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04/05: Review:
April/May 2005:
By Mike Peter

That's that, then.

For many of you, the end of 2004/05 will be a signal to curl into a ball and isolate yourselves from the footballing world, to pretend that the events of this spring have never occurred. It's been a rollercoaster, to say the least.

Boothroyd's tenure, somewhat inevitably, started badly. You don't get good results after what happened in March. It's a shame that the Easter double-header of Burnley and Plymouth came so soon, for the two losses pitched us straight into the relegation mire, not where you want to be in your first managerial job. Of course, it doesn't help when you play Dominic Blizzard on the left, Ashley Young at right-back and so forth, as happened at Plymouth. We'll put this down to lack of experience with the squad; it's been ironed out now. Thank God.

Thereafter, however, began a positive string of performances: wins away at Rotherham and Stoke - where safety was ensured - and, despite their eventual outcome, decent displays at home against Leeds, Sheffield United and West Ham. Danny Cullip's eventual arrival added some much needed bellowing to the mix, a relief to fans who believed he was signed injured and may never have played for us at all. Some much needed sunshine to sweep the gloom away, ending, strangely, the season on a fairly positive note.

Off the field, the relationship between club and fans was melting rapidly. A series of guilt-trip "get behind us" e-mails and pleas from the club do nothing to recapture a disillusioned fanbase, Mr Simpson. The clear low-point, a clearly ghost-written e-mail "from" Heidar Helguson, was greeted with cynical scorn. In many respects, the club acted as badly then as they did around the Lewington sacking, for they treated fans with a huge amount of disrespect, an arrogant belief that they could manipulate the supporters' undying love for their team into backing for their decision. "Forget the past, support the team" was the message. I'm afraid the past won't be forgotten for a very long time.

Contract news has come through, with a raft of players set to leave. The release of Coleman, Norville, Ferrell can be no surprise, none of them been knocking on the first team door. Bruce Dyer is a different story though - quietly effective this term, he has so often brought a coherence in the attack that was often missing when Webber or Bouazza were in the forward line. Even if only a few will go, the transfer listing of Neil Cox, Sean Dyche, Jack Smith and Paul Mayo seems rather drastic when our squad is paper-thin at the best of times.

A belief in youngsters is what Boothroyd preaches. That's all well and good, the emergence of players such as Bangura - who coped so well when thrown into the team at Stoke - Osborne and Diagouraga show evidence of a strong Academy, vital for a club this size.

But on the other hand, experience counts. The events of March were evidence of that, where the loss of hardened battlers such as Dyche, Mahon and Gunnarsson cost us dear. Should a relegation battle ensue next term, which is fairly likely, there needs to be a good combination of both old and young. Too much of the latter will get us in trouble and the loss of players such as Dyer, and, potentially, Dyche is a disconcerting move.

A question mark stills hangs over Heidar Helguson's head. Despite continual claims by the club, it's hard to believe that any offer over 1.5 million would not be accepted. We should be thankful that we are now at a stage where we can now place that price-tag on his head; a year ago it would have been more like a million, perhaps even less.

It cannot be understated that Helguson's goals will be vital next season - they have been important this term, and that's with eleven goal hauls from soon-to-go Dyer and Webber. Should he leave, we would be left with Hamuer Bouazza as our only striker, who is without a league goal this season, and a major goals problem. Lest we forget, we are hardly assist-happy either.

Of course, signings will be made in the summer. There are already rumours of Chris Eagles coming for the season - that would be good, there's talent in his spindly bones, even if it was so often swallowed up in the melee that was the run-in. Experience is needed though; one could form a decent team from those released by Premiership (not Premier, not a ship) teams but Watford will have problems acquiring any of them. Experienced players from the tiers below will cost money, not a huge amount of that in the kitty.

One can only hope that Adrian Boothroyd can acquire what is needed.

An interesting summer awaits us.