The state we’re in…

Walsall. Bournemouth. Southend. Swindon. Stockport. Brighton. Huddersfield. Towns and Cities with football clubs. Towns and Cities with football clubs and populations far greater than that of Watford. Further examples including Slough, Telford, York and Luton can’t even muster a Football League team between them.

In the population stakes, Watford (120,960) is sandwiched between Gloucester (123,205) and Rotherham (117,262). Birmingham or Manchester we are not.

Now, if you’ll indulge me, I’m going to list what has happened to Watford FC in the twenty or so years I have been following them. By my calculations, I have experienced the following:

  • Four relegations
  • Three promotions
  • The Division One Championship
  • Two successful Play-Off Finals
  • Three FA Cup Semi-Finals
  • One Carling Cup Semi-Final

Had I been a shade older, you could also count an FA Cup Final and a UEFA Cup campaign. For a town with a population comparable to that of Stockport, our recent history is pretty impressive. Ask fans of the clubs mentioned at the start of this article what they think. I’m sure they will agree.

You should have by now guessed the premise of this piece. Watford is a relatively small town which just so happens to have a football club. A football club that has delivered more excitement, fun and unrefined joy than any fan has a right to expect. Have a look through that list again. Trips to Wembley. Promotions. Europe. Cup Semi Finals. Fans of clubs bigger than ours would kill for just some of the excitement we’ve had.

When you look at the facts, we’ve overachieved. We’ve always had to sell our best players, have existed with small gates and will forever suffer for being near neighbours to the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham. Now, in 2010, nothing has changed, except now we are flat broke. Each month is a financial challenge, meaning holding on to our best players is harder than ever, whilst attracting new high calibre players and staff is almost impossible.

This isn’t news. We’ve known for ages. We’re not in great shape. We’re hanging in there, but it isn’t pretty. We’re not just battling to stay in the Championship, we’re battling to stay afloat.

I’m sure there are things both players and the management wish they had done differently as we have slid down the table from Play-Off outsiders to relegation dog fighters. Hindsight is twenty-twenty after all. Personally though, I’m pretty sure that Malky Mackay is doing the best with what he’s got, and as usual for a Watford Manager, that isn’t much.

Of course fans pay to be entertained and have every right to voice their displeasure when things aren’t going to plan. None of us like losing. It is however worth taking time to remember the bigger picture. We are a club still very much in the depths of a financial crisis. It’s pretty simple – the amount of cash going out far exceeds the amount coming in. How we got there is a different discussion, but like it or not, that is the situation.

If you want to be in a position where the Manager can just go out and buy a replacement for a striker who isn’t scoring or a goalkeeper who is conceding, I suggest you go and support Manchester United or Chelsea. If you want a subs bench awash with experienced game changers and goal poachers, well Arsenal is just up the road. We are a club with a small, inexperienced and young squad and management team. Why? Because we lack ambition? Because we’re content with being “Little old Watford”? Grow up. It’s through necessity. We’re finally cutting our cloth according to our means. Of course it’s painful and the side effects are clear for all to see. No-one wants to be struggling. It’s frustrating, it’s annoying and it’s no fun. But it’s where we are. Deal with it.

It’s almost certain to get worse before it gets better. The summer brings with it contracts that we are unlikely to renew, transfer fees we are unable to turn down and the disappearance of influential loanees. If you think this squad is inexperienced, just wait until next season.

That’s the point though isn’t it. With a bit of luck, at least there will be a next season…

Come on you Horns.



Filed under Rookery Ramblings

8 responses to “The state we’re in…

  1. Jimbo

    Great post.

    Come on you Horns

  2. Andrew

    Mike, I have to disagree with you here. Here at Watford we have become used to the club being a top 40 one which brings a certain gravitas to the place.

    What you seem to be suggesting is “oh well, not to worry, we can just take a drop in status”. I am not prepared to surrender our 2nd division status that easily. This season was going pretty well, yes it was exceeding my expectations when we were placed in the top 10, however the team has ground to a halt, with seemingly “Devon Loch” like tendencies. If we go down this season it will be a disaster with no comfort of return. What if Ashcroft pulls the plug financially? Let’s face it, what does he want with a 3rd division football club? Once the General Election is over, I can’t see his commitment to an insignificant entity such as ours.

    In my 30 years since 5th February 1979, I have enjoyed 5 promotions and 4 relegations, and I can assure you the 3rd division frightens me. Quite simply I think we would settle into being a “mid table” 3rd division outfit quite quickly, and this is a long way from where I want us to be. Lets face it there are a number of 3rd division sides with bigger resources than ours, so I can’t see us competing for the play offs in a hurry.

    Relegation will also weaken our hand in the renegotiations with Saracens, and I don’t fancy that scenario either. Quite simply for a club still in a state of flux, I don’t want failure on the pitch compounding our problems.

    • rookerythoughts

      Andrew, thanks very much for your thoughts.

      It may surprise you to hear that I agree with your sentiments 100%.

      I am petrified of relegation, mainly because like you, I think if we go down, we are likely to stay down. Our squad is going to be weakened not strengthened in the Summer, making an immediate return highly unlikely. With further cost cutting on the agenda and no signs of immediate investment, relegation couldn’t come at a worse time. It would be nothing short of a catastrophe.

      The reason for my article was to highlight that as a club, we have always had to operate within limitations. Those limitations are now even greater, yet a large number of fans seem to be completely unaware of them.

      Both at Vicarage Road on matchday and through the various other channels away from the ground, fans have been heard demanding new signings, deriding the ones that have been made, calling for a change in management and worst of all getting on our existing players backs. I fully understand the frustration, I feel it as keenly as the next man, but the level of vitriol and lack of support has shown a complete lack of understanding as to our situation.

      Yes, we are struggling. Yes we are in trouble. But it’s where we are and there are extenuating circumstances. Surely that much is clear? The club needs our support, not knee jerk reactions for the managers head and unrealistic demands for new players.

      I’m not giving up and I’m certainly not saying that I would happily accept relegation as we are a relatively small club. I just hope that our fans are able to accept that our football club is operating under severe restrictions.


  3. Smeg

    First class dose of realism.

  4. John Samways

    Spot on! I have supported the Club since 1954, often at a (geographical) distance, but have kept in touch with developments.

    In one sense I feel for the supporters whose expectations were unrealistically raised by past regimes. There is NOTHING wrong with ambition (although for me the Premiership daily becomes a less attractive proposition) but it has to be founded upon a sound business plan – and this is where I feel we have grounds for encouragement.

    The core values espoused by GT, MM, JW and their colleagues in each sphere of the Club are common to all of them, there is a deep unity and common sense of purpose in the Club. These are not values that are merely spoken about but which are being dellivered – both in the public gaze and behind the scenes.

    All this doen’t guarantee success ……….. but it goes a long way to establishing the foundations upon which stability and community transformation can be realised.

    Make no mistake, the well-being of a football club impacts far more than merely the supporters – its impact is intergenerational and widespread. That is one of the reasons i am so passionate about the Club ……. and also, of course, because of the infinte number of memories stored up, ranging from Workington to Wembley, John Barnes to Jonny Gavin, Scott Loach to Dave Underwood/Jimmy Gooch, Rookery cinders to Rous Stand.

    As GT so clearly stated – keep up the support ….. and ‘shoooooooot’.

    ps. Favourite Palace memory:
    Beating them 4-2 at home (courtesy of Cliff Holton) one week after they beat us 8-1 away from home .
    Moral: Never give up hope.

  5. Cracking post this. I’ve borrowed a small part of it in one of my own:

    Best of luck with survival for this season.

  6. Great post. Though surely missing out the Copa d’Ibiza title in ?2004? from our list of honours was an oversight?

    • rookerythoughts

      I was going to unleash our Ibiza triumph as further evidence should anyone be foolish enough to question our continued success down the years…

      What other club of our size could boast a European trophy success?

      Having said that, I’d swap the Champions League Final itself for a win at Leicester on Saturday…

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