Two offences have seen us in this week’s predicament.
The crime is success, as we are both victims and perpetrators.
First, the schedulers at Sky, scouring the post-Christmas fixture list saw the most wonderfulest team in all the land coming up against the most lauded young player outside the Premier League and licked their lips. ‘Aha’, they thought, ‘this will have the punters clamouring on a Friday night – there’s nothing people like doing on their first free evening of the week than sitting down and watching second tier sport.’ And so it was that Watford versus Crystal Palace, a frankly massive game for the play-off and automatic promotion picture, was moved to Friday night at 7.45.
Then it transpired that there was a batch of internationals that mid-week. No bother, it’s just little old Watford.
But no! We are now ‘Watford – The World’s Team’™. Our flying team, which Gianfranco Zola heroically, with forethought and consideration ,rested last week against Bristol City, was to be pulled apart and made to perform in all corners of the globe to try and spread the Gospel of Gianfranco. ‘Bah’, said we.
Such is the price of success. And here, ladies and gentlemen, is how the international commitments of the Hornets went down…
Mexico 0-0 Jamaica; Estadio Azteca, Mexico City – 5541 miles from Vicarage Road (as the crow flies)
Kick-off 2.30am Thursday – Crystal Palace minus 41 hours, 15 minutes
Nyron, the player with the furthest to travel and shortest time to do it in, was part of the Reggae Boyz side that took a surprise point back to the Caribbean after a goalless draw in their first CONCACAF World Cup qualification game. Nosworthy played the entire game alongside former Watford defender Adrian Mariappa, though it was another former Hornet, Jobi McAnuff, who made headlines for a poor miss that could have won Jamaica a famous victory. The second half also saw Theo Robinson win his first cap for the country. The highlights (see below) show Noz suffer a pretty bad clash of heads towards the end of the game, although the Mexican striker came off an awful lot worse.
It’s pretty inconceivable that the defender will make it back to Hertfordshire in the right condition to play in his second game in two days, especially with the time difference involved.
Turkey 0-2 Czech Republic; Mayis Stadyumu, Manisa – 1613 miles
Kick-off 6.15pm Wednesday – CP minus 49 hours, 30 minutes
The biggest worry of the week was whether the prolific Vydra would return from this friendly in one piece and ready to face the Eagles. With the Czechs using a similar counter-attacking game to Watford, they took Turkey apart in the first half, with Vydra starting on the right side of an attacking three. A few clever flicks were missed by his teammates, as Matej forgot that he wasn’t playing with striker partner’s of Troy Deeney’s calibre.
There was one moment of panic as Vydra was caught on the ankle while taking a shot, leading to the striker limping around and grimacing in pain for a few minutes, but that he came out for the second half suggest that he was all fine. Taken off after 56 minutes, he should have plenty of time to recover in time to play a significant role in Friday’s match – as Daniel Pudil tweeted after the game.
Germany u20s 2-0 Italy u20s; Somewhere in Germany – let’s say 450 miles
Kick-off 2.00pm Wednesday – CP minus 53 hours, 45 minutes
Information on the Italy u20s side is like a needle in a haystack, and unless Cristian scores and uploads a video of the goal onto YouTube, games will vanish into the ether. He started, and came off at half-time, so should be fine to play on Friday. That being said, the last time he went off to represent his country, we didn’t see him on the pitch for another two months. Here’s hoping that’s not the case.
England u21s 4-0 Sweden u21s; Banks’ Stadium, Walsall – 93 miles
Kick-off 7.30pm Tuesday – CP minus 72 hours, 15 minutes
Chalobah was a second-half substitute as the under 21s breezed past a young Swedish side. Having received his award for England Youth Player of the Year, Nate ambled up to Walsall to watch Manchester United’s/Palace’s Wilfred Zaha run around for an hour before gracing the pitch with his presence for 24 minutes. Fans will be thankful that the midfielder, who must be due a bit of fatigue was only used sparingly for his second under-21 cap. With the game gone by the time he was introduced, he was free to swan around with no fear of getting clattered or need for over-exertion. Good.
Republic of Ireland u19s 2-1 Czech Republic u19s; Flancare Park, Longford – 341 miles
Kick-off 7.30pm Tuesday – CP minus 72 hours, 15 minutes
Having not featured for Watford since New Year’s Day, it was surprising to see that Hoban was fit enough to travel to Ireland to meet up with the under 19s. Given special dispensation by the FAI to only play in the first of the side’s two friendlies against the Czechs, he played for the full 90 on Tuesday, coming out the other side with no injury worries. Says the FAI website: ‘Ireland’s defence was very impressive with Tommie Hoban and Steve Smith at centre-back’. Praise indeed.
With Nosworthy likely out of the reckoning, Hoban may be back in the squad on Friday, with Neuton still out injured. These untroubled 90 minutes should help prove his fitness to the coaches.
Republic of Ireland u21s 3-0 Netherlands u21s; Tallaght Stadium, Dublin – 275 miles
Kick-off 1.00pm Wednesday – CP minus 54 hours, 45 minutes
Murray’s inconsistent form and time out of the side haven’t cost him his place in the Irish under-21 side, who followed up August’s excellent 4-2 win over Italy to beat another European superpower’s kids on Wednesday. Murray was one of just two players to play the entire game – which will have come as a welcome relief from his now-customary substitution on the hour.
Joel Ekstrand pulled out of the Sweden squad that lost 3-2 at home to a star-studded Argentina side (worth watching the highlight’s just for Andreas Isaksson’s save) after hobbling off late-on in last week’s win over Bolton. Swedish Watford fan and blogger Martin Klinteberg revealed on Twitter that he had spoken to Ekstrand, who told him that he would be training as usual today (Thursday) and all being well would be fit for the Palace game.
Daniel Pudil was on stand-by for the Czech Republic squad, but was not required, so stayed in Hertfordshire.
Connor Smith pulled out of the Ireland u-21 squad so that he could focus on recovering from his recent injury.
All well and good then. Barring Nosworthy, all of our international stars should be present and correct as the teams take to the pitch tomorrow night. Thank god for that.