An unfashionable view
Report by Ian Grant
Oh, happy day. As anyone who's had the extreme misfortune to see Watford play at the Valley in recent seasons will know, this isn't a good ground for us. Naive optimist that I am, I thought we could get a result here. I was wrong.
My journey from Brighton was planned and executed with the military precision that has become my trademark. Left Brighton hours too early; wandered round East Croydon station trying to find something to eat and missed all the fast trains; got a slow train to London Bridge, tried to find something to eat, missed all the fast trains; got a slow train to Charlton, ate some appalling "chips". Along the way I discovered that Croydon is populated by complete nutters (a fact that worried me slightly as I wandered the empty streets trying to find the right station on the way home) and that Sarf London has too many graf artists for its own good (too much paint, not enough space, although Chuck and Akta managed to trash Tulse Hill station I noticed).
You might think that I'm trying to stall here and avoid writing about the game. You'd be right and if you were there I don't think you'll blame me. Well, if I must...
This was really dreadful stuff. Don't let the half-time scoreline fool you into thinking that there was some sort of Charlton comeback in the second half. No siree. They were better than us from start to finish and deserved to win by a bigger margin. Only occasional heroics from Steve Cherry kept us in it, but once we were behind it was impossible to see where an equaliser was going to come from.
It only takes a second to score a goal, and that was about the length of time we spent in the Charlton penalty area in the first half. Mooney's goal, a well-taken header from a Bazeley cross, was completely against the run of play - our first genuine goal attempt after Charlton had looked consistently dangerous. At half-time I braced myself for second half rout that usually greets our arrival at the Valley. And it came - two disappointing goals, a toe-poke from the edge of the box after a poor headed clearance and an angled shot into the corner. They went close a number of times after that but the lead was comfortable enough.
And so it is that we come to the tired old issue of club politics. As the game wore on, the Watford fans' support turned, understandably, to frustration and we heard the inevitable chants. I'd like to present my point of view on these issues, not because I know best but because it's about time someone put a different perspective forward.
"We want Ramage back" You'll be aware of my opinions on that one from the Barnsley report. If Ramage wants to leave Watford, I don't see that it's Roeder's fault (what's he supposed to do, buy Ramage's house off him?). There are certain fans who were very quick to criticise his laidback attitude last season - what do you think he'll be like if he doesn't even want to play? Turning Craig Ramage into some sort of martyr does nobody any favours and anyone who genuinely believes Rams is beyond reproach is living in a fantasy world.
"Roeder get your chequebook out" I am really sick of this one. Many people seem obsessed with the idea of signing someone, anyone, just for a change of personnel. Never mind that we wouldn't get a decent striker in Britain for an affordable price since the Premiership clubs have inflated transfer fees over the summer. "You get what you pay for" said someone on the train back. WRONG. It is precisely because we won't get what we pay for (look at Bergkamp - bargain buy?) that we have to be very careful. I'd rather we waited for the right man than dived into the market in the hope that the gamble would pay off. Robert Fleck, anyone? Thought not.
Besides, lack of strikers wasn't the problem at the Valley. It was the chronic under-performance of several key players. The result was terrible service to the front two, who did nothing wrong all game. Looking through the team the only player who wasn't hitting high balls up to Phillips and Mooney was Colin Foster. Everyone else seemed to think that a bit of welly would do the trick. And Kevin Phillips didn't have a shot on goal all game as a consequence. If we're just going to buy a tall striker so that we don't have to learn how to pass properly, it's going to be a waste of money and that tall striker's going to get very fed up. If anyone should be blamed for this shambolic defeat it should be Bazeley, Porter, Holdsworth, Payne, Johnson, Lavin, among others - none of whom gave acceptable performances.
Jack Petchey. He was a rotten chairman, as anyone who isn't a fan of the club is likely to be, but I have no problem whatsoever with him still owning the club. On the contrary, it seems to me that his style of ultra-careful accounting is exactly what we need. Let me remind you that the club is STILL losing money at an alarming rate - only large fees for Furlong and Dyer have kept us in profit - and spending our way out of trouble is not the answer. We don't have the money. It's not there. If we borrow it we'll have to pay it back with interest. How are we going to do that? At this point, I'll refer you to Alan Curbishley's programme notes for this game which outline rather succinctly (rare for a manager, that) the problem.
"Where's the money gone?" Basic mathematics is all it takes to work out that Jack Petchey isn't lining his pockets with our cash. Don't kid yourselves. Does anyone really believe that Watford FC generates huge wads of dough for the people who run it? The club is running at a substantial loss, and that eats into the money taken from transfer fees. Add to that the cost of the new Rookery stand (and that HAD to be built because in a few year's time ground quality will be an entry requirement for the Premiership) and various transfer fees (Moralee, Ramage, Foster, Millen, Miller - all adds up). At the end of those sums I reckon half a million to spend on a striker is about right.
Look, I'm sorry to go on like this but it's important to understand that the club's future depends not on signing a striker but on prudent financial management. There are going to be a lot of clubs, big and small, in serious trouble over the next few years and I'm determined that Watford won't be one of them. If anyone out there disagrees, I'll happily print their views but those are my thoughts on the subject.
Report by Kate Holmes
Bloody awful. And that was just trying to get in. For all of you unfamiliar with last season's farce at the Valley, I will refresh you with the bare details. Don, in a wheelchair but can walk with the use of sticks, was told that only normal people can sit in the away stand. Well, that counts me out for starters. The entire match was take up with us trying to sit in the seats for which we held tickets, and the stewards saying we couldn't because of the fire risk etc. The end result was me being slated by Charlton officials in a very nasty letter, just because I stood up for myself and went on 606 and spoke to David Mellor.
This season, Charlton made it clear that wheelchair users could only go into the disabled enclosures (their words, not mine), so reluctantly we got tickets for there, as it was the only way we could get in to see the match. There are two disabled bits, one in between the managers benches, and one up in the Gods in the middle of a Charlton stand. We asked if we could sit next to Glenn Roeder, so we ended up in the Gods. For those of you who were there, we were to the right of you.
On arrival at the Valley, you end up right outside the away end if you come from the station or the coach. Knowing that we were just beyond the away end, I was a little peturbed to be sent in the opposite direction round the ground. We were assured by the stewards that this was the way in. We asked at the main gate, and were told to enter through the last gate on our right. We duly did so, and I struggled to push Don up a very steep incline with six or seven stewards watching. Not one of them offered to help, and it was obvious I was struggling. They waited till we managed to get to the top, and then one of them pointed out that we were in the wrong bit. I showed him the tickets and said that we were in the disabled bit. We were then told that we were definitely in the wrong bit, and that we would have to go back out and round the ground. I explained that the stewards had directed us through that gate, but these morons responded by calling them all dickheads and that they didn't know what they were talking about. I did point out that having just walked round three and a half sides of the ground, I wasn't particularly keen on going much further. We would also have struggled to make kickoff.
In the end they agreed to carry Don up a short flight of stairs to where the ramp for the wheelchairs was. At this point they asked if we were the ones who caused them so much trouble last year. It is very disconcerting when they start that, as you know they have been looking out for you.
We finally got into the enclosure, which offered a great view of ants on a pitch. Put it like this, Fos looked small from up there. There were a couple of other Hornets up there, but when we asked if we could sit with them, we got told we had to sit where we held tickets. All of us started to make some noise, so they decided to move the others to keep us all in the same bit to prevent any trouble. In the end there were seven of us up there and we all made a lot of noise. So much so that the stewards swarmed around us making us all feel very uncomfortable, like we were doing something wrong by cheering on our team. At one point, I overheard a conversation with the stewards asking control how to get us moved, and where we could be moved to.
At half time, the two Watford coppers came up to pay us a visit. They had been radioed by the stewards who were obviously concerned at our terrible behaviour. They told us that they had give the stewards their word that we were not troublemakers and we were informed that the stewards had in fact called them over to sort us out. What the hell do they expect? That we would just sit there quietly and not shout? If they cannot accomodate us in the away end, then we will be just as noisy in the home end. It isn't our fault that they refused us entry to the away stand. It is all down to their stupid rules.
At the end of the match, the stewards explained that we would be escorted round to the back of the away stand, which was the road leading back to the coaches. We wanted to walk 50 yards to the left which would bring us to the road, but in order to do so we had to walk all the way round the ground. Again. It took about 20 minutes to do this, as we were going against the flow of Charlton fans and to get back to the coach took in total half an hour. They actually began to send out a search party to try and find us. The final straw came on crossing the road, where the police were "directing" the traffic. We just wanted to walk across the road to the waiting coaches, but we were not allowed to cross there and had to walk 50 yards down the road just to cross and walk 50 yards back. Officious twats. I wish they had never gone back to the Valley, as I have been there 5 times now. Each one has been trouble, and each one has ended in a lame performance and defeat.
The game? They didn't bother so I won't either.