Firstly, let me clarify, I am writing in a personal capacity and am not
representing views other than my own.
I am disappointed and concerned about the events at Vicarage Road.
The last week at Watford has been a circus, a week which started with a tame
loss to a confident Preston team, led to Ray Lewington being sacked, irate
player(s)* leaving and others publicly expressing outrage at events at
Vicarage Road. If you are looking for a football soap-opera, look no further
than Vicarage Road.
With both the League and financial positions of the club precarious, it is
remarkable that a decision to sack a manager, who let's not forget had taken
the Hornets to a cup semi-final a few weeks before, was made before the end
of the season.
Irrespective of whether fans were pro- or anti-Lewington, surely he should
have been given a chance to turn the situation around. He managed to do so
last season and who is to say that a lucky deflection or a piece of luck in any of
our forthcoming away games might have led to the team getting a much needed
boost. For those with short memories, a goal by Lee Cook at Millwall last
season helped lift the team and assisted retaining Second Division status. How
long ago that seems now.
Time will tell whether the decision taken by the Watford Board was the
correct one. Those on the Board have put substantial sums into the club and
as owners are entitled to call the shots, however, irrespective of
protestations otherwise, sacking Lewington does seem a knee-jerk response to
our current predicament.
As those who know me, I am very much in favour of an elected fan director
joining the club board. It can only be a good thing for both the club and
its supporters to have an effective working relationship. Working together,
the club, team and community will be much the stronger. However, it is sad
to say, an elected fan director is very unlikely at Watford - irrespective
of declarations of arbitrary financial and membership targets set by the
current board being met.
With hindsight, having a fan director at the current time would have been a
good thing for both the club and fans. Indeed, when the decision was made to
remove Ray Lewington, had there been a fan director present, it is likely
that he or she would have emphasised that sacking a manager with seven games
to go was poor timing. Moreover, why remove the current incumbent if there
was no successor in the pipeline and what about the financial cost of
compensation package for the outgoing and incoming manager?
Having spoken to fan directors at clubs like Brentford, York, Lincoln,
Chesterfield, Exeter and AFC Wimbledon, they have made a real difference to
the well being of their clubs. Moreover, their love and enthusiasm for the
club has focused on not just ensuring their club's survival but on its future
growth and development. A fan director has in most instances created at
least a known contact at the club and helped to build bridges between the
club, supporters and the local community.
Fan directors are not just found at clubs in crisis, but also at clubs which
are rather more successful and perhaps in my view, value their supporters as
fans rather than customers. For example, Charlton have had an elected fan
director since 1992 and, rather than just talking the talk, have made concrete
progress in linking club, community and fans in support of the Addicks.
Surely, the Charlton model is one which could and should be emulated by
Whilst we all have our own views on the Lewington sacking, there is a need
for more openness at the club. There hasn't been a proper fans' forum for
over two seasons now. Questions which are currently unanswerable could have
been resolved if the club had initiated regular fan meetings and questions
could have been answered there and then.
Graham Taylor, Tim Shaw, even the greatly maligned Haig Ounjian made
themselves available to answer fans' questions in the past. If they could do
it, why can't their successors?
It has been put to me often, that there is a chasm between the club board
and its fans. Whilst the club rarely holds fans fora you rarely get to see
any of the Directors at the plc AGM. To his credit, Graham Simpson attends
AGMs but where are the other Directors and how aware are they of issues of
concern to shareholders and supporters?
Watford are not good at handling bad news, like the projected £10 million
loss announced a couple of years ago or the current events. It
always seems to arrive like the proverbial bolt from the blue, with fans
being the last to know about the situation until the press splash it all
over the back-pages.
When the Soviet Union went through rapid change at the end of the eighties,
(I am not suggesting for one moment Watford FC are of similar ilk), there
was a genuine need for "glasnost" - a blast of which is required at
There have been too far too many soundbites on radio and the local press
emanating from the club and not enough substance. Things which sound great
but in real terms as likely as holding hot water as the proverbial chocolate
There is a real need for the club to exercise some transparency, be it a
fans forum or other open event to supporters; get said what needs to be said
and then move on. If things can't be turned around quickly in our
forthcoming away games at Burnley and Plymouth, Vicarage Road could be a
very uncomfortable place next month when we host Leeds United.
In the meantime, thanks Ray for your tremendous efforts at Watford FC,
whilst the task was an almost impossible vocation, you made a great fist of
it. Your integrity and enthusiasm were like a breath of fresh air after the
Vialli debacle and Watford's loss will no doubt be someone else's gain.