Monthly Archives: June 2010

The youth of today…

“You don’t win anything with kids”

“If you’re old enough you’re good enough”

“There’s no substitute for experience”

These are phrases that all football fans will be familiar with, each of them an often used part of every football pundits armoury. Apart from being massively overused, these three phrases have one other theme in common. Youth.

It’s fair to say that not everything talked about in football circles is applicable to Watford. “Mackay’s biggest task will be to keep the string of Internationals that don’t make his first team happy…” is not a phrase you’ll likely to hear any time soon. We don’t generally have to worry about resting players ahead of an exacting European campaign. Whether the 30 goal a season Italian World Cup star will chose Old Trafford or Vicarage Road is not an oft posed query. Questioning whether half of the squad have permission from their Mother’s to play, is perhaps more pertinent.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Watford’s immediate history, we find ourselves heavily reliant on youth. Boys that we have signed, then trained and nurtured. Youngsters that you probably wouldn’t let into a 15 rated film, much less be allowed to buy a pint. This is no bad thing though. Bringing through youngsters? We’re pretty good at it you know.

As I write this, myself and the rest of the Nation are counting down to England’s final World Cup game with Slovenia. Whilst the majority of the starting XI is unknown, the goalkeeper is already common knowledge. The man between the sticks for the big game? David James. Now almost 40 years old, James has played for some of the Countries biggest clubs. And Portsmouth.

I’m sure most of us don’t need reminding where DJ’s path to stardom began, but for those of you too young or too forgetful to recall, it was right here at Watford. A product of the Watford youth team, he played 98 times for the Hornets before leaving for Liverpool in a record breaking deal worth £1,000,000 in July 1992.

Whilst David James is approaching the end of his career (don’t tell him I said that!), Ashley Young is most definitely at the start of his. A more

Ashley Young. Young.

recent graduate from the Watford youth system, you would have had to have your head stuck in a large bucket of sand not to have noticed his meteoric rise. Unlucky not to feature in this summer’s World Cup, Ashley is a shining example and a fantastic illustration as to how seriously and how committed Watford are to progressing young talent.

For many, the quotes at the beginning of this piece are just words. Throw away remarks to fill time of space. Not for us. Not for Watford. Ahead of the new season we find our squad liberally sprinkled with graduates from our increasingly respected and recognised Academy. Marvin Sordell, Liam Henderson, Lee Hodson and Michael Bryan are sure to feature heavily this season and whilst a reliance on such young and inexperienced players could be cause for alarm at other clubs, it most certainly isn’t the case here.

We know that if a player comes through our system and appears on the Vicarage Road pitch in a yellow shirt, then age and experience really isn’t important. We know our system works. We know they’ll be good enough. Instead of approaching the season worried about our young squad and their ability to  succeed, we approach it with both excitement and pride, safe in the knowledge that when it comes to bringing through youngsters, Watford do things right.

Multi million pound signings? No thanks.  We make our own superstars here.

Come on you Horns!

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The crying game

I don’t mind admitting it. I’m so excited that I reckon I could be sick or pass out at any given moment. I refer of course to the beginning of the final series of Big Brother, but it probably hasn’t escaped your attention that the World Cup starts this week too.

It isn’t actually Davina and her latest array of fame hungry misfits, but the start of the football that has got me and the rest of the world so giddy with glee. Fans across the world are eagerly plotting routes to the Final for their various teams and taking part in endless speculation about starting elevens and gossiping about possible formations. I’m even enjoying the fact that every single advertisement is seemingly linked to the World Cup.

And all this despite the depressing knowledge that it will inevitability all end in tears.

A combination of pressure from us back home in blighty and the limitations of the average assortment of players that will be wearing the three lions in South Africa mean that (in my opinion) the chances of England getting anywhere near the Final are slim. I still can’t wait though. I’ve still got butterflies. I’m still toying with the idea of taking the afternoon off to watch South Africa take on Mexico.

Anyway, in thinking about the England games and how much I’m looking forward to them, I started to recall some of the big games that Watford have been involved in. The Cup matches, the Play-Offs, the relegation six pointers. Now, those of you who have read what I write before will know that I think we’re pretty lucky to be Watford fans. We’ve had some good times and thinking back to when it has really counted, unlike England, Watford have rarely let us down.

I wasn’t old enough to go to the ’84 Cup Final or any of the fun and games leading up to that, so my first real taste of big match action was the 1987 FA Cup Semi Final with Spurs.

The game was at Villa Park and my Grandparents lived not far away in Stratford upon Avon, so we travelled up to stay with them the day before. I was so excited. The papers were full of build up, FA Cup Semi Final weekend was big news in those days and I proudly devoured each word. The car was bedecked in as much Watford paraphernalia as I could lay my hands on – I wanted everyone to know where I was going.

The morning of the game dawned and I walked with Dad to the local shop to get a paper. The big story surrounding the game was who would play in goal for the Hornets. With the awesome Tony Coton unavailable, Steve Sherwood was a more than able deputy, but a finger injury sustained in training meant he was unlikely to feature. Rumours began to circulate about who would replace him and a story about a wine waiter just wouldn’t go away…

Inside the ground, Villa Park was a joy to behold. The sea of yellow was, for a boy of 10, a truly spectacular and awe inspiring sight. The noise was equally memorable, singing coming from every part of the ground and the atmosphere becoming increasingly fervored  as kick off drew closer.

As a youngster I don’t think I fully comprehended the importance of Gary Plumley appearing in goal. I knew I had never heard of him before and certainly hadn’t seen him in action, but I kind of figured if he was going to play for my club in one of the biggest games in its history, he must be OK.

Even at my tender years, I was insightful enough to know however, that when the first goal went in, it was pretty much all over.

I couldn’t believe it. All the build up. All the talking about it with my 8 year old brother when we should have been in bed. All the decorating of the car. The getting my replica kit ready the night before. After all that, we were going to lose. I cried.

Looking back at that game, it remains one of my favourite and most vivid memories. I can still remember the feeling before the game, the unadulterated excitement and anticipation. The pride in my team. The sheer delight that I was actually going to an FA Cup Semi Final. I also remember the despair. I knew immediately after the first goal that I was going to cry. I didn’t want to, but quickly realised I couldn’t help it. The tears flowed. From a high to a low with one kick of a football.

There have been lows since of course. Being relegated is never fun, and it’s happened four times in my Watford supporting career. We could see those coming a long way off though, we had time to get ready and prepare ourselves. When it’s been a one shot deal though, when we’ve one game in which to do the business, a game with a big build up, a game that we’ve been excited about they have more often than not delivered.

When it really, really matters, we are rarely left disappointed.

Just one more reason to be grateful for being a Hornet.

Come on You Horns!

Oh, and for pity’s sake – Come on England!

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