I’m still numb from watching the first 30 minutes of England’s game against the Republic of Ireland. Fortunately – wisely as it turns out – I went and washed the car, with ITV later apologising for wasting everyone’s time.
Once more the best that our country can offer consistently failed to string more than two passes together, get past their man or muster a decent effort on goal. “What do they practise in training?”
Roy Hodgson is actually managing to take our national side backwards – a remarkable achievement considering it wasn’t in the best shape when he took charge.
I have a number of questions for Roy:
Why does he play Joe Hart at all, let alone for 90 minutes in meaningless friendlies?
Why does he stick with players who are obviously low on confidence and form, such as Sterling and Henderson?
And why did he pick Jamie Vardy who scored just five goals last season?
There are more but I won’t bore you.
In contrast, the best of the world’s footballing talent on the pitch has brought many great moments to the game in this country – Thierry Henry, Eric Cantona, Eden Hazard, Luis Suarez, Mario Balotelli (okay, maybe not the last one).
And Alex Tettey, Martin Olsson and Seb ‘the Rock’ Bassong take a bow. Respect is due and has been well earned.
That said, as the Premier League becomes ever more cosmopolitan in terms of owners, chairmen and players, it does our club great credit to have achieved the ‘bounce-back’ with an exciting young British manager in charge of a predominantly home grown squad under the watchful eye of a stable English CEO-owner combination.
At the end of April, there was a lively debate on this website between myself and a string of Watford fans soon after the Hornets had clinched automatic promotion.
In the comments section to a piece I’d written, I suggested that the overseas-dominated model that their club has adopted over the past few years – both on and off the pitch – in the Championship is one built on sand and one which I hope never to be adopted at Norwich.
They naturally bit back.
Most of them stressed that Vicarage Road under the Pozzos and their then manager ‘Joka’ was the happiest it had been for a long time. Everyone it seemed was pulling in the same direction.
Most took offence at my mentioning that they had employed four different managers within the space of one season.
I also predicted that the approximately 30 per cent UK make-up of their squad was likely to drop even more in the pursuit of squad strengthening.
As preparations are already underway for the three promoted clubs ahead of the August 8 kick-off, the good feeling about Carrow Road and its environs generated by that wonderful month of May is still palpable.
It would be interesting to know if that’s still the case at Watford. ‘Joka’ got greedy, was sent packing by the Pozzos and has now been replaced by a Spanish coach – their fifth in a year.
Also worth noting are Watford’s two summer signings to date: an Austrian defender and a Lithuanian keeper. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Leroy Fer takes the short journey from Loftus Road to Vicarage Road either by start of the footballing hostilities.
I’m prepared to put my head above the parapet and state that Norwich will finish higher than Watford in the Premier League next season. I’m also confident that it won’t be done by finishing second from bottom. I’m predicting a mid-table season.
As for Bournemouth? That’s much harder to predict.
Everything at this level is new to them. Theirs is a heart-warming tale of salvation from extinction and inexorable rise to the top level and I hope they survive and are able to play the same impressive brand of football which saw them worthy champions.
Norwich have the most experience amongst the promoted sides of how cruel it can be when the stakes are raised and the glamour boys come to town. That should be a good thing but sometimes ignorance and naivety can be bliss.
Some of those scars are still raw, not least the chilling beatings taken at the Etihad and Anfield, along with the double done to us by Villa; one record that City would love to put straight.
Senor Suarez and Paul Lambert are long gone now.
Already a few names have been bandied about as possible additions to Alex Neil’s squad for the ultimate test next season for a novice coach. That he has yet to get all the requisite coaching badges will, I suspect, not be a problem for him In fact, he should be in charge of the course.
No doubt, the leagues of Spain, Holland and perhaps Germany are being scouted for exciting talent to bring to Carrow Road.
With the painful lesson of Ricky van Wolfswinkel in mind, it’s only right that we should still look afar for some squad strengthening but hopefully keep in mind how last season’s success was achieved with a large home grown core of troops.
Extra cover will be required in most areas but under Alex Neil’s guidance but I suggest that our favoured starting 11, which finished at Wembley, is strong enough to compete with most of what the Premier can throw at them.
It’s almost time to put the crystal ball back in its box but two more predictions:
(1) First game of the season for City? Watford away.
(2) A narrow win for England over Slovenia followed by the obligatory ‘not the best performance but it’s the points that matter’ quotes from manager and players post-match.
Surely at some point though, it is the performance that matters Roy?
Gary Field says
Starting afresh with a new manager is difficult enough as it is, but, to do it in the Premier League is probably the most challenging of all asks.
In Watford’s previous two Premier League campaign’s they made pitiful attempts to stay up. I suspect, however, this time will be different under the current regime.
As for us, if we’re going with one up front, I think we’ll need to invest big in a proven striker at this level. I also think we need an upgrade at Number 10 to be truly competitive.
Russell, thank you for your comments. Instead of seeking to correct your assertions one at a time I thought I would point out a few facts that may put your apparent mildly xenophobic concerns into some context.
Football at the highest level is all about sustainability. We are all aware of the boom and bust economics of the likes of Leeds and Portsmouth and no club would wish for that. What is now important in football is that financially the club operates within it’s means whilst achieving success. The Pozzo’s have introduced their model at Vicarage Road and for the first time in many years we’re stable, building (both team and stadium) and can look forward with as much confidence as any club in the Prem.
Our wages are under control, our attendances have grown steadily and we have operated at just about the break even point since their involvement. We won’t break the bank to stay in the Prem but because of the scouting network that they have put in place over the past 20 years we will hopefully be able to find the next Alexis Sanchez or Nueva Cordoba who were both bought to Europe by the Pozzos along with many other highly talented footballers. Take a look at the debt that Bournemouth have racked up by the way under their Russian ownership – the next Portsmouth in waiting?
Does it bother me in any way that the new talent coming in is not British? It doesn’t even enter my thought process. The question is are they good enough for the Prem and are they going to fight for my club? We currently have the most talented squad in our history, have watched some of the most exciting games at Vicarage Road for years and seen our so called ‘foreign legion’ fight with every thing they had to achieve our collective goal.
When the players heard on the bus on the way home from Brighton that they had been automatically promoted they headed straight for Watford High Street to celebrate with the fans and they were there all night!! They are part of our town and understand what the club means to lots of us. Where ever they were born they now have Watford in their blood and that’s all that matters to me.
The fact is that Watford is a small town. To be in the Championship is arguably ‘punching above our weight’ and now we’re back in the Prem. The difference is that this time we have a chance of staying there. You can look at the number of Managers and criticise the turnover in a short period but you should also consider the circumstances. The most important thing is that in the Pozzo model, losing a Head Coach does not de-rail the season. It’s sustainability on every level and believe me once your club directors have stopped patting themselves on the back they, along with many others will be taking a long hard look at their structure and wondering how to emulate the Pozzo model.
No predictions from me about how next season will go. We know it will be tough but we also know, unlike on the previous occasions when our one year in the Prem has come to an end (under British management regimes) that this time, if we do go down we will be in a much better place and much better able to bounce straight back up.
Good luck to Norwich for next year and l look forward to seeing how it pans out. COYH.
Steve the Hornet says
Would’ve taken you up on the bet had Joka still been in charge. Flores will need a bedding in period that will inevitably drop us points… Still, confident that we will stay up.
Naturally, we’re disappointed that Joka got greedy but the owners have been excellent and part of that excellence is their financial prudence. So the right decision was made and we’ve all moved on.
The squad is excellent already, with a number of quality transfers to go through. Plus we also have the advantage of being able to loan Serie A / La Liga players should we need to.
My concern for Norwich is the lack of firepower. If you were to strengthen anywhere, it should be there.
All the best for the season.
Stuart Reid says
Why does it matter that 30% of Watfords squad is UK based? Chelsea named just 2 English players in their 20 man squad last season, didn’t stop them being successful. Man City named 5 in their 24 man squad.
Number of English players isn’t indicative of success, or Burnley would’ve won the Prem…
You are entitled to your view but you are way off the mark with this one. You have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA about what Watford FC are about, or the work that the Pozzo family are doing at the club.
At all clubs Managers come and go, and none more so than Norwich City. I think your knowledge of Watford FC firstly is very poor, and secondly you should keep quiet about things you don’t know or understand.
1. Managers – Bepe Sannino wasn’t right for our club. Oscar Garcia was ill and was unable to carry on with his duties. Bill McKinlay was bought in as coach by Garcia and was not material for a permanent Manager. Then Slavisa Jokanovic came in and done a wonderful job. We don’t really know about the Financial issues regarding Slavisa’s contract renewal, but we do know that the Pozzo family will not pay above the odds and manage the finances very well at our Football club, therefore meeting all the Financial Fair play standards and requirements, whilst developing young players. We now have a new Head Coach who is widely recognised and has been successful in European competition. Though sad to see Slav go we accept that the Football club comes first.
2. AFC Bournemouth – They and Eddie Howe have done very well this season, and we will see next season how they can cope. They finished top and won the Championship because they got 1 more point than us. Simply that was it. And but for an idiot that run onto the pitch 90 seconds from the end we would have got the title. So it was actually VERY CLOSE.
3. Foreign Players – Ummm Chelsea!!! Is that ok then? Oh by the way move please move into modern times. The game has now got freedom of movement in countries just like any other profession. GET REAL. And we easily complied with the ‘Home Grown’ rule.
4. I had hoped that Middlesbrough would win the play off final because I see them as a club who are much less arrogant and up themselves. I think your clubs expectancy is way above actual delivery on the pitch. Alex Neill reminds me of Aidy Boothroyd in so many ways. Lets see how long that one lasts as he looks to personally climb the ladder.
5. If you asked Watford fans, most would suggest that Ipswich are a much nicer and friendlier club than yourselves.
6. Hoolihan should have been severely punished for the dive at Vicarage Road, admitted by himself to Troy Deeney. So I think you should have a bit more realism as to your expectations this season. That would have won us the League. We will see who comes out on top, but what I do know is that this season Watford will be no pushover for anyone in the Premier League.
I bid you good day.
Michael D says
I think Bedshornet (2) has a good, measured response to your article, Russell. I am a Canary supporter, and also prefer our model, but as Bedshornet is pointing out there are different models that can achieve greater stability and potential to endure in the Premier League than just ours. Ours maybe nearer the Swansea model, but Southampton’s approach is different again.
Obviously what one does have to have is a financial model that is sustainable, and not just built on a growing debt mound that can crash and burn. I think Bedshornet’s point about not caring where the talent comes from is an unfortunate indictment of the current state of how the English leagues are structured, particularly the Premier League. Clearly the comparative lack of English talent in the PL is linked to the boring display put on by Hodgson’s lot against Ireland – who, are not a bad team, even if they don’t have superstars. So I do think it is a pity that is not easier to set a minimum % of players in a side who have to be British, but we can’t. Unfortunately we also still can’t show, as Southampton has, that it makes good economic sense to invest in a brilliant academy and bring your own future top players through.
Next season will be interesting in that all three promoted sides have different financial models, and all three have had relative success with them in recent years, building a greater level of stability at the club, and being able to marry that with good squads and effective management. It will be very interesting to see how each time does respectively next year, and I wish all well, and us the best of course.
If I have one nagging concern for our team, though, is that I suspect the Hornets with their model are more likely to strengthen their squad appropriately before next season. So on that one, I’d really like to be proved wrong and hope there is effective recruitment of 4-5 players that goes well beyond many of the names we’ve heard so far. OTBC.
Ben K says
Russell, did you vote for UKIP in the general election or European election? It’s a genuine question, since I’m wondering if your views are restricted to football or extend to the wider world. Football often seems to exist in its own bubble, or at least tries to. It can’t do whatever it wants though, since foreign player restrictions and FFP are hindered by European law, as I’m sure you know. Would you vote for Britain to leave the EU in the coming referendum, to make the country free to restrict movement across the continent? (Another genuine question.)
If a football club wants to have staff of the highest possible level (and at the best value) in this day and age, then surely the best thing to do is to cast the net as far and as wide as possible. Like the NHS that we all hold so dear. That’s what Watford, and many other clubs, have done; and I don’t see any reason not to.
Andrew hall says
Roy was appointed England manger to lower expectations and to date he has done an excellent job ,in the eyes of the FA. We had in the two previous mangers proven winners in Sven & Fabio but the English press took it on them selfs to hound them out of there jobs , but no one is hounding boring Roy out at this moment . As for my beloveded NC in Neil we trust . The first thing the board should do when it returns from its hols is get Mr Neil on a five year contract before someone else does.
Russell S. says
Welcome back Watford fans! Surely one thing we can agree on is that the England team under Hodgson (or anyone going back to Terry Venables) is crap?
Why is that? Because of the inexorable decrease in numbers of English players in PL squads. The situation at Chelsea and Man City. is utterly deplorable. Now they have shed Lampard and Milner from the Etihad (or the ‘English Talent In Here Almost Disappeared’ stadium), they have to the best of my knowledge not a single English (or British) outfield player in their squad.
Do their fans give a stuff? No because everything is fine and dandy on their own patch. I’m getting that sense from Watford too.
Until more club fans get miffed at the situation, we will continue to get performances from the national team the likes of which was suffered on Sunday. At least Chelsea and Man City didn’t adopt their current model to get into the PL as your club has done. If it seeps more and more into the lower leagues, then our national side is totally doomed.
God knows I was never a fan of Alex Ferguson, but throughout his success at Old Trafford, he always kept a sizeable core of British players in his teams.
Is it a xenophobic point? Some seem determined to tar me with that brush but genuinely it isn’t. We all want great players from abroad in our teams – just not 70/80 % and above in the squad. It’s exactly what Greg Dyke is fighting for – is he a xenophobe for doing it?
*Ben K – no I didn’t and wouldn’t ever.
Russell S. says
The ‘finishing above you’ thing was the proverbial banter – I have no idea if we will but God I hope so now I’ve said it!
You don’t seem too miffed at Joka asking for twice as much money as the club were prepared to pay him – I’d be mighty miffed at him.
Wes Hoolahan’s tumble really still stings doesn’t it? Sadly, you’ll have to get used to that happening more in the PL and your team will have to show a lot more gumption when it happens than they did against us. You were only 1-0 down as a result. I shall be keeping a close eye on any Watford theatricals next season?
The Alex Neil comparison with Aidy Boothroyd is a good one – as in ridiculous. Sure we have had a few managers over the years but not 5 in 1 calendar year! I believe they call that ‘the Italian way’. For the past 4 years, Flores has been riding on the UAE gravy boat – financially rewarding no doubt. His competitive football days are distant. If he’s still at the club by the end of the season, I’ll do the hat eating thing.
As for the friendly Ipswich fans?..best I draw a line under that one!
What is it with you and foreigners? I was one of the people who criticised (oh sorry attacked ) you last time round. And I’m not a Watford fan but a Norwich supporter since 1980.
Michael D, I didn’t address the comments relating to England from Russell’s original article but as you conflate the two and imply that Watford’s use of non-British nationals is indicative of the Premiership and that this somehow impacts negatively on the national team, I thought I should share my view. I understand the thrust of that argument however, it simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and in many ways is illogical.
My premise is that a club team should be made up of the best talent available to it. Where that talent was born is irrelevant to me. Watford have an excellent Academy set-up and we have a number of Academy products in the current senior squad. The key issue is that the better that squad is, the better the youngsters need to be to break through. Tommy Hoban makes it into our first team because he has developed to such a level that he is keeping experienced, talented and in many cases foreign players out. Would Tommy have developed so far, so quickly in an average Championship squad – I don’t think so.
England don’t need 95% English players playing in the Prem, they need 3 or 4 exceptional talents available for each position on the pitch. As we can still only play 11 at a time, I truly believe we should be focussed on the top 100 players and ensure that they are better than the rest of the world. The only way we do that is by competing at the highest level week in and week out – against the top foreign talent.
Take a look at our current England U21 squad. That is full of talent, all holding their own in Prem teams against top quality, regularly foreign competitors. Indeed the full England Team is full of talented players. The problem really isn’t the playing talent pool it’s with the Management and Coaching and that buck stops at the FA. Are you really saying that the likes of Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola or in the past Brian Clough couldn’t mould a world or European championship winning team out of the English talent available?
And the “not enough English talent in the Prem’ argument falls down completely when you look at the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish teams. Their player pool is considerably smaller but they all benefit from having a number of top talents (many developed in the Prem), who compete at the highest level and have developed a model or have a manager that is ensuring that the team amounts to more than the sum of it’s parts.
I firmly believe that playing talent is not our (English) problem. Indeed, foreign players in the Prem have considerably improved the quality available to the England Manager, although I would accept the quantity has reduced. The real issue is the quality and ability of the management structure and the inability of the FA to select the right man at the right time.
Russell S. says
(11) – I remember your comment from before. You also managed to mention the terms sexism and racism – wasn’t worth replying too. You are one of the people who have completely misinterpreted and misrepresented my views. Where did I use the word “attacked”!
Do you not give a stuff at the state of the England side over the past 10-20 years (or more)? If you do, what’s your solution for turning around the inexorable decline or is it only events at Carrow Road that bother?
Barca and Bayern (for example) manage to achieve their success while keeping a healthy home core of players in their squads..and the most successful national sides in the past decade are?
Michael D says
@ Bedshornet (12), yes, these are all good points you make, and I acknowledge that the U-21 side is a good example of what can be achieved.
However, using your own argument, and doing a little maths, if England should be focusing on the top 100 players, then given that the PL has 20 sides, that is still 5 per club that would need to be playing regularly. Even if we say 20 of the 100 could be in the Championship (though Roy can’t be bothered to look there), that would still mean 4 per PL side.
In terms of your premise that ‘a club team should be made up of the best talent available to it’, regardless of where the players are born, I would accept that if it meant that in all likelihood that would still include the 4-5 British (not even necessarily English) that would be playing regularly. Unfortunately Chelsea and Man C have developed models that show this need not be the case – so putting together that pool of 100 players does represent a challenge in the current overall structure.
I favour diversity in all walks of life – that’s the work I do – but that means promoting inclusive models, so as long as the way the PL operates still works to ensure that basic pool of English/ British players, I am ok with it, and if it doesn’t then there is a problem
I do also accept though that current problems with the English team’s performance may well lie more with the management than the players themselves, eg if the English and Irish managers were switched around I doubt if the score would have finished 0-0.
I like most England supporting fans are disappointed how the national team has been left to rot by the FA. However as a Watford supporter I really feel that the FA have been the makers of their own misfortunes and to look at Watford as one of the modern ills of football is totally inaccurate.
Only three years ago we had one of the best academies in the country and were heralded by the FA as a model to uphold. How did they then treat us? They brought in rules which effectively allowed the wealthy clubs to snap up any of our young talent for £100,000. Why should a small club even attempt to spend resources (probably in excess of £100,000) in producing young home grown talent knowing they will see a pittance on their return when a young lads head is turned by an offer to play for Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City etc. Watford in my opinion took the correct decision to downgrade their academy and put their resources into other areas of the club which has had the inevitable result of less British players in the first team. The FA have killed the national team themselves by preventing smaller clubs developing talent and then allowing them to reap the rewards by making larger clubs pay a reasonable fee for a young players service. In other words, why should clubs like Watford and Norwich do all the work of finding young players for no financial gain?
As a Watford supporter I would not expect you to understand the model operated by the Pozzo’s in the same way I take less interest in the Delia method of keeping Norwich going. However I would not take to the record to criticize Norwich as the owners make what they consider to be the best choices in their clubs interest. I feel certain that the model the Pozzo family employs is now both workable and sustainable in the Premier League and I think that the vast majority of Watford fans are very happy with the way the club is run regardless of 5 or 50 head coaches in a season. I don’t think any other teams model would have accomodated for so many changes in manager and still finish 2nd above a wealthy team with massive parachute payments such as Norwich in what was recognised as the most competitive league in Europe this year. Therefore to lambast the Watford model without any understanding of how it works is at best irrational and at worst plain stupid.
Regarding Hodgson – he’s an incompetent buffoon. It drives me mad to think that he called up Vardy after scoring just 5 goals. Yet in 2012 he refused to give the top English scorer in the Premier League (a certain Grant Holt) a no-obligations tryout in either of the two friendlies ahead of the European Championships, to see if Holt could cut it. Madness.
happy hornet says
Not sure I grasp the thinking here. Foreigners who play for Norwich are good , those that play for other teams are bad seems to be the message. Football is about opinions some peoples just leave a nasty taste in the mouth. As a football fan I support players with skill , team ethos and the right attitude no matter where they are from or the colour of their skin.
I hope Norwich and Bournemouth do well next season no matter where their players were born. Although I fear for Norwich if they hold being “British” above being a good footballer.
There are enough good players in England for the national team to be able to put a decent side together. Would be good to see them play with as much passion and commitment as some other national teams.
Cosmo P. says
(12) the coaching point is a valid one of course but the argument that more competition for young/academy English players due to more overseas (the word ‘foreign’ seems to have become taboo and instantly pounced upon) players being in the squad is piffle.
Take the U21 squad – it’s comprised of 0 Man City players, 2 from Chelsea (number of 1st team appearances can be counted on the fingers of one hand), 2 from Arsenal (1 of whom was out on loan last season) and 1 from Man U – this country’s top 4 sides – all coached by top (overseas) coaches. How long has Mourinho been at Chelsea? – how many English players has he developed to the national side in that time?
Watford and Norwich both have one player in the U21 squad. While ours has been a regular over the past 3 seasons, yours (Jonathan Bond – GK) has made 20-odd appearances in 5 years – 3 last season. I’m guessing the recently acquired Lithuanian GK will push Bond further out of the picture?
(15) Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to ‘understand’ the details of the Pozzo regime. Your famed academy took a distinct backseat in terms of progression while all those Italian loanees were shipped in under Zola.
@15. simmos – do you have a source for that point you made about big clubs stealing talent for £100k? Never heard that before and would be interested to learn more on the subject! (Obviously I’m aware big clubs can poach talent but didn’t realise small clubs were losing out with compensation capped at £100k?).
You have our sympathies with regards to the FA ruining academies through daft rules – Norwich has been there, done that and got the T-shirt. Remember the “catchment area” rule? Positively disastrous for a Norwich academy that was left to look for talent in an area that was mostly empty countryside to the West, and the North Sea to the East! That almost totally derailed what was at the time one of the best academies in the country – producing plenty of young talent like Darren Eadie and Craig Bellamy. Obviously Watford’s catchment area would see them competing with lots of other clubs – not ideal – but at least there is plenty of young talent for you to fight over in London!
@17. happy hornet. Totally get what you’re saying. I think though that for Norwich, in the absence of being able to afford to sign a world class set of players, it’s a matter of pride having a predominantly British squad and coaching staff (not to mention British ownership – a rare bird at the top level!). We finished 11th and 12th with a British squad last time out. Ironically it was when we changed the ethos and tried to sign continental talent in the third year (Van Wolfswinkel, Fer) that it all went wrong. Coincidence perhaps. But I’m comfortable with the approach, and there has to be someone to fly the British flag in the Premier League!
Jake UTC says
Woah some arguments are going on here. Bournemouth fan here, coming in peace. Just want to say that although every team invariably has differences and we all have differing models.
So okay Hoolahan dived at watford, and wilson could go down easy, however with wilson i feel that he got cheated out of a lot of decisions especially where he out fought the defender who proceeded to fall over because he couldnt catch him. Watford away comes to mind, where by the way the deefender that conceded the pen should have been sent off. There are swings like at our place I think there was a covering defender so there should have been no red.
What i saying is this year there was an equal balance in poor decisions across the division. But next year that is not going to be the case, we are all going to have to suffer from the so called big teams winning the decision.
On the point of British players, I am on the side of Good imports definitely help the state of english football. I know Howe likes to have a mainly british 1st 11 with only two players being European imports.
Personally I hope bournemouth stay up, but would like to see both watford and norwich stay up as well, because we were the best footballing teams in the division. (Thank god Middlebore didnt go up).
My head says that Norwich have the best chance, (btw still havent forgiven you for the whole John Bond poaching era, truly believe that is why you are where you are and where we have been:P) and that depending on how AFCB and WFC strengthen one will stay.
One final point this whole tv deal might blow all our ideas of spend etc out of the water, for all of us.
All the best for next season!
This seemst be a refreshingly thoughtful blog. Well done Norwich fans. In that Spirit I offer the analysis of The Swiss Rambler who makes it very clear why Watford are in excellent hands and why their management model is financially sustainable. For those amongst you interested in such mundane but crucial issues this is well worth a read
“Amidst all the excitement about Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth securing promotion to the Premier League, Watford’s similar feat has been a little overlooked, which is a shame, as the story is just as interesting. The turnaround since the Pozzo family purchased the Hertfordshire club, both on and off the pitch, has been remarkable.
Watford narrowly missed out on a Premier League place in the Italians’ first season in 2012/13, when Gianfranco Zola’s team was defeated 1-0 by Crystal Palace in the Championship play-off final with an extra-time penalty.
Zola had replaced the popular Sean Dyche and enjoyed immediate success, but struggled the following season, when the club appointed Beppe Sannino. After Watford finished a disappointing 13th, the writing was on the wall for Sannino, who resigned early in the 2014/15 season.
This set off an extraordinary sequence with five changes in the Head Coach in just 10 months, though the statistic is somewhat misleading: Oscar Garcia had to resign for health reasons; Billy McKinley declined the Assistant Head Coach position; and Slavisa Jokanovic, the former Chelsea midfielder who had guided Watford to promotion, exited stage left after the club rejected his salary demands.
In a sign of the Hornets’ growing ambition, they have now appointed Quique Flores, whose CV is truly impressive, having won the Europa League with Atletico Madrid and taken Valencia to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Watford have continued to “progress under stable and ambitious ownership”, which is something of a new experience for their supporters, as the club had been in turmoil under previous owner Laurence Bassini, who was found guilty of financial misconduct by the Football League and subsequently banned from football for three years.
The club itself was placed under a limited transfer embargo, i.e. it could still sign players with prior permission from league officials, but suffered no points deduction. The leniency of the punishment was because the league viewed this as purely Bassini’s responsibility with the other board members being unaware of his indiscretions.
Fortunately, the group that sold the club to Bassini in 2011 (including Lord Ashcroft) had included clauses in the sale agreement that effectively allowed them to regain control after the businessman failed to meet those conditions. This enabled them to sell the club in June 2012 to the Pozzo family, who have a fine ownership record with Udinese (since 1986) and Granada (since 2009). The new owners took on the debts and brought stability to a club that was on the brink of administration.
Although some fans were understandably nervous about the impact of the Pozzos extending their football empire to England, the Italians sought to allay their concerns, stating, “Our vision of how we should be involved in professional football is to provide financial and technical support, so that success can be achieved over the long-term.”
To date, they have been true to their word, implementing a strategy that has been thoroughly tried and tested at their other clubs with much success: Udinese have become a force in Serie A, qualifying for the Champions League on a number of occasions; while Granada stormed back to La Liga after a 35-year absence.
Their achievements have been built on a formidable, global scouting network that has continually identified talented players with lots of potential that can be developed and then sold at a healthy profit, with Alexis Sanchez being the jewel in the crown of this strategy.
Watford have greatly benefited from being part of this group with many players being brought in from their Italian and Spanish “partners”, such as Matej Vydra, Odion Aghalo, Almen Abdi, Gabriele Angella and Joel Ekstrand from Udinese; and Juan Carlos Paredes and Ikechi Anya from Granada. Without access to the Pozzo portfolio, it is unlikely that Watford would have been able to attract players of this calibre, nor afford them, as they have been either loaned or sold on favourable terms.
The number of loans has reduced since the Pozzos’ first season, partly because there was little time for the Italians to do much else between their end-June takeover and the start of the 2012/13 campaign, but also because league rules have been tightened to include international arrangements.
That said, players arriving from Udinese and Granada, either via loans or permanent transfers, have still been highly influential in Watford’s successful promotion campaign. This approach has been unpopular with other clubs for obvious reasons, though arguably it is effectively a more sophisticated version of the “buy low, sell high” tactic used by many teams in order to survive.
As Gino Pozzo said, “If you look at the recent history of Watford, the project was: we need to sell all our best players as soon as an offer comes, because there weren’t the financial resources to hold on to them. Knowing that our financial resources are limited, we will have to go another way around to be able to challenge.”
The focus on financial management is clear when looking at the most recent published accounts from the 2013/14 season, when the club maintained its recent trend of more or less breaking-even, though the bottom line did fall by £0.5 million from a £0.2 million profit to a £0.3 million loss.
Revenue was £1.4 million lower at £16.7 million, while profit on player sales also fell £1.1 million to £1.5 million, which mainly came from the transfers of Britt Assombalonga, Jonathan Hogg and Craig Forsyth. This was largely offset by a £1.1 million reduction in expenses, including £0.9 million in wages, and £0.4 million in player amortisation and impairment.
In addition, other operating income was £0.6 million higher, mainly due to a contribution from bondholders related to the LNOC Limited dispute (though other expenses also included £0.2 million legal and professional services for this matter), while the previous season included the final rent payment from Saracens rugby club.
However, it should be noted that the 2012/13 figures were boosted by Watford’s participation in the Championship play-off finals, which increased revenue and profit by £2.6 million and £2.2 million respectively. Therefore, on a comparable basis, revenue actually rose by £1.1 million, while profits would have been £1.7 million higher. This is why the club claimed that the “financial performance has seen areas of impressive growth.”
In itself, this is a pretty impressive accomplishment, but it is even more notable if we consider the fact that most clubs make hefty losses in England’s second tier, largely as a result of their natural desire to reach the lucrative Premier League. In fact, only three of the 24 clubs in the Championship were profitable in 2013/14 (Blackpool, Wigan Athletic and Yeovil Town) – and they have all since been relegated.
Watford’s small loss of £0.3 million was actually the 4th best in the league table of profits and losses, which on the one hand makes their achievements on the pitch all the more striking, but on the other hand is the outcome of their relationship with Udinese and Granada. Nevertheless, it is still considerably better than the losses made by the likes of Blackburn Rovers £42 million, Nottingham Forest £23 million, Leicester City £21 million, Middlesbrough £20 million and Leeds United £20 million.
Over the years, Watford have tended to make (small) losses, “as the club endeavours to remain a competitive force in the Championship.” A while back, former chairman Graham Taylor articulated the club’s challenge thus: “With reduced television incomes and the continued financial constraints continuing to be felt across all walks of public life, the move towards a sustainable and profitable football-based business becomes a tougher and more difficult challenge with every passing year.”
The exceptions are 2007 and 2011 when Watford reported large profits of £8 million and £10 million, but there were specific factors driving those results. In 2011 £13 million of inter-company debt between the club and Watford Leisure PLC was waived as part of the requirements of the secured bond issue, while 2007 was boosted by profits from player sales of £8 million, including the record transfer of Ashley Young to Aston Villa.
Traditionally Watford have compensated their operating losses with profits from player sales: 2007/08 £7.4 million – Marlon King and Hameur Bouazza; 2008/09 £3.7 million – Danny Shittu and Darius Henderson; 2009/10 £5.1 million – Mike Williamson, Tommy Smith and Tamas Priskin; and 2011/12 £6.4 million – Danny Graham, Marvin Sordell and Will Buckley. In 2012 the club observed, “The trading of players remained critical to reducing the club’s losses.”
However, the Pozzo regime has moved away from this policy, as explained by chief executive Scott Duxbury, “Our aim is to establish a business plan that makes the club self sufficient as quickly as possible. The previous business plan covered significant losses through player trading. We don’t want to do that, we want to keep the players, remain competitive, and we think the best platform to get to the Premier League with no timescale being put upon it is to become a sustainable Championship club.”
Thus, profits from player sales have reduced in the last two years to just £2.6 million and £1.5 million. The latter was only the 11th highest in the Championship in 2013/14, though in fairness few clubs in that division make big money from this activity with only two generating more than £5 million: Wigan Athletic £13.4 million and Bournemouth £6.9 million.
Watford’s drive to becoming self-sufficient can be seen by the reduction in operating losses from £6.8 million in 2012, the last season before the new owners arrived, to £2.1 million in 2013 and £1.4 million in 2014. The operating loss had actually been as high as £10.9 million in 2008.
Revenue has fallen since the £28.8 million peak in 2007, which was the last time Watford were in the Premier League, when they received £16.7 million of central TV distributions. Parachute payments of around £12 million a year kept the revenue at the £21-22 million level in the following two seasons, but this dropped to £11.3 million in 2010 once they ceased.
Since then, Watford’s revenue has risen by 48% (£5.4 million), almost entirely in the period after the Pozzo family’s arrival. In particular, commercial income has nearly tripled from £2.8 million to £8.1 million. In reality, the underlying growth is even higher, as 2010 included £1.4 million from a fund raising concert by one of the club’s presidents, Sir Elton John. The accounts do not fully explain this striking commercial growth beyond saying that the growth is due to “improved commercial performance of the business.”
Despite this growth, Watford’s revenue of £16.7 million was only the 13th highest in the Championship in the 2013/14 season, a long way behind the top three clubs: QPR £39 million, Reading £38 million and Wigan Athletic £37 million. In fact, six clubs earned more than £30 million that year.
Of course, to a large extent, this only demonstrates the importance of parachute payments for those clubs relegated from the Premier League. If these were to be excluded, Watford would move up to 6th place in the Championship revenue league, only behind Leicester City £31 million, Leeds United £25 million, Brighton £24 million, Derby County £20 million and QPR £17 million.
The significance of commercial income to Watford’s business model can be seen by this revenue stream accounting for nearly half (48%) of their total revenue, up from 43% the previous season. Broadcasting contributes 29%, while match day is only worth 23%. Broadcasting will obviously be much more important in the Premier League, where most clubs of Watford’s size are hugely reliant on TV money.
In 2013/14 Watford’s broadcasting revenue was unchanged at £4.8 million. In the Championship most clubs receive the same annual sum for TV, regardless of where they finish in the league, amounting to just £4 million of central distributions: £1.7 million from the Football League pool and a £2.3 million solidarity payment from the Premier League.
However, the major impact of parachute payments is once again highlighted in this revenue stream, greatly influencing the top eight earners, though it should be noted that clubs receiving parachute payments do not also receive solidarity payments. Watford’s TV money has sometimes been influenced by FA cup runs, e.g. it was up at £5.4 million in 2012 due to the 4th round FA Cup match against Tottenham being televised.
Obviously Watford will earn substantially more TV money in 2015/16 following promotion, as can bee seen by the Premier League television distributions, which underline the massive financial disparity between England’s top two leagues. In 2014/15 Premier League clubs received between £65 million and £99 million, compared to the £4 million in the Championship. In other words, Watford’s broadcasting revenue will increase by at least £61 million in the top flight.
It could be even more, depending on where the club finishes in the league (with each place worth an additional £1.2 million) and how many times they are televised live (where each club is paid facility fees, with a contractual minimum of 10 games).
All this is before the recent blockbuster Premier League deal that starts in 2016/17, which I calculate will be worth at least another £30 million a season, so Watford have every incentive to stay up.
Even if they were to finish in the bottom three and go straight back down, they would still benefit from parachute payments. Up to now, these have been worth £65 million over four years: year 1 £25 million, year 2 £20 million and £10 million in each of years 3 and 4.
However, the Premier League has recently announced changes to this structure, whereby from 2016/17 clubs will only receive parachute payments for three seasons after relegation, although the amounts will be higher (my estimate is £75 million, based on the advised percentages of the equal share paid to Premier League clubs: year 1 55%, year 2 45% and year 3 20%). Of particular interest to Watford fans is the additional fact that clubs that go straight back down will only receive parachute payments for two seasons (instead of three).
The financial prize for returning to the Premier League is therefore immense for Watford. As well as broadcasting revenue, match day and commercial income should also rise following promotion, so total revenue should (conservatively) rise to at least £80 million.
Of course, Watford will also have to spend more to improve their playing squad, but the net impact on the club’s finances will undoubtedly be positive, as can be seen by the clubs that were promoted in 2012/13 (Cardiff City, Hull City and Crystal Palace). All three of them significantly increased their expenses, particularly the wage bills, but still substantially improved their operating profits due to the huge revenue growth.
Crystal Palace are probably the closest to Watford in terms of finances and they turned a £12 million operating loss into a £23 million operating profit, as revenue rose from £15 million to £90 million, while wages went up from £19 million to £46 million.
Match day revenue fell £1.8 million (32%) from £5.6 million to £3.8 million, though the previous season included £1.6 million from the run to the play-off final. This is a solid mid-table position in the Championship, but a fair way behind Brighton £10 million, Leeds United £9 million and Nottingham Forest and Leicester City with £7 million apiece.
Ticket prices were increased for the first time in four years (by an average of 3%) for the 2014/15 season, highlighting the dilemma facing all but the wealthiest of football clubs, which Duxbury explained, “As chief executive, I have a responsibility to both the supporters of this club and the board of directors to deliver a commercially sustainable and progressive football club. I also have a specific duty to supporters to deliver a competitive and fair season ticket price to ensure they are able to continue supporting this club on its incredible journey.” Even though the club has announced that prices will be increased for a second consecutive season in 2015/16, this will be for a superior “product” in the Premier League.
Watford’s average attendance in 2013/14 was 15,512, about the same as former Premier League mainstays, Bolton Wanderers and Birmingham City, but a long way below the top four clubs (Brighton, Leeds United, Derby County and Leicester City), who all attracted at least 10,000 more spectators.
However, that represented a decent improvement from the 12,704 low in 2011/12 and the positive trend has continued with the average attendance rising to 16,664 in the 2014/15 promotion season.
In preparation for their return to the top flight, Watford have just announced the construction of 700 more seats at Vicarage Road to increase capacity to just over 21,000. These will be in the new East Stand (named after Sir Elton John) that was completed in December 2014 at the cost of around £3.5 million. This was funded by the owners, who had pledged to deliver increased supporter accommodation once attendances regularly reached the 15,000 level.
Commercial revenue slightly increased by £0.3 million (4%) from £7.8 million to £8.1 million, but the underlying increase was again higher, as the prior season included ä1 million due to reaching the play-off final. Watford’s commercial income is actually the 4th highest in the Championship. It may be a long way behind Leicester City £19 million (boosted by a major marketing deal with Trestellar Limited) and Leeds United £12 million, but it is notably better than most clubs in the division.
In fact, the significant increase in commercial income since the Pozzo family took charge is even more impressive than the reported figures, given that catering has been outsourced (thus reducing revenue and costs).
Watford have a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with online casino 138.com that runs until the end of the 2015/16 season. The terms have not been divulged, but Duxbury has stated that it is “worth more financially” than the previous agreement with former sponsor SI’s Football Manager. Since 2012 the kit supplier has been Puma, who signed a three-year deal, which has presumably been extended, as they have just launched the new kit for the 2015/16 season.
The wage bill fell £0.9 million (7%) from £12.8 million to £11.9 million, largely due to a once-off payment of £0.7 million the previous season for restructuring following the Pozzo takeover, plus lower bonus payments due to slipping to a 13th place finish. It is also worth noting that the number of players was reduced from 60 to 52.
The wages to turnover ratio was maintained at 71%, which is the lowest since the time when the club was receiving parachute payments. As a comparative, the ratio the season after these stopped was a worryingly high 97%.
Almost all clubs in the Championship have terrible wages to turnover ratios, e.g. QPR 195%, Bournemouth 172% and Nottingham Forest 165%, but Watford’s is one of the best at only 71%. In fact, this was only beaten by Blackpool 48% and their “model” is not one to be recommended.
The £12 million wage bill was also one of the lowest, though it is likely to be advantaged by the various loan agreements with Udinese and Granada. Even so, it was significantly lower than the likes of Leicester City, Reading, Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic, whose wages were all above £30 million, QPR were even higher at £75 million, but that was simply ridiculous in the second tier.
Nor have Watford splashed the cash when purchasing players, though again they have benefited from working with their partner clubs. Up until the Pozzo family arrived, Watford were basically a selling club with net sales of £26 million over the previous seven seasons, even including their brief period in the Premier League in 2007. Importantly, while they still had net sales in the last two seasons, this has greatly reduced to just £1 million.
As a result, their “spend” is much lower than many other Championship clubs in this period, though this comparison has to be treated with some caution, as the figures are distorted by clubs that were in the Premier League the previous season, either because of high spend when they were in the top flight or large sales following their relegation. Furthermore, many deals are described as “undisclosed” or simply “signed” in the Championship, so have no reported value, when you would expect some money to have changed hands.
Gross debt increased by £3.3 million from £10.0 million to £13.3 million, though this is still much less than the £23.0 million in 2010, thanks to the £13 million loan waiver in 2011. Most of the debt comprises the £5.6 million owed to the parent company, Hornets Investment Limited, or secured bonds of £6.0 million, which are the result of canceling inter-company loans. In addition, there is a £0.7 million bank overdraft, a £0.6 million loan from Watford FC Community Sports and Education Trust plus a £0.3 million director’s loan.
The debt owed to the parent company increased by £2.6 million, largely due to two loans provided for the building of the East Stand. The first is a £1 million loan with 4.5% interest per year repayable on 30 September 2015, while the second is a £1.75 million loan repayable in five equal instalments commencing on 31 December 2015 with interest again accrued at 4.5%. The rest of this debt is unsecured, carries no interest and has no fixed repayment date.
The secured bonds are owed to Lord Ashcroft, non-executive director David Fransen and former chairman Graham Simpson, whom Duxbury described as “partners rather than creditors”. The repayment schedule was activated on promotion to the Premier League, but it has been reported that this will be completed over two years. At that point Watford should be debt-free, especially with the influx of cash from the top flight.
In any case, Watford are well down the debt league in the Championship, significantly below Bolton Wanderers £195 million, QPR £180 million and Brighton £131 million.
However, Watford also had high contingent liabilities under various transfer agreements of £8.5 million, which included £8.1 million relating to clauses for promotion to the Premier League or international appearances. As a result of promotion, these payments will crystallise, so Watford’s costs will increase, either directly or via increased amortisation of transfer fees. There are also likely to be sizeable bonus payments linked to promotion, so supporters should expect to see a large loss in the 2014/15 accounts, though this should pave the way for future gains.
On the other hand, Watford had sums receivable from other clubs in respect of transfer fees, of which £2.2 million became due after the accounts closed.
Watford’s cash flow once more reflects the change in strategy under the new owners. Although the net cash inflows/outflows are fairly similar, there has been a marked improvement in cash generated from operating activities and a consequent reduction in the amounts produced from player sales. The owners have also provided loans to fund increased capital expenditure, basically the East Stand development.
Although the Pozzos have not advanced a massive amount of cash, their generosity has come in other forms, most obviously on the playing side. They have also reiterated that they are “committed to new investment into the business in respect of playing staff and to update the facilities at the stadium.”
As well as making excellent use of the other clubs in the group, the club has stated that developing young players remains a “high priority”. Duxbury has emphasised that “the academy is central to our future”, making good use of the special relationship with the Harefield Academy.
Pozzo has also introduced longer contracts for youth players like the promising Tommy Hoban. He observed, “We were surprised that a club that works with young players is not committed to young players. They had one, two-year contracts. Why? It was a mixed message. By changing that idea – to say that the players are here to fully develop to a top, top level – then they will sign longer contracts for the next three or four years.”
Promotion may have come sooner than the owners (and the fans) anticipated, but it is clear that they have arrived with a good plan. As Gino Pozzo explained, “We are here for the long term. This is not a case of a foreign owner with an injection of money looking for a quick return. We wish to establish Watford as a Premier League club… self-sufficient over time. Longevity to us is key to success. It is only over many years that success can be judged.”
The last two occasions that Watford reached the top flight were eminently forgettable, but this time it feels like it might just be different.”
All Watford fans are confident it will be so especially as the focus is that long term priorities are even more important than short term ones. It will be interesting to compare progress at Norwich with Watford’s over the next five years!
@19 Hi Paul. This was from the Watford Observer a few years back. I may have got £100,000 wrong and it seems it is £200,000 according to the article which is still a pittance. http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/sport/9877884.What_is_the_difference_between_a_Category_1_and_3_Academy_/?ref=rss
Russell S. says
(4) – you seem to have holstered yourself on your own petard. ‘Success’ is relative – success at any price (financially or in terms of re-branding a tradition or reducing the home talent to nothing) in order to fill the trophy cabinet is what I’m objecting to. I have infinitely more respect for Burnley and their fans than I do for Chelsea or Man City. You’re headed down the same road – not in terms of filling the trophy cabinet though.
(17) That’s silly. I’m not saying our overseas players are better than yours (in the voice of a 6 year old) – it is the sheer number that is currently in your squad. Hey, if Watford go on and win the title next season, you can rub it in my face as you cosy up to other clubs who have followed that format. I’d settle for top 12 with the occasional underdog triumph.
Surely we shouldn’t settle for having just a ‘decent’ England side?
As a City fan, I’d welcome more foreign talent at the club. It’s not surprising Watford have so many foreign players, because the Pozzos own 2 foreign clubs, Udinese and Granada, and they clearly look at all 3 and see which players might be suited to the needs of which club, it almost certainly gives them an advantage over many clubs. There can’t be much wrong with the Watford model, if they can have 4 managers in a season and still go up. It must be a model worth looking at, though it is probably connected to owning 3 clubs.
I would like to see more English players going abroad to learn at continental clubs. They probably don’t for a number of reasons, ranging from fear of ‘abroad,’language issues, and their wages being too expensive in other leagues, and so they remain content to warm the benches of premier league clubs on vast wages rather than get an all round footballing education.
The issue of improving English football comes down to coaching at all levels. Spain, Germany, and Italy all have thousands more FIFA qualified coaches working at all levels of the game than we do. They also have more artificial pitches available all the time to local communities.
Ben K says
Why don’t all these young and talented players who can’t get into English teams because of them foreigners comin’ over ‘ere move to clubs overseas? Russell mentions Germany and Spain as two successful national sides, and yet many of their players ply their trade in other countries. The simple answer could be ‘Money.’ There is so much money in England that many foreign players are attracted to come here for it, and many young English players can earn more on the bench or even in the reserves in England than they would overseas. I’m sure there’s more to it, but if young English players are being kept out of first teams by the transferring of the best talent in from other countries, there should be plenty of room for them in first teams across Europe, where they could learn an awful lot.
Ben K says
Pablo, you got there just before me! Great minds, perhaps?
Surely the Pozzos are at Watford to make money the same as a Pizza express franchise ?.
They don’t care about Watford fans or the English national side.
Norfolk Hornet says
As said before we all have our different ways of doing things. What works for one might not be right for another. If you asked 100 Watford fans 99 would be very happy with the way our club is being run. You always get 1 who still thinks players should get minimum wage and catch the bus to the ground like they did in their day. Going from the days of staff hiding the keys from the chairman to a very well run club that is not leaking money.
As for the England situation when players are home grown their price is due to soar. This makes them only affordable to the higher placed teams and will soon price them out of the market for clubs like us. Why is a player of equal quality costing so much less just because they don’t have an English passport
Yes we have signed 2 overseas players. Both full international players for free and on sensible wages. How much would it now cost to sign one of the England defense for example smalling and I guess we all agree he’s not the best.
Youth teams are the main problem with getting talent through to the first team. If you haven’t seen the EPPP then please have a look. I wonder why teams in the third and fourth tier of English football bother having a youth team. Think of all the players that we could have lost who came from the Crewe academy to name just one.The EPPP was forced through by the Premier League with all Football League clubs having their hands tied behind their backs.It is a joke and hinders the prospects of many players. This has hindered the development of many English players as well as how overpriced they are.
So what’s the reason for England not winning the world cup between 1970 and and 1990 , too many foreign players and owners??!! The reason other nations have had successful national sides is because their FA’s actually invested into the youth systems and set up national academies such as Fontaine bleu. Your thinking is far too short sighed and is the kind of nonsense usually found in the sun or daily mail
@18 Cosmo, clearly you are no rocket scientist and perhaps have spent too much time on the farm… I sent a link to an old Watford Observer article which explains why our “famed” academy took a backseat in the light of much needed financial prudence at the time. You seem to have read too many articles in the Daily Mail and Sun who employ lazy journalists to scandalise everything and you are using that as your basis of understanding the Pozzo model. I can assure you that the Watford way is totally different from that familiarly portrayed in the national press but why let facts stand in the way of your interpretation which must be correct as a Norwich supporter commenting on all things to do with Watford. While having a dig at my comments your only problem is that we have used our owners resources intelligently without sinking the club into debt. That smacks of jealousy. Only three years ago we were moments from going into liquidation and our club was saved by foreign owners who know how to run a football club prudently without breaking FFP or come to that any rules. We now use a unique model for ownership in Britain and because it doesn’t fit everyone else’s way of doing things it must be wrong. Could I suggest that you take remedial rocket science classes as soon as possible as you obviously have no understanding of modern day football.
Gary Gowers says
Play nice please guys… if you feel the need to make personal comments/insults then best keep them to yourself. Won’t be approving them.
Gary (editor of MFW)
Cosmo P. says
(30) ah – World Cup excuses – how long have you got? ’74 was a Polish keeper at Wembley (the England side then was great but should have been led by Cloughie), ’78 – only 1 team qualified from each qualifying group – Italy were better, ’82 – topped finals group, weird 2nd round group stage with the Germans – only 1 winner there although we didn’t lose a game all tournament, ’86 – reached the QF’s where ‘the hand of God’ cheated us… our efforts in the 21st century have been lamentable – no excuses other than lack of quality players due to reasons discussed in this article.
(31) gosh I feel thoroughly patronised and besmirched! I demand recompense by pistol duelling on Mousehold Heath (it’s in Norwich).
What is this Daily Mail/Sun stuff? Don’t read either. Likewise, the Watford Observer – that renowned organ of knowledge and wisdom. By the sounds of, it’s you who is fiddling in a bubble of your own contentment while Rome burns.
I hope your unique model stays that way – unique. Like all rockets, it will burn up and fall to pieces. I learnt that in my rocket science class.
@33. As I expected Cosmo… If you had bothered to read the link all it did was explain how the EPPP worked without any bias and why Watford had taken a different route with their academy. However no point arguing with you because you are so obviously correct on all matters relating to Watford. Now as to the model not working it seems to have kept Udinese in Serie A for over 30 years and when applied to Granada they gained two successive promotions and stayed in La Liga for the past three years. Your accurate views of the system is obviously right and this is all a damp squib which will never work.
By the way my wife and her family come from Norwich so I know exactly where Mousehold Heath is, so know need to patronise. My wife had a choice of Norwich or Watford and she couldn’t leave Norwich quick enough.
Gary Gowers says
Cosmo/Simmos – Is this really necessary?
Is this just sour grapes from Watford for the 3-0 losses home and away or blowing top spot to the Cherries ?.
I appreciate players like Henry Zola Ronaldo etc in our game but Lithuanian goalkeepers don’t excite me.
Also managers that can’t string a sentence together or need translaters in interviews are annoying.
Wenger and Mourinho are brilliant “continental” managers that make the Prem great , that guy that manages Middlesborough not quite so great.
Jocks make great managers I M O.
Russell S. says
Gary – if you’ll permit once last riposte?
(34) what happened to the legendary Watford wit? If you don’t want to read this website then don’t. It is aimed at the local farm hands after all!
I actually thought it was a smashing debate on a very important topic until it got hijacked towards the end – pity. The vast majority of the Watford fans seemed perfectly sensible and reasonable.
Jim Davies says
Whether Wes dived or not has never been proved one way or the other, despite Troy Deeney’s claim that Wes admitted it to him – it’s quite likely Wes said it just to wind Deeney up . What isn’t in any doubt is that a Watford player feigned being head-butted to get an opposition player sent off a couple of games after the Wes incident, a red card which was later rescinded. The silence from Mr Deeney was deafening, and it seems to have been deleted from the selective memory of a lot of Watford fans. Pots and kettles?
Apologies Gary. I don’t mind a little banter when someone has a different viewpoint but frankly someone throwing insults without a reasoned argument is simply bullying. I don’t think it is acceptable and I apologise for sinking to that level.
However I hope that I put forward some alternative views as to why Watford supporters are happy with their ownership and why the FA rather than teams such as Watford have caused the dramatic fall in the standard of our national team.
As you will see from my last post I do have an affinity with Norwich and I hope that they like ourselves will have a successful season in the Premier League.
Neil N. Pray says
Why would you choose to judge Roy Hodgson on one match, when you yourself have called that match “meaningless”? Maybe you would rather judge him on games that actually matter? England have 5 wins from 5 qualifiers, scoring more goals than any other team except Poland.
If a 100% record in competitive games is taking a team “backwards”, I hope Alex Neil can take City backwards next season.
Gary Field says
The Watford ownership situation is unique and unlikely to be replicated, simply because there aren’t other multiple club owners out there.
What will be interesting to see is if this model will work in the Premier League? Watford fans clearly think it will (why wouldn’t they) but the strength of depth and competitiveness of the Premier League is probably much greater than the Italian or Spanish top leagues.
Only one way to find out I guess, roll on the new season.
Norfolk hornet says
Ok. As a Watford supporter who has lived in Norwich for most of my life I would love to know people’s honest opinion on the Elite player performance plan as mentioned in past posts. As we are all supporters of clubs that have in recent past gone very close to the bread line do you all not believe this is damaging the progress of the youth of this country. We had an acadamy that Ajax came to see because we were doing something different and then the EPPP said that we had to spend X amount of money or we couldn’t keep our own players as a fixed fee would be all we could expect. They used our blue print for getting young players more pitch time and prices us out. My Father a Chelsea fan thought this was great as the best young players would all play together in the top youth league. Even he now admits it’s a joke as any good youth players are snapped up by the big clubs and then farmed out on loan to the championship as they have to many youth team players. So for a fixed fee of £100000 they can take the best young players from teams down the pyramid then loan them out for a couple of years then sell them on for a few million without ever paying any of their wages. Please please look into the EPPP and tell me what you think is wrong with football in this country.
Gary Field says
@42 – Norfolk Hornet. I’ll answer you query on EPPP in a moment, but, first things first, what it replaced, reserve team football, was largely broke and dying a slow, lingering death. Most clubs didn’t take it seriously, partly because it cost a six figure sum to run a reserve team and, secondly, many managers and senior players didn’t want to play it, especially, if you were outside the Premier League reserve set up, most League One & Two clubs would fill teams with youth players. The standard of opposition was, as a consequence, very poor.
EPPP was an idea from the Premier League aimed at improving the standard of youth football and to try and bridge the gap between Under 18’s and first team football.
On theory, the idea of an Under 21’s league seems sensible for achieving that aim. However, it does beg the question as to whether it really is delivering it’s objective, or, is it merely delaying the release of players by clubs at 21 rather than 18, most of whom are never likely to make the grade anyway?
The criteria for achieving category one status, which Norwich currently has, are both onerous and costly. Personally, I question, whether, in the long run, the number of clubs with category one status will actually reduce from its current level, 24 last time I checked, to around the mid teens? I fear that only Premier League clubs will be able to afford the current set up and it’s likely that not all will partake.
If I’m honest, I’m not up to speed with the compensation rules, although I thought they were intended to bring certainty to the likely amounts payable, rather than be a free for all for clubs to negotiate between themselves on a case by case basis. I do agree however, that it seems to reduce the amounts payable.
Russell S. says
Neil (40) – seriously? I could have picked any one of a number of Hodgson-led efforts. You did watch the WC finals in Brazil? Every other coach who failed there was dismissed. Our FA rewards the coach with a new contract!
On paper, his stats look great – on grass, it’s a whole different story. The losses column contains all the games that really mattered. They top the qualifying groups by beating the minnows (which boosts the stats) but as soon as they come up against someone vaguely skilful and organised, the house of cards come crashing down.
Roy is a relic from a bygone age – just look how things turned out at Anfield.
(39) “insults” / “bullying”! If giving an opinion and being critical of someone else amounts to that, then we can kiss free speech goodbye. I believe you dragged the word ‘farm’ up pretty quickly.
Richard Garratt says
I’m bemused why so many Watford fans are reading this website. I didn’t read the initial post but fully understand that they heard the comments and decided to respond. I like the standard of comment on this board – generally well-considered and thoughtful and attracts comment from fans of many clubs. Without exception they are respectful and intelligent. I remember well the 1970s heyday of Watford and Luton (my local clubs as a boy) and pleased to see Watford back in the top league. Maybe Luton will rise again!
Like many of the Watford and Norwich fans I cannot care leass which country a player comes from, but it is a factor in the weakening of the English national (and Scottish, Irish, Northern Irish, Wales) teams when clubs such as Norwich and Watford have to buy from overseas rather than developing English players. However this is part of a meritocratic approach and the cold realism of staying in the English Premier League.
I see Watford as being rather like Southampton in their belief in a corporate system where when a line manager (team captain), departmental manager (Coaches) or branch manager/MD (First Team Manager) leaves they recruit someone else and the employees (Team players) stay. When an employee leaves for a better offer elsewhere) they either recruit a replacement, upgrade or rejig the team. Soul-less and depressing but successful. I
I like the Norwich way (when it works – Bond, Brown, Stringer, Walker, Worthigton, Lambert and Neil – less so when it doesn’t – Roeder, Hamilton, Hughton) but can see that today success is paramount. Otherwise we may as well pack up and go amateur.
Good point from one of the posters about the Watford players celebrating in the town. That is a proper team spirit and debunks the nationalist sentiment of the original article.
@42 Norfolk Hornet. Thank you for putting the argument in a much more elequent fashion than myself and I agree that it is the EPPP which is leading to the further decline of the English national team. This is where the Watford model is particularly good in protecting young local talent. We can now send our best young players to Udinese or Granada so that they can experience a different style of football while preventing the larger clubs swiping our talent for a meagre amount. I would even argue that the Watford model may prove to be beneficial to English football rather than the ill it is currently portrayed with young British players having access to alternative training and playing regimes.
@41. Gary I do agree that the depth of the Spanish and Italian leagues is not as great as the Premier League but the Pozzo worldwide scouting system is such that they are able to find players without paying exorbitant fees in the hope that they will uncover another Alexi Sanchez or Juan Cuadrado. This financial management should mean that if Watford were to be relegated at the end of the season it should have no long term disastrous effects. However the EPL has far greater financial rewards than either Italy or Spain and it would make no financial sense to allow Watford to be relegated. I think you will find that the resources will be used by our management to maintain our status without harming the other teams in the “group” who perhaps have less competitive leagues. In effect Granada and to a lesser extent Udinese will be our feeder teams with the trade off of some of the current Watford playing staff being passed back to the other two clubs. Would you not want Norwich to have a similar system in place rather than have to spend £8m on the likes of Van Wolfswinkel? I feel fairly confident that the system will work but even if relegated next season we certainly will not be disadvantaged moving forward. Even with my rose tinted Watford spectacles it is hard to argue that for a smaller club trying to fight the super wealth of Manchester City and Chelsea, the system is a pretty good one without bankrupting the club or putting our future in danger.
Back to EPPP (and in case you’re late to this debate I’m a Norwich fan)
(my source http://tomkinstimes.com/2014/07/strengthening-the-strong-weakening-the-weak/)
Basically the Football League agreed to it because the PL threatened to withdraw £5m funding to youth and grassroots football if they didn’t. It doesn’t just work against lower league clubs, but arguably all the lower end PL clubs too with very small amounts of compensation paid for developing players – £200,000 (and then a bit more when PL appearances clock up).
So Chelsea (Man U etc) could come along and turn the head of someone you’ve developed and get them for £200,000…at 24 hours notice. It begs the question of why bother if those best English players end up warming a top 5 or 6 bench. Chelsea, had about 30 players loaned out last season – there’s something faintly ridiculous about that, though one assumes it earns them some money. It may be that Watford have done well to avoid this and that they can give some young English players a bit of Spanish or Italian experience.
Ash Diback says
Whichever model pays off in the long run, I’m sure that Watford and Norwich fans can find some common ground – for example, we were kind enough to lend you our excellent (overseas) centre half, Seb Bassong and we both had the misfortune to have Glenn Roeder – the Steve McClaren of his day – in charge of our clubs. Surely that’s enough to be best buddies?
Fair play to the Pozzos for keeping (just) Udinese and Granada in the top leagues although it has to be noted that the Udinese squad contains fewer Italians in it than the Watford one has English/UK players and Granada suffered 9-1 and 6-0 defeats last season, albeit to Madrid and Barcelona.
(22) as fascinating as that approx. 4000 words piece is, could you not have given us a weblink?
In reply to your comment about our player feigning injury against Wolves, I totally agree that it was not nice to see that sort of simulation and he was castigated by our fans on the message board and the media.
Your forget to mention that WH was up to his old diving tricks against Boro and rightly got booked by the ref for simulation again. He was bought to task by the Football League show for the effort at vicarage road. The Refs will have taken note of his diving! Pots and kettles I think?
Falling over in the box is very popular in the Prem and If any of our players get clipped next season I would expext them to follow suit and “win” a penalty.
We conceded many soft pens in our last 3 seasons under Lambert we conceded something like 4 in our first 5 games .
Gary Field says
@46 Simmos there seems something of a hostility from Watford fans to EPPP.
Ultimately, it’s for individual clubs to decide what category they aim for, what facilities they invest in and how much they are prepared to spend on coaching etc to get the appropriate status.
I have to say, as an outsider looking at Watford, your decision to first go for Category A, then, before the assessments were decided, you opted for Category C seems odd.
When this first took off, most other Championship teams opted for Category B, which, I guess added to my surprise that you went one lower.
That is ultimately, a commercial decision for each club to make. It’s not for us to say either club has got it right or wrong.
You will note my reservations in a subsequent post about the running costs.
The compensation point is an interesting one and I’m not sure they’ve got this right either. It was supposed to end the previous free for all on negotiating moves by players from one club to another.
It may give more certainty but whether it gives adequate compensation is a moot point.
Norfolk hornet says
Just to let Norwich fans who are wondering why Watford fans have been on this site I have lived in Norwich for most of my life and always keep an eye out for the second best team in yellow (that was tounge in cheek so don’t bite) but it did appear on news now Watford as a link. I hope this makes you understand apart from myself most Watford fans aren’t spying on you.
I am glad over people agree with me on EPPP from both teams and have found it hard to find anyone who has looked into it to think over wise.
Just to say under EPPP rules they can’t take a player with 24 hours notice but can tell the club the want to watch him in a practice match situation. How can a club who has spent time and money improving a player be forced to show him off at any notice let alone 24 hours. In any other walk of life if you have something good coming along you would hide it as much as you can until it’s ready. Can you imagine samsung telling Apple I need to see your latest phone before it’s released. Football is a crazy business and no matter how much we don’t want it to be it is a business but this is an idea that is totally crazy.
Neil N. Pray says
(44) The phrase “taking our national side backwards” implies deterioration over time. Hodgson’s record in competitive matches is LLDWWWWW. It’s pointless arguing over whether the likes of Switzerland are ‘minnows’, but the fact is these qualifiers aren’t always a formality. Both Germany and Spain have lost, the latter to the mighty Slovakia. I’m not here to bang the drum for Hodgson, I just think you’re spouting lazy cliches and deserve to be challenged.
The number of managers Watford have had recently has been made an irrelevance by their success in my opinion. They played some incredible football at times last season, deserved to go up, and they may well surprise a few people.
The EPPP is a complete travesty, and makes a mockery of the FA’s stated aims of nurturing young talent.
Russell S. says
Neil (53) – Happy to be challenged but the ‘lazy cliché’ tag is harsh. We’ve won our last 5 competitive games – that is a fact but the “deterioration” is with respect to overall ranking which reflects the quality of opposition beaten (or not) recently. Currently ranked 15th, our lowest since 2008 and below the mighty Switzerland and Costa Rica. Most of all though, it’s in terms of style and standard of football which is consistently the poorest I can ever remember, certainly in comparison to the main European/S. American countries of whom we are light years behind now.
Roy’s legendary status was made in Scandinavia and Switzerland – surely we need someone with better qualities than that?
“incredible football” – Watford! Steady on. They struggled against the top 10 sides and hammered the poorer sides – see my previous article.
Neil N. Pray says
I just thought Guedioura, Deeney and Ighalo in particular were exciting to watch. They finished second so clearly didn’t struggle too much.
Hodgson has a very respectable record in Italy too, as well as guiding West Brom to safety and then 10th place. Don’t forget he took Fulham to a UEFA Cup final. FULHAM!!
You’re really gonna quote the FIFA rankings as a stick to beat the England team with? Dear me! If you think they have any relevance, and therefore that Switzerland deserve to be above England, then you surely have to give England credit for going to Switzerland and winning 2-0 do you not?
Russell S. says
(55) I think I’ve banged on about Watford enough now! Whatever your view of FIFA rankings (and FIFA in general!), the pattern over the last 3 years is self-evident – I call it the ‘Hodgson-effect’;
I note you didn’t contradict my second point i.e. the quality of football?
Let’s see how Sunday goes.
@simmos ok so that is 2 occasions something may have happened in what, 40 years?! What about the European cup.? Considered by many to be more difficult than the world cup due to the quality of the teams (Argentina, Brazil aside) how many times have we graced a final there? Please correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t even remember us having a quarter final. Is that due to foreigners? I’m sure that has a contributing factor, but not nearly as much to merit such attention. I’m not going into proper footballing academies etc…as they’ve had abroad for decades now because I already stated my case about that. All this nonsense does is contribute to that little ol’ Naarich bollox with inbred country boys that ‘don’t loike strangers’
Neil N. Pray says
(56) Like I said, I’m not particularly here to bang the drum for Hodgson, but I addressed the quality of football issue when I highlighted the fact that we’re the second highest scoring team in the Euro qualifiers (15 goals in 5 games, 1 goal conceeded).
Obviously we’re a long way off the likes of Germany, but I don’t believe we have the players get to that level. That’s why the likes of Ross Barkley and Andros Townsend can get a game.