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03/04: Review:
August 2003:
Razor blade soup
By Mike Peter

When one makes soup, there's always room for adaptation. No pork in the freezer? Why not use chicken? Haven't got any carrots? Let's use these peaches instead then.... Indeed, many soups are made of whatever one might have, thrown together, hoping that the result may be vaguely edible. It actually tasting nice is a bonus.*

At the moment, Ray Lewington is Watford's fictional soup chef. He has the component parts, i.e. the players, but he doesnít really know how to put them together. Before Chelsea, it was simple. 4-3-3 all the way. Except that Chelsea showed that any team better than Northampton can exploit the lack of width in this formation. Thus Ray was left with something of a conundrum. Should he carry on with 4-3-3, thus being able to play Webber, Helguson and Dyer together? Or should he revert to 4-4-2?

Rayís answer to this was: maybe. The first game I saw, somewhat pathetically, was West Brom. Here I observed Rayís solution to his formation problem. Heidar just behind the front two...and slightly to the left. Helguson looked completely lost in his left wing position. Luckily enough for him, and us, Ray seems to have realised that he can't "do a Vialli" and use our best striker as a utility man.

So back to the beginning of the month then. Wycombe was our first game. Playing for was Simon Patterson. Apparently we should have won. Not really much else to say. Moving on....

Of course, anyone with a half a brain (there goes half of you - we're football fans, and Anne "I've obviously met Dai Thomas" Robinson will destroy us on Test the Nation) would have expected us to lose to Chelsea. And we did. Although the fact we let in three within twenty-three minutes was slightly disappointing, we can't really draw anything from it. We were facing a team that cost near fifty million quid at that point already. Our team cost about £500,000. It was never going to be a closely fought thing.

So the start of the new season was upon us. Of course, I was not set to be gracing the Vic with my presence on that fateful day. In fact, I was in Sivota, Greece. At around ten in the evening, I wandered over to the kitchen of the restaurant we were in. Commandeering the chef's PC, I quickly accessed the Watford site. Earlier that day, I had joyfully predicted a three-nil Watford victory (Dyer, Helguson, Webber). What I did find out was even more unbelievable.

I think most Watford fans will remember where they were when they heard about Jimmy's death. Indeed it is incredible that the death of someone that many of us had not even seen, let alone met, confirms that being part of a football club is like being part of a family. We lost a member of the Watford family that day.

Originally this article was going to focus upon Jimmy, who was only twenty-one. But now it doesn't seem quite right. The club, as well as the fans, need to move on. However, I doubt the name Jimmy Davis will be forgotten round Watford for a very long time.

So Watford played Bournemouth one game behind every other club and emotionally shattered from a loss still painfully memorable. It was hardly a surprise that the game was a poor one. I'm afraid that I can't comment on this one either, this time I was in Salcombe, Devon. At half-time Radio 5 reported Watford were 1-0 up, which is a little odd seeing that Scott Fitzgerald didn't score until the 110th minute. Maybe it was a kind gesture to us isolated Hornets tuning in, desperate for good news. Either that or Jonathon Pearce arsed up. I'll leave that decision up to you.

Palace, then. Trips to Selhurst are hardly ever profitable for the Hornets and this was no different. Neil Shipperley, a bargain for the Eagles, headed home an easy header in the tenth minute. Game over. Palace fans are enthusiastic about the new campaign under new boss Steve Kember. Whether their hopes are realistic remains to be seen but at the moment Palace are going well. Watford needed an easier fixture. West Brom wasn't really ideal, then.

I approached the game with enthusiasm, as it was my first of the new season, my tenth as a Watford fan. However, a gut feeling told me this game wasn't set to be a barrel of laughs either. West Brom will do well this season because they are big and dirty. Much like Leicester last season, they will barge their way up the division, scoring scrappy goals from hard fought penalty area scrambles. This goal was no exception. A deflected ball literally bounced off West Brom's resident knob Lee Hughes.

Sunderland next. Having beaten Preston the previous Saturday, Watford were no longer expected to win and condemn the Black Cats to ownership of the record of most league defeats in a row. The weight lifted from their shoulders, Watford promptly lost. Radio 5 said we were crap. Peter Fincham's depressing report gave me no reason to argue with Alan "Bling Bling" Green and company.

The fixture robot (what does he do for the rest of the year? I suspect he appears on Working Lunch as a realistic substitute for Adrian Giles) obviously has got it in for us. One trip to Selhurst, two relegated sides and then Gillingham. Our bogey team. Watford brought Lee Cook in on the left; put Heidar back up front, sacrificing Bruce Dyer to the graveyard spot of right wing. Cook was magnificent all day. I definitely want to see him in the team for the next game. Watford actually played reasonably well but squandered the lead twice to a quick to counter-attack Gillingham side.

So Watford end August with only Derby beneath us. Is this cause for concern? Not really. Our fixtures were difficult and the team is still showing the scars from Davis' death. Things will pick up. There are plus points as well. Gavin Mahon, awful at right back last season, has been fantastic in the centre of midfield and will undoubtedly be the Player of the Month. Lee Cook produced sparkling form at Gillingham.

One does feel though that Watford's soup lacks something. Despite the addition of two new strikers we have only scored three goals. Like many seasons previous, we lack the ability to finish off chances, to really threaten a team. We need a cutting edge. We must put razor blades in the soup.

So, what else is happening in the world of football? Aside from Chelseaís attempt to buy every single player in the league and Wolves endeavouring to become the first Premiership team to be relegated by the end of October (hahaha) the biggest story is the BBC's purchase of the football highlights package.

Skyís chief executive may say this is a waste of the licence fee. I disagree. I say this is the best use of the licence fee in years. Farewell, Ron "Lollipop" Atkinson. Au revoir, Des' moustache. No more will Arsenal, Liverpool and United be the three featured games! Hello, Gary Lineker. Welcome, Motty. Hola,, actually, you can go away, Lawrenson. Oh well, nothing's perfect.

This column wouldn't be this column if it didn't mention Tommy Smith. So we must ask, in children's story narrator mode...

Where Did You Go This Month, Tommy?

This month, Tommy visited Italy. There, he trained with Perugia, who seem interested in creating a Division One strike force of Smith and Coventry reject Jay Boothroyd to bring Nesta, Cannavaro and co to their knees. Unfortunately for Tommy, they didnít like him so he went back to Charlton. The Addicks have brought in two new strikers since Tommy was last there. Yet he still doesnít seem to get the message.

More Tommy adventures next month....

* Believe me, I know about soups. One does when they base a sixty-page Food Technology project around them. In fact, from this month onwards this will be a Watford/Soup column. Recipes will include Indonesian speciality Hornet Soup, Maaca Broth (kidís menu) and a very expensive to make but ultimately horrible Italian potage.