Top Five Moments: Part Two

We continue our look at the moments that made this season great. For our second trip into the memory banks, we take a step off the pitch, and into the Legends’ Lounge…

2) The Fans Forum (01.11.12)

We’re playing fast and loose with the word ‘moment’ here, but bear with us…

The Charlton game showed that there was a future for this team. The month that followed, however, contained three hard-fought but ultimately fruitless defeats. The fixture list shows one-goal losses to Middlesbrough, Cardiff and Blackburn, but does not discern the three red cards (one of which was over-turned) and two stoppage time winners therein. So although the buds were beginning to show, winter was fast approaching, and some blossoming was desperately needed if the season was the amount to anything.

The start of November saw the return of the Fans Forum, a recent tradition that had been eschewed by the recently-disposed of Laurence Bassini’s “ill health”. This was a chance for the supporters of the club – to this point passengers on something of a magical mystery tour – to be finally filled in on the new regime’s intentions from the men running the show: Scott Duxbury, Gian Luca Nani and Gianfranco Zola.

There were plenty of questions: Did the fourteen incoming loans mean that we were now effectively Udinese reserves? If they performed well, would they just be whisked back to Italy? Why was our famed academy being downgraded? Was this still Watford Football Club?

From the first answer, Duxbury eased nerves.  ‘Families, young children, the amount of people that were [at the Open Day] really demonstrated to me what the core values of this football club are. We’re doing lots of restructuring, we’re moving the football club forward but we will never forget those core values.’ Over the course of two hours every issue was covered. We learnt that the players were loans in name only – and according to Football League, not even that, and that if we wanted to keep them come the end of the season, we would.

Duxbury expressed his distaste for the new EPPP, explaining that going for Category One was essentially paying £2 million for a certificate. While fans were puzzled that one of the most vaunted footballing schools was now on a par, officially, with those of Dagenham and Redbridge and Barnet, the Chief Exec was adamant that Harefield had not been forgotten, and that when it was financially viable, a higher category would be sought. This continued commitment to youth was exemplified in five year contracts for Tommie Hoban, Sean Murray and Connor Smith. ‘Not many English clubs do five year deals with young boys’ said Nani, ‘and we are showing we trust them. We are really proud of the job the academy did in past, and we want to follow in that way.’

As well as easing nerves, the panel also indicated the ambition of the new owners: ‘Gino Pozzo’s philosophy is taking clubs with a strong community heart that haven’t realised their potential yet, to achieve something spectacular without sacrificing identity. Watford ticked all the boxes.’ Stadium redevelopment, promotion, and the implementation innovative pricing was all discussed during the evening.

We’d heard it before, of course. I recall Graham Simpson and Mark Ashton sitting at a Fans Forum, trotting out phrases like ‘ring-fenced’ and promising the imminent rebuilding of the East Stand and future success. Here, though, it was more reasoned, and every claim had foundation. The East Stand will be built when attendance figures present a need for it to be, not just because it’s not very nice to look at; success will follow because of our new exposure to an already-prosperous scouting network and a focussed coaching staff, not because a Brummie charlatan can feel it in his bones.

The football was still inconsistent, but that evening the feeling that Watford the club was, for the first time in a decade, being built on stone rather than sand pervaded. And from that moment on, Watford the team wasn’t bad either…

Read our exhaustive transcripts of the evening’s discussions here and here

See you tomorrow at 3pm for Part Three…


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