Watford fan Mike Parkin, of From The Rookery End podcast, discusses the Hornets' recent plight and his hopes for improvement following a spat at St Mary's on Saturday…
Watford’s FA Cup fixture with Southampton was a largely forgettable affair, with neither side serving up a performance likely to allay relegation fears. Despite the paucity of on-field entertainment, the game was bookended by two notable incidents.
The game started in familiar fashion for the Hornets, who conceded the only goal of the game from the first meaningful attack of the match. New head coach, same defensive frailties.
Watford never looked like dragging themselves back into the contest and those among the large travelling contingent hoping for an immediate reaction following the removal of Marco Silva realised very early that they were in for a disappointment. The early goal punctured any early optimism, with shoulders once again slumping on the pitch and in the stands.
The threadbare squad was skippered by Ben Watson who despite his best efforts, was a walking metaphor for Watford’s recent form – plenty of huffing and puffing without getting anywhere near a positive outcome.
Indeed, it could be argued that Watson saved his best contribution for after the final whistle when he shepherded Hornets defender Christian Kabasele away from a rapidly degenerating exchange of views with a clutch of away supporters. The stand-in captain was to play peacemaker for a second time shortly afterwards, preventing a clearly incensed José Holebas from escalating the disagreement. It was all over in a flash, but perhaps draws into focus just how concerned both supporters and players are about the current malaise at Vicarage Road.
Much has been made of the destabilising effect Silva had on the squad, but it’s important to recognise a number of continuing issues that a new head coach will find it hard to quickly fix.
The injury list remains chronic, with new coach Javi Gracia looking likely to have to rely on several second string players for some time yet. It’s these squad members that provide further cause for concern, with concerns over the ability and quality of the cover they provide.
Finally, this is a team that’s on low as confidence as it can possibly be. Simple passes take a second longer, defenders look unsure while the attacking verve shown in the opening weeks of the season is now a distant memory.
With less than two days of the transfer window left , there can be little doubt that the Hornets require further reinforcements – after taking Gerard Deulofeu on loan from Barcelona on Monday – and it’s unthinkable that Gino Pozzo and Scott Duxbury won’t have a few more deals nearing completion.
Their biggest job, however, may be managing the future of talismanic club captain Troy Deeney. The striker is thought to want a move to West Bromwich Albion who, even after taking Daniel Sturridge on loan from Liverpool, are keen to bring the Hornets' No.9 back to the Midlands. With attacking options at a minimum, it would be brave of the Watford hierarchy to allow the club's fourth-highest scorer to leave.
Deeney’s impact at the club can’t be underestimated and if he is to stay, ensuring that he remains committed and focussed on turning both his and Watford’s season around could be a deciding factor in the outcome of this campaign.
With all this uncertainty taken into account, it would be easy to point to the unsavoury incident at the end of Saturday’s game and say that things are looking bleak.
There’s clearly work to be done at Vicarage Road, but the weekend's flashpoint might just serve as the catalyst for a revival. It’s likely that Holebas and the supporters involved would prefer to have dealt with their disappointment in a more constructive fashion, but it’s also fair to point out that if nothing else, it shows both parties care.
There’s still emotion. There’s still passion. There’s still a desire to do better.
If Watford’s season is to be rescued, each of those traits will be required in abundance at Stoke City on Wednesday night. For Gracia and his new charges, It’s time to harness and channel that fighting spirit.