As a famous writer once said, 'Rumours of my death have been greatly
exaggerated', and one can't help but get the same impression after reading
much of what has been written about Watford Football Club over the last six
months or so.
The recent history of the club shows more than a passing resemblance to the
big dipper at Blackpool 'pleasure' beach. Lots of highs, many lows, a rush
of adrenaline, and even that boring bit at the top when nothing's happening
but you suspect it's about to.
Let's take the last twenty years, for example. The aftermath of reaching the
pinnacles of second in Division One, Europe, Wembley, B*ssett, relegation,
Petchey, Perryman, Roeder, relegation again, Auto Windscreens, FA Cup First
Round, 0-4, promotion, Wembley again, relegation, Wray (not Ray), Vialli,
Ray (not Wray), League Cup semi, Aidy, SEJ at the Vic, and now the
departure of Nigel Gibbs... I've probably missed stuff out, but you get the
Much of the above has provided, let's say, interesting times off the pitch
as well as on it. Issues of the club's ownership, debt, ground and finances
have been controversial for all of that time, today is no different. In
fact it could reasonably be argued that the club is more stable off the
pitch today that at any time over the last fifteen years. This doesn't mean the
way the club is run is beyond criticism, and clearly there are things that
have happened recently that I dare say the Board would do differently given
their time again.
Let's take the two most controversial decisions the club has made recently;
the sacking of Ray (not Wray) and the release of Nigel Gibbs. I'm not going
to comment on 'how these things were done', because I don't know the exact
details, and I'm not sure many other people do either. To my mind this is
where the real world of running a business in a highly competitive
industry, and the idealistic world of a fan orientated, morally sound,
community-integrated football club are always going to be at odds. Many
people work for companies that measure performance and reserve the right to
manage that performance accordingly, in return for a fair wage. If I
remember correctly, a dozen or so games before Ray was sacked, we were ten
points off the play-offs, and ten points above relegation. The following run
of form could very easily have resulted in relegation. In the world of
football job security is performance related. And Ray would have known
The case of Nigel Gibbs is far more sensitive, but no less logical. Again
many people work in industries that offer little in the way of job
security, and football is probably at the front on the queue. Should a club
show loyalty to a particular individual just because they've played lots of
games for them? Would that individual show the same loyalty if offered a
more lucrative deal elsewhere? Of course, in an ideal world we'd all spend our
lives devoted to a single cause in this way, but this ain't an ideal world
in lots of ways.
On the pitch, the more things change, the more they'll stay the same.
Managers and players will come and go. I don't know how anyone would resent
the transfer of H to Fulham? There would however be plenty of grounds to
resent the money not being used to fill the substantial gap he leaves.
Much, if not all of the above flies in the face of what has been vented on
BSaD and the various forums in the last few weeks. I expect to be vilified
for having an alternative view (that's how it works, isn't it?), all I hope
is to bring balance to the debate. I long to get back to a place where what
goes on the pitch is the dominant discussion point, followed closely by
whatever happened to the Watford Observer clock. I long to read match reports that
actually report the match.
The start of the new season can't come soon enough.