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96/97: Reports:

Nationwide League Division 2, 3/5/97
Burnley 4(0)
Scorers: Cooke (50, 51, 83 (pen)), Parkinson (66)
Watford 1(0)
Team: Chamberlain 3, Gibbs 2, Robinson 1, Johnson 3, Millen 1, Page 3, Bazeley 2, Mooney 2, Ramage 2, Penrice 2, Easton 2
Subs: *Flash (for Mooney) 4*, Noel-Williams (for Ramage) 0, Palmer
Scorers: Millen (88)
A nothing performance
Report by Dan Exeter

We got stuffed.

That's about it really. For what it's worth, we were 0-0 at half-time but without creating much and not looking particularly good, I think Easton had a shot which ballooned over the bar, while Penrice had had to clear off the line and Chamberlain made a good save from Barnes, together with a host of other chances for Burnley, while, in the second half, we were just diabolical. This is not sour grapes - Burnley were the better team and fully deserved the result.

The first two goals were crosses from the right and left respectively (or left and right, depending on your point of view) which both got finished at the far post, the third was reminiscent of Plymouth's first goal at the Vic in August in that a cross from the right side of our defence (I can't remember if it was from a corner or not) found its way to the full-back on the far post who volleyed home, while the fourth goal was a penalty after Keith Millen handled a cross. Our consolation was a late Keith Millen header from a corner.

If I sound half-arsed that's because I am. Finishing 13th is a bit of a sod, on the other hand I'm not going to stress about it as all that matters to me is that we didn't finish at least 6th. It was a nothing match for both teams, and we produced a nothing performance. The team was Chamberlain in goal (for the first half Kevin Miller sat about two rows in front of me, exciting or what?!!), Gibbs, Page, Millen and Robinson across the back, Easton, Johnson, Penrice and Bazeley in midfield and Ramage and Mooney up front. Such was the dire quality of our performance in general I'm not even going to bother with player ratings, although I thought Robinson was probably the worst of the lot, continually out of position and never making many effective challenges. In fact, the one bright spot was the debut of Richard Flash, who came on with The Gift just after half-time for Mooney and Ramage. I don't know why, I just have this feeling that I won't be seeing Ramage in a Watford shirt again.

Anyway, Flash was outstanding, our man of the match easily. He's got a good touch, he moves intelligently, he was always popping up and giving us options, it really does make you wonder where he has been all season, especially when we've had Johnno (did alright, nothing spectacular) and Palmer (on the bench) in midfield for most of it.

The team didn't care and to be frank neither did I, not after the first two goals went in. In fact, there was quite a party atmosphere at our end as the match drew to a close - no doubt some will consider that foolhardy, I personally thought that if you can't laugh you might as well not go. The depression of it all would get to me otherwise. We even outsang the Burnley fans for a bit, and obviously it worked, as that's when Millen scored.

In fact I got more excitement and interest from events off the pitch. The excitement came from a little altercation with a Burnley fan in a neighbouring stand in the first half. I can't remember why but I ended up standing and swearing at him for a bit (those of you who know me will find this hard to believe, I know). I sat down again when two coppers appeared at this bloke's shoulder and after a little delay, led him away. For the rest of the match I lived in dread of that tap on the shoulder from Lancashire's finest. The bloke reappeared in the second half, and he noticeably concentrated on events on the pitch rather than swearing at the fans off it, while I wondered whether I should go with dignity or with a shout. Luckily it was all hypothetical - clearly I'm not the menace to public law and order my Burnley supporting friend in the other stand seemed to think.

The interest in the afternoon (aside from Flash - credit where it's due) was from a little chat with Pete Fincham, who filled some of us in on the little details about the takeover, etc, little details which I'm sure Pete would revel in telling you himself. It certainly provided something to take our minds off the game. The impression I have is that the new board are very much committed to Watford, and achieving success, and I think it is this ethos more than anything which could make a difference to the club, and give it some self-belief and confidence. If the very top is not committed to win (like has been the case this season) then it's probably not too surprising if the rest of the club isn't either.

I'm not saying this season hasn't been dire, and beating York 4-0 barely counts as a good point (no disrespect to York) but to simply blame the manager for not picking your favourite player is to me too simplistic and naive. The club hasn't been geared to success and achievement, something I think tacitly acknowledged by GT as early as the start of the season, and add in the injuries we've had and the inexperience of the manager at this sort of level and I think you've gone a long way to knowing why we didn't make the play-offs.

So what's the solution? It would be easy to come up with all sort of dreamy alternatives, you know, sack Jackett and get a new manager, buy Alan Shearer, something like that. I remember David Pleat (no matter how much we may all dislike him for being the ex-scum boss, there's no doubting the wisdom of what he says) saying that in a manager's first season he looks to consolidate, the second season he looks to build, and the third he looks to win something.. Just to remind everyone, Jackett is now at that building stage, and hopefully with a supportive board willing to stump up cash for new players then next season shouldn't be the grind or disappointment we've had this time around.

As for me personally, my solution to our problems is the same as it's always been. I'll get to as many games as I can and get behind the lads and give them my support. That surely is the most positive action any of us can take.

Here endeth the lesson.