And so we find ourselves at the end of the first week of our new lives as optimistic tifosi – a week that has seen us replace our black coffees in Styrofoam for elegant Espressos in fiddly little cups, scour the internet for information on under-21 “prodigies” and add Google Translate to our bookmarks. Though there wasn’t perhaps as much action in the latter part of the week as a frantic Monday and Tuesday would have intimated, there was still plenty for us to sink our teeth into.
The New Guys speak to the Press:
I have seen the delay to Tuesday’s inaugural press conference caused by traffic on the ring road interpreted in two ways: one writer suggested that it was a sign of what Gianfranco Zola could expect, slumming it (relatively) in the Championship. Here there’s no police escort through the cars queuing to get into John Lewis, no private helicopter to drop you in the centre circle; even though his time at West Ham did not coincide with the most prosperous of periods at the club, Watford operates at a level of football unfamiliar to the new mister . Since signing for Napoli at the end of the 80s, Gianfranco Zola has been distinctly A-list, stooping down to us mere mortals only to haul his native(ish) Cagliari up to the Serie A as the swansong to his playing career. Leading on from this, others have read well into the reaction to the hold up, with Zola abandoning the car and approaching Vicarage Road on foot – an act of humility that one would not have expected of the man who stands as Zola’s precedent, and whom is unlikely to be far from any Watford fan’s mind at this point in time. In truth, there was a traffic jam – there’s a lot of them about at the moment – and having somewhere to be, with no Olympic Lane to pop into, Zola decided to risk the 5 minute walk. There’s no story there, but such is the mindset of those connected to Watford at the moment, a telling fable was thought to have occurred before our new lives had been given physical manifestation.
Which was provided, of course, by the aforementioned press conference. Brief, and free from revelations, we heard what we wanted to hear: Zola was happy to be here, thought he had something to prove and aims to play attractive football. The staff situation was stated to still be up in the air (though it seems Alec Chamberlain still has a job), with assessments to come over the coming weeks.
Both Zola and Scott Duxbury, the bloke who signs the cheques, were quick to praise the outgoing Sean Dyche. Duxbury eulogised: “It was clear Sean and his staff did a remarkable job and I don’t think people understand the financial problems that the club actually had … But it is quite remarkable, given that backdrop, what they achieved under serious constraints.” He went on to add that despite this, Watford had to look ahead, and it was no longer a consolidator that the club needed in charge, but a visionary, somebody to take us onwards and upwards. It’s arguable that, having not been given the chance to adapt to said change in circumstances, Dyche could have filled this role just as well as his previous one, but the logic, it must be said, is there. Though many have decried the decision (though emotions seem to have been quelled somewhat by a seemingly universal schoolboy-like admiration for Franco Zola) and called it an example of the heartlessness of modern football, this was a decision to get the project moving in its desired direction as soon as possible, and one that seems to have been enforced in a gentlemanly and amicable fashion*.
No new East Stand, yet:
The other bit of information of note from Duxbury was that the redevelopment of the blot in Watford’s copybook was not at this moment in time a priority. While Laurence Bassini came in windmilling, promising a new stand as soon as possible and reeling off empty guarantees of further stadium developments, Duxbury has taken a Quixotic stance towards such windmills and stated, quite fairly, that until we can convince more people to turn up to matches, there’s no point in building a new stand. Though a dilapidated wooden stand looks worse than an empty renovated one, at least the former doesn’t come with a huge bill that’s seeing no return. Rather than following the Field of Dreams blueprint, Duxbury and the Pozzos are of the ‘If you get a good football team, then build it: they will come’ mentality.
Saracens off to Barnet … soon:
The Men in Black’s move to Copthall Stadium has been finalised, but as it won’t be ready until February, the club have agreed to let them stage five fixtures on the newly-laid Desso pitch. Though five games shouldn’t be too much of a burden on what we have been told is state of the art pitch technology, it’s still a bit of a hassle. Nice to have a bit coming in on the side though (unless it’s during a ruck**)
Reading up on Mariappa:
Though it hasn’t been officially confirmed, it looks like academy product Adrian Mariappa is off to the Premier League. You can read my thoughts on the move here, but it is worth noticing that when a move was mooted in January, with the figure suggested to be around £2 million, everybody was up in arms about the fee. ‘We’re just a selling club’. ‘No ambition’. ‘Who do we have doing our negotiating these things?’ ‘Connor Wickham went for ten!’ (a popular one). Now, with the figure suggested to be around £2 million, nobody seems to care. ‘Good luck Aidy’. ‘Don’t want to stand in his way’. ‘Could have got more, but that’s football’. How comfortable we’ve become in our wealth already!
Why have one teenage phenomenon when you can have 5?
This week, internet wags, having been stifled by the club going half a decade without having a transfer budget to speak of, have taken advantage of our new imagined wealth by going a bit silly on football-rumours.co.uk. Not that all suggested incoming transfers have been completely made up: the Italian press seem to be giddy at all of the young ‘stars’ who may be hopping on the next EasyJet over. We’ve seen Daniel Pudil and Matej Vydra semi-confirmed, eventually (if tweets showing grotesque, not to mention miniscule, chicken dinners are anything to go by), and have been linked with numerous other Udinese youngsters including Steve Leo Beleck and Fernando Forestieri. Yeah, THAT Steve Leo Beleck. Following the publication of my ‘Incoming’ article last week, it was made clear by the club that the two Czechs were merely on trial at the club, and that Zola had yet to make a decision – pleasing news that proves that the club is being run in its own right, and will not be forced into doing anything that it doesn’t wish or taking on players it doesn’t want.
Away from the handouts from the Bianconeri, a name that has been on the lips of many fans is that of the 38 year-old Fillipo Inzhagi, a man whose reputation goes before him (along with, presumably, his best years). Apparently choosing between us and Atalanta after his release from Milan, the footballing impact should he fulfil his life-long dream of playing with Lloyd Doyley would be uncertain, but simply for the ridiculousness of having both Zola and Inzhagi at a Championship club – though some 12 years later than ideal – this would be a welcome move. The last, and as far as I’m aware, only previous Fillipo to play for the club was also 38 when he joined the club, and also was a big part of AC Milan history, and unlike the other arrivals at that time he didn’t turn out too bad. Who knows, he could be a rich man’s Kevin Phillips.
The one signing that has actually been cemented by the club (and it seems that this new lot are never going to be ones to rush an announcement) is that of Stephen McGinn. Is he going to be as good as he was in the three months preceding his injury? Does he even have a place in the squad now? It’s worth remembering that since he last donned the yellow, Watford have sold their best striker, then sold his successor, and then have had the most recent incarnation (though not really their equal) put in prison: McGinn has a lot of catching up to do.
Speaking of Troy Deeney, as his wife took to Twitter this week to thank fans for their goodwill messages, Duxbury said in an interview with the Watford Observer that they would not be making a decision on whether to retain Troy’s services until they knew all of the details regarding his imprisonment.
Onwards, then, to a new week. One that sees Zola’s Watford take their first tentative steps towards world domination with a game against Borehamwood tomorrow night.
*you know, as far as sackings with confidentiality clauses go…
**I’ve tried to make a rugby joke. Apologies if it’s factually incorrect – I’m not THAT all-knowing.