Giving Watford What For…

The following article will be appearing in this weekend’s edition of ‘Made in Brum‘ fanzine…

This will be a season entirely unlike any other!  It really does feel a little like we’ve gotten the yoke of expectation off our backs.  We’re not amongst the favourites for relegation, we’re not amongst the favourites for promotion, and we’re not even amongst the favourites for the play-offs!  This should suit us just fine.  One thing I’ve noticed, over the years, is that (Wembley 2011 anyone?) we’re soooo much better, when we’re the ‘underdogs’.  This could well be our season.  Lee Clark has finished his first ‘tour of duty’ and has surely gotten the most severe of the ‘knee jerk’ specialists off his back, and – whilst even I’m not saying he’ll get us back into the Premiership – surely he’s proven he CAN put a winning team out on the pitch.  The preseason has provided ups (Hull) and downs (Shrewsbury) as it always does.  I wonder if anyone has bothered sticking a tenner on Luton to win the FA Cup, after they surprised ‘everyone’ by beating Aston Vile, preseason?  I doubt it.  Even though they prevented the ‘unrivalled’ Christian Benteke (translated as Darren Bent part deux?) from scoring.  Victories are nice, but mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, so defeats should be treated the same.  Friendly by name, meaningless (beyond fitness developing) by nature?

That being said, a great big ‘shout-out’ to the four ‘inferior opposition’ clubs who the Vile failed to beat in their preseason warm up, which hopefully is foreshadowing what’s to come for them this season which starts away at the Emirates.  Heh heh.  Perhaps some friendlies mean something after all?

Newport County 5-2 Aston Villa
Luton 2-0 Aston Villa
Wycombe 2-2 Aston Villa
Tamworth 3-2 Aston Villa

Mind you, we hardly slaughtered Real Madrid in our preseason, did we, beating Alfreton, Swindon and Shamrock Rovers, but the less said about Shrewsbury, the better!  That said, goals from Shinnie (3), Novak (3), Green (3), Lee, Zigic, Reilly, Burke, and McGurk do seem to suggest Clark has a lot of firepower at his disposal!

On to the ‘real’ business.  Watford are coming to visit, for the opener of our season.  It won’t be the same team as last season, that’s for sure…we lost 4-0 at home to them, last season, a feat that surely (fingers and – strangely – thumbs crossed) won’t be repeated!!

Butland has gone, Caldwell has been released, Davies has been signed by Hull to kick the ball out of play, as demonstrated in our recent friendly.  A good signing if that’s what they wanted to achieve.  Ahem.  Caddis was priced out of our league, by expecting us to pay at all for him, Robinson is still here, but has taken on the role of captain, in Carr’s retired absence, Burke is still here, Gomis has been released, Elliott is still here, Lovenkrands is still here…just, Thomas scored three goals for us in eleven matches, but was sent back to Bournemouth, and Rob Hall was sent back to West Ham, then went on loan to Bolton who signed him permanently.

The subs bench is looking rather familiar, to be fair, with Doyle, Spector, Hancox, Mullins and Reilly still at the club, and only Morrison and Redmond (sob?) to have departed…

In all fairness, reminders that Redmond remained on the bench so much of last season may help us to deal with his departure…reminders that his only being on the bench may have contributed to our heavy defeat to Barnsley, Hull and Watford may not!  Especially when you notice he started (and stayed on the pitch) in the 4-0 win away to (newly returned to the Premiership) Crystal Palace.  One consolation from that match may be the fact that aside from Redmond scoring, Ravel and a Delaney own goal, there was a goal from a certain Shane Ferguson!

So – Robinson, Burke, Elliott and Lovenkrands the only players who could possibly start against Watford, from those who also started last year.

Watford lined up with the following squad: Almunia, Doyley, Pudil, Cassetti, Nosworthy, Chalobah, Anya, Abdi, Battochio, Deeney, Vydra, SUBS: Bond, Thompson, Yeates, Hogg, Murray, Geijo, Forestieri.

Almunia, Battochio, Deeney, Forestieri, Pudil, Murray, Anya, Abdi, Cassetti, Bond, and Nosworthy are still there.  Seven of the eleven starters and four of the subs!  This – to me – would usually put Watford down as favourites, in terms of consistency, Gianfranco Zola remaining as manager also gives the team a little consistency, but I truly feel we can beat them, this time around.  Perhaps it’s mindless loyalty, but we certainly showed what we are capable of, against a lively Hull side albeit in the ‘meaningless’ friendly.

Watford’s own meaningless matches have earned them two victories over Stevenage and Spanish team, Granada CF, and a draw against Peterborough.

What is our team likely to look like, this time around?  Well, I was fortunate enough to go see Blues playing against Solihull Moors with my lad the other day, and have to say I wasn’t exactly blown over by what I saw from Peter Lovenkrands.  It would be fair to say it was a second string friendly, so he certainly won’t have felt much pressure on the pitch, but he didn’t seem like he was trying to impress his boss too much either.  I’d imagine he’s been told he can go elsewhere, so the match was a way to keep his fitness levels and not much besides, so I’d be shocked to see him involved in any way, shape or form, this early in the season.  Perhaps if we haven’t managed to ship him off the wage bill, and we’re struggling with injuries?  The same would realistically apply to Marlon King.

I would imagine our team will go for the 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 formation away from home, trying the ‘new-look’ 3-5-2 at home.  Though I’m no tactician, so don’t quote me.  This is just from looking at our various lineups in preseason.

How about:
Goalkeeper: Randolph,
Defenders: Robinson, Bartley, Eardley,
Midfielders: Burke, Elliott, Allan, Shinnie, Ferguson
ST: Novak and Zigic (a shade ahead of Green, mainly due to having to earn his wages?)
SUBS: Doyle (sorry Colin!), Murphy (how good will it be to see him back?), Burn, Lee, Mullins, Reilly (taking on Redmond’s mantle), Green.

As I look at it, it actually looks like a cracking team, and it doesn’t even have the likes of Lovenkrands and King on the bench, and I’m working on the assumption that Jonathan Spector will remain out injured.  Darren Ambrose is still with us, but I’m puzzled as to how he’ll fit into Clark’s team, unless he can somehow prove himself in the Cup competitions.  Packwood, Arthur, Hancox, Adeyemi, Higgins and Bell may well rely on the Cup route for match time, too.

I think after our 4-0 mauling, same match last season, we’ll all be thrilled with a 2-0 Blues win.  Goals from Novak and Ferguson….

Keep Right On

Russell Dempsey

RIP Christian “Chucho” Benitez, Aged 27…

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7 Comments on Giving Watford What For…

  1. As a Watford fan, interested in your prediction. Youve not said too much about those replacing the absentees of last meeting…

    Also a 2-0 prediction…mhm we’ll see.

  2. Good article that.

    Only thing I would disagree with is that you won’t see Eardley on the right hand side of a back three, he’ll be in the right wing back position.

    Good work though.

  3. Guys I dont want to be negative as I am pretty upbeat about this season. I just think this will be a tough very first competetive game for our new look side. I’m going for a 1-2 Watford win. I’d be happy with any kind of points. KRO 🙂

  4. Don’t underestimate the ornets mate!!

    We are much stronger than last year. Get ready for a lesson in football.

  5. You have left out our star player, Lloyd Doyley. From the 11 starters last season, only Chalobah and Vydra are not at the club, leaving 9. Nosworthy is injured. Of the subs, Bond, Murray and Forestieri are still available. We have signed 5 new players from Udinese, Luis McGugan from Forrest and Reece Brown from MU, so our match day squad is stronger than last season. It just depends whether they can gel as a team from day one and start the season with an away win.

  6. This is a review of BIRMINGHAM CITY by one of our fans

    INS: Tom Adeyemi (Norwich City, Free), Neal Eardley (Blackpool, Free), Matt Green (Mansfield Town, Free), Olly Lee (Barnet, Free), Lee Novak (Huddersfield Town, Free), Darren Randolph (Motherwell, Free), Andrew Shinnie (Inverness CT, Free), Scott Allan (West Bromwich Albion, Season Loan), Kyle Bartley (Swansea City, Season Loan), Dan Burn (Fulham, Season Loan), Shane Ferguson (Newcastle United, Season Loan)

    OUTS: Curtis Davies (Hull City, £2,250,000), Foday Nabay (Fulham, £200,000), Nathan Redmond (Norwich City, Undisclosed), Steven Caldwell (Toronto, Free), Fraser Kerr (Motherwell, Free), Jack Deaman, Keith Fahey, Morgaro Gomis, Graham Hutchison, Pablo Ibanez, Akwasi Asante (Shrewsbury Town, Short Term Loan), Amari’i Bell (Nuneaton Town, Six Month Loan), Jack Butland (Stoke City, End of Loan)

    OUR EX-BLUES: None

    THEIR EX-ORNS: Marlon King, Paul Robinson

    RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two comfortable wins, including Matej Vydra and Almen Abdi’s first goals at Vicarage Road, and a 4-0 demolition job at St.Andrews in March

    POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

    Randolph
    Burn Mullins Robinson
    Eardley Burke Lee Ambrose Ferguson
    Novak Zigic

    VERDICT: Nobody should need reminding of quite how lucky we’ve been in terms of the owners that fate has dealt us. We’ve had a few of our own to compare and contrast over recent seasons after all. But as Blues owner Carson Yeung enters a third year with his assets frozen in the wake of money laundering allegations and successive trial postponements, City serve as yet another case study leaving us grateful for (“the football is delicious…”) the Pozzo Family. In that three year period since relegation as League Cup winners City have finished a strong fourth and a credible twelfth… but layers are being stripped away over time. The nature of their recruitment over the summer speaks volumes – a base of tough, solid scrappers but an awfully large number of punts on lower division maybes. Some of them might come off, but Lee Clark needs rather more than some of them.

    Googling to look back at the history of the Carson Yeung story reveals headlines two years ago predicting that Brum would be the next Pompey, the basket case of the time. This summer for Blues is actually rather more reminiscent of Coventry’s two years ago when, in losing their best players (including, significantly, Marlon King) and patching together replacements they set themselves up for a relegation campaign – and it’s significant that they went down despite making a decent fist of it. Lee Clark has lost Curtis Davies, Nathan Redmond and Jack Butland (effectively), whilst Marlon King and Peter Lovenkrands are amongst several who have been asked to find new clubs and Robbo, a Watford legend but one that looked past his best in Leeds’ defence at Elland Road eighteen months ago, has been appointed captain. Lee Clark did well to claw a top half finish last season. He’ll do well to stay clear of the bottom three this time.

  7. I hate to sound downbeat but I’m not expecting anything out of this game; 1-3 in Watford’s favour I’m afraid. I agree with Bluepenguin I will be very pleased with any points from this fixture. Mid table come May will be a good effort from Blues this season. KRO SOTV

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