he attempted GBH against Preston (an incident I am yet to see, but I'm sure it's rather amusing in a violent way. Um...). However if you cast your mind back to the beginning of last season, Dyche, Cox and Gayle had formed a formidable defensive three. Indeed, my profile of him, written in October, contains nothing but praise.

A Cox, Dyche, Gayle, Robbo back four certainly wouldn't be something to mess with, and I wouldn't mind seeing it. Of course, it would mean Cox moving back to right back, his less preferred position (I don't know why, he only started playing centre back when he came to Watford), and Doyley missing out, which would be sad as I have a great amount of time for Lloyd.

Also this month has seen two strikers on the move. Simon Patterson has taken up a three-month loan at Wycombe. Hopefully this will give him some much-needed first team experience that might have him knocking on the Watford first team door. To be honest, I find that scenario unlikely. Watford now have a fine range of attackers and according to my reckoning he is Watford's eighth choice striker. Patterson wasn't included in the Preston game last season and to me that makes me presume he has little hope of making the grade.

Of course, the other striker is Tommy Smith. Although as I write this Smith is yet to join Charlton's ranks of crap strikers, but it is quite likely that he will, if the Watford Observer is anything to go by. Am I glad to see him go? Yes, I suppose so. Generally when a home-grown player leaves I feel quite sad. Tommy Smith, on the other hand, whilst not on the level of W4BS' arrogance, has refused to sign a contract. And with the arrival of Dyer, Davis and Webber, his increasingly poor service is no longer needed. I wish him all the best in his career.

Yesterday the squad numbers came out, which made me very happy. To me, squad numbers are something quite special for some reason. Also their announcement always means the new season is not far away. If anyone's interested, and I doubt you are, changes include: 7 Dyer, 9 Webber, 10 Johnno (yes!), 11 Davis, 13 Lee, 14 Brown, 15 Gayle, 17 Hand, and 23 Fisken. If you can draw anything from the numbers, it's interesting to note that Dyche has kept his number 6 shirt, further suggesting his inclusion next season. Also Johnno's return to the number 10 berth could only be tradition. But it could also mean Ray's feeling that Johnno is ready to return to the heart of the Hornets' midfield.

I couldn't round up July without mentioning Chelsea. To be honest, does anyone really care? So far they have signed Glen Johnson, Wayne Bridge, Geremi and Damien Duff. Admittedly these will all probably go straight into their side but if they really do have 200 million to spend, these signings aren't really that impressive, considering what they could afford. I've got angry about Fulham and Pompey's promotion, arguing they were just buying their way up the League. But I don't care about Chelsea, especially as I doubt they will better last season's position.

I'll finish up by saying this: Jeffrey Archer may be out but he's still a joke. Ho ho ho.