In which ITWM, compares a coach with a few impressive wins to one of the most heralded generals in the history of humanity…
There’s a story about Alexander the Great from when he entered Gordium, the capital of Phrygia in modern day Turkey while on his tear up of the known world. There, apparently, was an ox-cart tied to a post with a pretty tricky knot. Whoever could undo this knot would rule all of Asia. Nobody who’d ever tried had managed it. Stop me if this sounds familiar.
Alexander, of course, found a way to get it done. Crafty bloke with a whole bunch of nice biographers.
Down at Vicarage Road we’ve got a Gordian Knot of our own.
It’s the issue of having a lot of really rather good players, the majority of whom have seemingly been lured here with the promise of an easy passage to the Premier League, a place in the hearts of an admiring fan-base and the sycophantic words of whoever’s in charge of transfers ringing in their ears.
It’s become pretty clear that we can’t progress – can’t take our ox-cart to greener pastures – while we have a bunch of stars sitting around feeling sorry for themselves or making daisy chains instead of getting stuck in.
The first suitor to have a pop at the impenetrable knot of Watford was Gianfranco Zola, the snake charmer from the glistening coves of Sardinia. He treated the rope with wine and tried to tease it free with a soft touch and intricate technique. There was some give to begin with, but as success seemed possible, the knot just tightened. Instead of getting better it got worse. His perma-smile disappeared and he sloped away, defeated.
Next through the door was the heavy-browed imp Beppe Sannino. Born in the sun but raised in the mountains, he brought the rustic approach of a worker of the fields. With brute strength he clawed at the rope – gnawing at it with his snarling teeth – attacking the problem the only way he knew how. The knot tightened, and got larger and larger until its size overwhelmed him, forcing him back into the hills to find a new field to plough.
The townsfolk looked elsewhere, heralding the arrival of the serious Oscar Garcia. He had been seen down the road a few months prior, studying his sheepshanks; finally, the man to loosen us from our plight. He entered the town to fanfare, steadied himself with one of those smiles that isn’t really a smile but there’s a little twitch at the very corner of the mouth giving the air of self-confidence, almost arrogance but not jubilation or anything, you know? He grasped the problem, and reeled away, with an allergic rash reacting to the fibres all over his palms.
Now, finally, could this be our Alexander? Slavisa Jokanovic may not be the most popular guy, even now, but he has taken an approach to this particular problem similar to that of the mythical Macedonian pisshead. Instead of putting a new slant on the tried and tested failures that have gone before him, he has taken out his sword and simply taken a chunk out of it. Thinking through the box and out the other side.
The likes of Lloyd Dyer and Lewis McGugan, fine enough on their day but not as worthy as they feel, haven’t been appeased, haven’t been screamed at until they get in line or given token minutes to perpetuate the problem. Instead, though the suits have invested considerable fund on them, Jokanovic discarded them to the far corner of London Colney. Go and run around the McDonalds Drive Thru.
Once Alexander had resheathed his sword back in 333BC, a massive storm started – obviously meaning that the gods looked favourably on his trickiness. Off he popped to Egypt and Babylon and India, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.
Could Slav’s attitude, unsympathetic to the wishes of the masses and happy enough with his own ideas without having to appeal to any previous thinking, be the thing we need to push on? Going into this weekend’s game at Bolton we have had two of the most satisfying wins imaginable. Undeserved and spawny. The stuff of champions.
They’re games we wouldn’t have had a chance of winning in years gone by, let alone two in a row. Coupled with our ability to run through teams with savage efficiency, we seem to be in a pretty good place, considering all that’s happened this season. And the weather’s been crap, so the gods are clearly all for it.
N.B. At the time of this episode, Alexander was a highly-fancied 23 year old from Eastern Europe who’d been bigged up since he was a teenager. He went on to have a pretty good career, though he never stayed in one place for very long, and was such a divisive character that his teammates did him in just before his 33rd birthday. Reports that Gianluca Nani was tapping him up to sort out our midfield problems at the time are unsubstantiated.