To: Huddersfield (Undisclosed)
Watford Career: 84 games (76 starts), 0 goals
And so, to the final (hopefully) and most significant footballing departure of the summer: Jonathan Hogg completed his move north to Huddersfield Town on Monday, signing a three year deal with the Terriers for an undisclosed fee. He leaves Nyron Nosworthy as the sole remnant of Sean Dyche’s ten permanent transfer business – business conducted just two years ago.
That summer’s dealings were largely uninspiring; Dyche mainly bulked up his squad with journeymen who’d been there and done that, though not to a particularly high level. In Hogg, however, he got himself a gem. At the age of 22, Hogg had made a handful of appearances for Aston Villa in the Premier League and had impressed on loan during Portsmouth’s doomed Championship campaign in 2010/11. It did not take long for the £300k (or so) price tag to look like a bargain.
Snarling and vicious, Hoggy was the excitable puppy to John Eustace’s proud bulldog. If the ball was nearby, he’d be going for it, and God help you if you were in his way. His passing range was limited, and his shooting was, to be kind, not the strongest weapon in his armoury, but what he did well, he did very well.
Sitting back and reminiscing about Hoggy, it’s quite difficult to think of what to say. Though he always seemed to be shouting at somebody on the pitch, off it his presence was negligible. No Twitter, rarely interviewed, it’s quite hard to gauge his personality. And it’s quite hard to describe him as a player, other than to say ‘he was pretty darn good’. He’s one of those players that goes about his business without pulling up trees – Richard Johnson without the thunderbastards.
Indeed, his most fabled moment in a Watford shirt was at the same time indicative of Hogg’s qualities and completely out of character. It was also his final act at Vicarage Road.
After steaming into the penalty area in a vain attempt to get to the rebound from Anthony Knockaert’s penalty, he watched as Marco Cassetti heaved the ball clear. He could have had a breather and waited for the last few seconds of the game to pass, but that’s not Hoggy. He took off on a 90-yard sprint, catching up with and overtaking play, and found himself in the Leicester six yard box.
Jonathan Hogg is supremely fit. As previously mentioned, when the ball is in the channel between halfway line and the Watford box, he’ll go after it – from sideline to sideline. When a team-mate is on the ball, you’ll often see him making a lung-bursting run into space (though it would rarely come to much). Bernard Mensah marvelled on Twitter during pre-season at his engine just a couple of days into the Italian training camp (see picture below). Defensively, I can’t think of many Watford midfielders that I’ve seen that compare to Hogg, and his fitness and keenness to be involved is fundamental to that.
Fernando Forestieri delivered the ball to the far post. Hogg stood there, waiting. Watching the ball onto his head he weighted a perfect knock-down to Troy Deeney, arriving perfectly at the edge of the area to drive the ball home and send Watford to Wembley.
If there was a weakness to Hogg’s game it was in the final third. Keen he may be, but when presented with the ball and a shooting opportunity, the composure and focus that one would pair with a defensive midfielder of his ilk deserts him. So many times we have watched the ball fall to his feet five or six yards from the goal and expected him to finally break his Watford duck, and so many times he has contrived to hit the bar, sky the ball or find the one covering defender on the line. We’ll never see him score that goal for us, but that knock-down – the knock-down that provided one of the most exhilarating moments in Watford history – makes up for it all.
Hogg has stated that he wanted to move more north so that he could see more of his young family. Nobody can begrudge such a wish, and it reinforces the image of the man as a normal bloke who just wants to play football and kick people. Huddersfield is a damn sight closer to his Middlesbrough base, and that should enable a more regular family life for him and his daughters.
You wonder, though, if his thoughts of a move were fuelled by his less-defined position in the squad. Iriney may have been brought in as his pre-emptive replacement, but we saw last season that Hogg is no longer the indispensable player he was under Dyche. When Almen Abdi was out of the team, Hogg and Battocchio were insufficiently creative to form a midfield on their own. Homesickness is a powerful emotion, but being a permanent fixture in the first team is a potent tonic. Now he’s not guaranteed that, it might not be worth the hassle.
Hogg joins up with former Football Business Director Ross Wilson at the John Smith’s Stadium. You suspect that when the midfielder asked for his transfer, Wilson, as the main transfer man at Huddersfield – an improving side but still not a rival to Watford’s promotion hopes – was one of those tipped off by the club.
It’s with great sadness that we bid goodbye to Hoggy. It definitely hurts the squad to see him go, though it’s not as devastating as it would have been twelve months ago. Still, letting him leave shows that the human side to the club remains.
Good luck, Hoggy.