‘Us’ and ‘Them’? Is Watford’s identity being diluted?

As more and more players are drafted into the Watford squad from the central pot in Northern Italy, Nick Chainey (@NLFG) asks how this new system of transferring players affects the identity of Watford Football Club…

This was inspired in part by a tweet I saw earlier which was calling for Troy Deeney to be brought back into the fold after his release from prison because he’s “ours” unlike the loans who are “one season wonders” and in part it got me thinking as to the nature of the Pozzo regime & its divergence from what we as Watford supporters are used to as a club.

Although a few loan players of years gone by have a special place in supporters’ hearts (Tom Cleverley, Ben Foster & Adam Johnson are three who immediately spring to mind) generally speaking there is an awareness that these are players here for the short term; the benefit for the player is first team football, for the parent club the potential improvement of that player and for the loaning club gaining a player who will fill a hole in the squad. This has coloured many supporters’ view of the incoming players. Whilst this hasn’t necessarily changed with the players coming in from Udinese & Granada, a quick look at the Granada squad shows that a number of “loan” players from Udinese have resided in Spain for several years (winger Dani Benitez and defender Allan Nyom are both into their third years with Los Rojiblancos and have made over one hundred appearences). To all intents and purposes those players are Granada players. With the addition of Watford to the Pozzo family of clubs the approach that has served them well in Grenada has been brought to bear at the Vic. Therefore it doesn’t necessarily follow that a player on loan at Watford for a year will be on his way back to Spain or Italy once that loan finishes – indeed, it’s quite possible that a “loan” player could play more games for us than Danny Graham or Marvin Sordell ever did.

Dani Benitez, left, has been instrumental in Granada’s rise up the Spanish pyramid. And he’s still there

Should Zola succeed in taking the ‘orns up (a far from foregone conclusion, of course) the incentive for the Pozzos is to send their best players to the Vic as the shop window is that much larger in the Premiership – and whilst the Pozzos’ first love may be their Italian team the sensible business choice in that event is to invest in the squad at Vicarage Road.

It is, of course, worth pointing out that it is in Watford’s interests, as much as it is in Udinese’s & Granada’s that these players are a great success, as the more money that the clubs gain from transfer fees the more there is to invest across all three clubs.

Ultimately, of course, the Pozzos approach is not all that different from what we’ve been used since time in memoriam at Watford; buy low, sell high. It’s just that whilst the players we’re generally used to have come from the likes of Carlisle, Walsall or are cast offs from Premier League clubs what we’ll have to get used to is a rather more multinational cast – some who may come and go, some who may stick around. So ultimately, what’s really changed?

Think the club’s being ruined? Leave a comment below.

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3 comments

  1. Wouldn’t argue with any of this. Would add that any appraisal of the situation has to be in context. Would you prefer Watford to evolve as it is evolving, or to have been a small club punching above its weight (perhaps) and developing young players? That’s a difficult question to answer, with all sorts of considerations weighing upon it. Would you prefer Watford to evolve as it is evolving or to be left in the hands of Bassini? That’s a much easier decision, and the more relevant question.

    1. I thought the discussion on this on the ‘From the Rookery End’ podcast (http://www.fromtherookeryend.com/) was good. Staying as a wholesome family club that develops its own players is wonderful, but the chances of building that into success, which is what all football fans want – even the relative success of being a Premier League club – is unlikely. This is an evolution that is beneficial for the football club as a football club rather than a community project. The youth players rarely break into the Chelsea team isn’t because they’ve got a rubbish academy or have a disdain for homegrown talent, it’s because their current players are so bloody good! That’s the attitude we have to take, having a back five made up of academy graduates is nice, but wouldn’t we rather we had four of the back five made up of better players, with that one diamond from the academy getting the other one? The rate of the incoming transfers is a bit worrying, because its such a massive overhaul of what we know, but the presence in the first place of the system is, I would say, a good thing for Watford Football Club.

      1. Again I think you imply the wrong question with your “what football fans want” line. Do football fans want to win or to lose? Well, duh. But would Watford fans prefer to gamble on success or build gradually? Less clear. Pompey fans might have a view on that.

        Not trying to bundle our situation in with Portsmouth’s, but I’d dispute that “winning” is what it’s all about. If it were, we’d all all be supporting the top clubs.

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