Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A Crystal Ball Would Be Handy, Right About Now.

So here we are, friends.

At the final knockings of a season that promised so much but ultimately, delivered only a little.

There have been some fantastic wins and an hour or so of dreamland, up at the Etihad.

There has been the introduction of the fantastic Daniel Tozser to the playing staff, along with a promising cameo towards the end, from the very experienced Albert Riera. Two players I would very much like to see starting next season in Watford yellow.

Gabriele Angella appears to have all the talent to be a top class defender and Troy Deeney has again excelled, enjoying another season where he has contributed 20 plus goals. We can only hope they give us another season.

Young Uche Ikpeazu had a fine spell on loan at League One Crewe and he will come back all the better for it.

I don't really feel the need to pick apart, or indeed highlight the numerous lows, specifically. They are clear for all to see but it is worth reminding ourselves that the loss of Almen Abdi for most of the season, coupled with the recent loss of Fernando Forestieri and several interrupted parts of the season for Ikechi Anya, all through injury, coupled with the loss of consistent good form for key players from last season (especially Manuel Aluminia and Joel Ekstrand), has majorly contributed towards the season melting away into nothingness.

Sannino sympathizers such as myself, were asked the other day by a fine, upstanding Watford Supporter on Twitter, how we would feel about Sannino, should the final two games be lost, making it four defeats on the spin.

I must admit, I would be wavering at that point.

As much as I feel that Sannino has done a good job ensuring we were not sucked into a relegation dogfight and my gut feeling is, at this moment in time, that he has done enough to be given the summer and the start of next season to prove he can move us forward, to end the season on such a low would tarnish his image, for me.

Bottom line is the owners want Premier League Football and of course, so do we.

Entering their third season in the Championship, the Pozzos will be (as much as financial constraints allow) moving hell and high water to ensure promotion is achieved at the end of the 2014/15 season. If the owners see fit to change the Head Coach, then so be it.

Perhaps, the timing is wrong for Beppe to be the man. Had he come in at the start of the Pozzo revolution and led us to a top half finish in his first season, then maybe he would have had a chance to bed in differently and maybe this season would have been glorious. Maybe he has done the job he was brought in for.

Only the privileged few are genuinely 'in the know' but one thing is for sure, we lose these last two games and the writing could (and probably should) be on the wall for the man whose passion has been infectious, for me.

But as someone on social media pointed out the other day, it is results, not 'sharp suits and jumping around a bit' that count, at the end of the day.

Very much time to go with the flow, I think.

How the flow goes will be an interesting ride once again, I'm sure.


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Sunday, 27 April 2014

We've Come A Long Way.

Happy Sunday to you all.

Well we did it!

Firstly and most importantly I am happy to tell you that Neil and I have, as of this morning, raised £572 (plus a further £108.75 in gift aid) for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

A massive virtual round of applause for all of the wonderful people who kindly donated. You're fantastic!

If there are any latecomers still wishing to donate, please feel free, via the following link: http://www.justgiving.com/TheOddballs

On a personal level, yesterday was tough. Far tougher than I had anticipated. I had trained hard for distance and stamina but the terrain and obstacles, I am not afraid to admit, have battered me. My training never incorporated being shot by paintball snipers, climbing hills with a heavy back pack on, or jumping 6 metres off of scaffolding, onto a massive crash pillow thing. I used muscles I had either forgotten about or failed to realise existed.

But like many hard things in life, I have come through it with positivity and pride.

To some we may just appear to have gone out on a nice sunny day in the countryside, done a middle distance run and thrown ourselves over some stuff. On a broader level, the sense of achievement is vast and emotional because of where we have come from.

Myself, an Alcoholic/Addict whom, three times in recent memory, has been only a matter of weeks away from not being here anymore, now about to celebrate 17 months clean and sober and my great friend Neil, who has transformed himself from a heart attack in a chair, into a true warrior, through sheer hard work and persistence. I'm proud of myself, of course I am but I am equally proud to have a genuine, loving and indeed inspirational friend, as Neil.

So thank you to him, to my family and friends for everything and also to the team I ran with yesterday, who were superb.

Even another rubbish result for Watford on the road, yesterday afternoon, could not extinguish my flame.

More on Watford FC in the coming days, I'm sure.

Have a great day.


Tweet @hoganwatford

Friday, 25 April 2014

Everywhere You Turn....... CHARITY!

Hello there.

On the 27th January 2014 I woke up and decided that having given up drinking and smoking, I was still desperately unfit. So unfit, that having a kick around with my son and his 12 year old mates, left me walking around like a Zombie for days thereafter.

So I decided to run.

That first day, I ran 1.6km (just under 1 mile, in old money).

3 days later I ran 3km, by the 6th February I was up to 5km.

Then, on 18th March 2014, I ran my first 10km in 55mins 7 seconds. People have told me that anything under 1 hour for a geezer of my age, is half decent.

I was extremely proud of myself and have continued the good work to date. Not only because I have I found that I enjoy running, particularly with company (my son and my cousin have joined me for large chunks of my training) but because somewhere in those early days, my good pal, Neil, a recent fitness convert himself, encouraged me to sign up with him, to do the 10km (6.3 miles) version of this: http://www.warrioradrenalinerace.co.uk/ .

In short, a 10km schlep over Dunstable Downs, incorporating an army style assault course.

Now for the painful part.

I know that everywhere you turn there are people asking for your hard earned cash for charitable causes. In the street, through the post, via email and on social networks.

I myself, give where I can, particularly to friends and family getting off their backsides to do something in a fundraising capacity but I am in no way guilt tripped into giving to everything that is shoved under my nose or posted on the internet. That's just not feasible nor is it fair.

However, once in a while something comes along that catches my attention and indeed the wider public's notice, not least the recent wave of emotion captured by 'Stephen's Story': http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/stephens-story-the-sad-spectacle-of-a-young-life-cut-short-should-remind-us-that-theres-not-a-moment-to-waste-9282354.html

Now myself and Neil are fundraising for Marie Curie Cancer and our JustGiving page can be viewed here: http://www.justgiving.com/TheOddballs

Marie Curie Cancer Care, provides care for  terminally ill patients either at home or in their hospices and also offers supports to the families of the ill. Unfortunately, it is an unenviable fact that we are almost all, even in just some small way, touched by the disease of cancer.

What I'm saying to you today is, 'I know we are swamped with requests for donations from this charity and that but don't let that put you off being a charitable person'.

I have not donated to Stephen because I have donated to Marie Curie. I don't feel guilty because I would have donated to Stephen, if I had not donated to a different charity recently. In a few weeks, I will donate a small amount of money to some other cause that catches my attention. It's what I do.

Perhaps, today, if you can spare a few quid and you have not recently made a charitable offering, you could see what is out there that takes your fancy in terms of support and donate (maybe to Stephen, maybe to Marie Curie?). Then, is a few weeks, or a month or two (whatever you are comfortable with, particularly financially), you can look around again and do the same. And so on.

Charity, especially in this age of social media, can, quite frankly, be a pain in the arse but only if you let it. Do what you can, when you can. No more, no less and don't ever be bullied into giving when you don't really want to.

Bottom line is, we live in a world where government (even the better ones) cannot cover everything.

Charities make life better for the ones they assist and no one can blame them for trying.

That's worth remembering.

My race is at 11am tomorrow.

I'll let you know how it goes.



Tweet @hoganwatford

Thursday, 24 April 2014

It's Not Always About Football!


Went on a rare mid-week night out, yesterday evening.

It was touch and go as to whether I would make it. The dilemma being that my son was playing a rearranged football match. His club playing catch up on one of the Sunday fixtures missed, during the winter of biblical rain.

It would be the first of his fixtures that I would be absent from, this season.

It was an important game.

It was a must win game.

They lost.

I went to see Suggs do his one man show (well, one man and a pianist), 'My Life Story', at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage, accompanied by good friends Jim and Neil, who live up that way.

Following on from his recent biography, 'That Close', the show is, loosely, the book brought to life.

The live show, 'My Life Story' is exceptionally written, weaving through the Madness front man's colourful life, starting with his 50th Birthday, darting back to his early years living with his single parent mum in Soho, being taken on holiday to Wales and being left there for three years, his return to London, dodgy schools, music, clothes and of course, the highs and lows of Madness. This is all glued together with the search for the truth about the Father who abandoned him at three years of age and is lovingly intercut with Suggs performing songs by Madness and others, assisted by Deano on piano or guitar.

At first, it seems a little unreal to see this Nutty Boy doing what he is doing but as the show grows, so does the audience's confidence that he is indeed good at this. The show is touching, detailed and most importantly, funny.

Here, Suggs has taken on a lot. There is a ton of dialogue and how he doesn't lose himself, I don't know. Despite the odd stumble he is off and running a blink. Naturally humorous, he exudes confidence and handles the odd (good natured) heckle like an old pro stand-up.

I had expected to the show to be less structured and more chaotic. Once you get your head round the fact that without the structure and the attention to deliver each line as it is written (in order to tell his story as he wants you to hear it, rather than a Madness style free for all), you can only stand on your feet at the end and applaud what is a damn fine effort.

Suggs is a competent solo showman delivering a wonderful story that has been written with exceptional talent and a whole lot of love.

He and his intricate tale left us smiling.

Suggs is at The Watford Colosseum on Saturday 3rd May. Some tickets are still available.


Tweet @hoganwatford

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

It's Only Just Begun......


Following yesterday's early morning blue skies, things have turned a little murky, to be honest.

As I previously mentioned, I was unable to make the game at Loftus Road but followed avidly via social media. I was able to get a decent picture of the game in my mind. I have also since seen the goals on the television.

Once again, we were brought to our knees by a late, late goal.

Slightly different to the recent norm, in that we conceded after we had over committed trying to win the game, rather than seemingly caving in after trying to soak up pressure for 45 minutes. Was a really decent finish by Charlie Austin, to fair.

Of course the result has thrown up a meze of opinions. Some measured, some reactionary and totally understandable and a few barking but that is football for you.

The ones that concern me most are the ones calling for Beppe Sannino's head.

Now I totally understand why he may not be some people's cuppa. He was unknown to virtually all when he came. He's foreign. He doesn't speak English brilliantly (but he is learning). He sets his teams up to press and when the lead is taken, switches to sitting back and hitting teams on the break. We don't win away. We concede late goals. Ultimately, he has not lead us to the playoffs.

I however, am trying to see a big picture and in simple terms, view things as follows:

The Pozzo family are the club's owners. They came in and have secured the club's future for the foreseeable future. They will not be running away anytime soon. The have invested in a brand new East Stand as proof of a long term commitment. The club is now set up to bring through young, home-grown talent, as well as taking advantage of the relationship that was naturally formed with Udinese in Italy and Grenada in Spain. Part of the plan in making the club financially stable and ongoing, profitable, is that when a profit can be turned, it will be. It is not a hobby, it is a business but the owners do love football and want their teams to be operating at the highest level.

In order that the relationships with Udinese and Grenada could be utilised fully, the owners saw it necessary to part company with the well liked (but at the time, unremarkable) Sean Dyche, in favour of Gianfranco Zola, just before the start of the 2012/2013 campaign. This proved to be very successful, as Watford narrowly missed out on automatic promotion to the Premier League and consequently were defeated at Wembley in the playoff final, following that unforgettable semi final second leg v Leicester City.

It was clear that as the 2012/13 season drew to a close, that The Championship had sussed out Zola and his side and despite 2013/14 getting off to a flyer, by December, Watford were up a creek and Gianfranco had not a clue how to reverse our fortunes. He was a gentleman, help up his hands and walked. Many said the damage was irrespirable. Watford we in freefall and were going down.


Then we were introduced to Beppe 'Who?' Sannino.

As of this moment in time, Watford FC are somehow still in with a mathematical shout of a playoff place. Watford FC are on an 11 game unbeaten home run (including the FA cup tie against Bristol City) dating back to 14th January. Only two of those 11 games have been draws.

Sannino handed us our first away win since 5th October 2013, with the recent result up at Hillsborough. There have also been encouraging away draws against now-promoted Leicester and playoff chasing Ipswich.

We went to the Etihad and dared to dream.

Of course there have been silly results. It was never set up for it to be perfect for the incoming man. The silly results have cost us but given the state of the side, particularly mentally, at the point of Zola's resignation, could we reasonably have expected much more from any head coach at this point?

The Championship is a steep learning curve for any manager or coach and will be as tough, if not tougher next season, with perhaps as many as 20 of the 24 sides having played in the top flight, in the Premiership era.

For now the days of Watford having a British Manager and a team full of British players is a distant memory. With that, where would you turn in respect of a 'saviour'?

It is being done a different way but it is a way that means we have a club that still, despite many of its key components being manufactured abroad, sits at the heart of the community and endeavours to make its fans feel part of something special.

There is clearly work to do in the transfer market (hopefully with a far more measured approach than we have seen recently) but more importantly, in keeping what we have and addressing the mentality that leads us to late disasters.

Beppe has done half a job in half a season.

He will be taking everything on board. He is learning.

I think he can do the whole job in 2014/2015.

Stability is key and my season ticket is renewed early bird style. I am jumping the gun with excitement and anticipation of what comes next (have to keep reminding myself that there is still pleasure to be found this season and a strong finish is still important, even if just to finish the season on a confident note).

I really don't mind people ripping into my positivity. At nearly 42 years of age, all the football related outrage and torment that I used to allow to flow through me, from my teens right through to my mid thirties, was just the way it was. It didn't change results. It didn't change the comings and goings.

What was, was.

I don't think I'm necessarily right.

My rosy outlook won't change anything.

What will be, will be.

I'm just happier this way.


Tweet @hoganwatford

Monday, 21 April 2014

Sun is Shining.

Good morning folks.

I do hope you have had an excellent weekend.

Clear blue sky outside. A rarity for a UK Bank Holiday Monday.

Unfortunately, I cannot make the visit to Loftus Road this afternoon, due to family commitments but I wish all my fellow fans who are making the short trip, a fantastic away day and a safe return, with three points.

I will be following via all available media, in anticipation that the encouraging performance we gave against Joey Barton et al, in the home fixture at the tail end of December (a 0-0 draw), coupled with the fact that we are now a far better team, give us the edge over The Hoops, who have been stuttering of late.

In team news, Cassetti is available for selection following his suspension. Anya and Forestieri  will probably miss out and although Sannino has mentioned changes, with Tozser being the only guaranteed starter, I can't see the back three being broken up for this game. Perhaps Pudil will come in for Riera out wide (the ex Liverpool man had been short on first team football, before he linked up with the Hornets).

Other possible rotations are Battochio for McGugan and Murray for Abdi, who could be rested.

2012/13's player of the season  has played far more minutes than we could have hoped for, following his most recent (and seemingly permanent) return. Perhaps, in what is likely to be a physical contest, caution with Almen is advisable. He has been brilliant since coming back. He'll be on the bench at the very least and will be a potent weapon at whatever point he enters the game.

Before I sign off, a quick word about Manuel Almunia. In my first post, a few days ago, I was perhaps a little harsh on him. When his head is right, he is a very decent keeper. As an ex-goalkeeper myself and with my son following his father down the same footballing path, we both have seen the replay of the brilliant reaction save from Manu against Ipswich, to stop us going 2-1 down, several times. It wasn't clear on the day, from our view in The Rookery, whether he had got a touch to push it up and off the crossbar. He of course had and it was that moment that gave us the platform to go on and win the game.

He was very effective throughout the 90 mins and although goal scorers always get the plaudits, moments like the one I mention, deserve to be held up as match winning. I hope Almunia can find continued confidence and stability, as he will save us a big task in the summer, if he does so.

Here's hoping today is Yellow!

Speak to you all again soon.


Tweet @hoganwatford

Saturday, 19 April 2014

5 Thoughts, Post Match v Ipswich. Sat 19th April 2014

Good evening to you.

A very good evening, following a fantastic 3 points for Watford FC at The Vic this afternoon.

Haven't got the time to sit here and entirely dissect what I feel was a decent performance from The Golden Boys, so I'd just like to offer up five quick thoughts (without mentioning the 'you know whats'!).

1. Tommie Hoban. After my comments in the opening article yesterday, he was everything today that I wanted him to be. He won an extremely tough, physical battle with Frank Nouble (himself young but slightly more experienced than our boy) by some distance. Absolutely brilliant and unsurprisingly called out as official man of the match by the club, at the final whistle.

2. Lewis McGugan. Never going to be blood and guts but in the current midfield, whilst remaining crafty, he's added a little bit of work rate (since coming back into the side after his injury). It's all we ever asked. Scored a deserved goal to endear himself further with the Watford faithful.

3. Mathias Ranégie. Whereas it seems Lewis has added a little endevour, I was disappointed with the big Swede this afternoon. Showed willing when the ball was to be won in the air but chased down nothing that fell lose. Needs to take a leaf out of Troy Deeney's book.

4. We did not concede a late goal today. Not unless you count the goal we conceded late in the first half. So late in the first half, in fact, that it actually went in at the start of the second half (sorry - I composed that 'joke' on the way home and it sounded far better in my head).

5. When Beppe waves, it makes me smile. Well done to The 1881(a pro-active movement I wholeheartedly endorse) and The Rookery as a whole. The atmosphere was decent and there is a buzz back round the place.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to use the comments section and please share via Twitter and Facebook, if you feel so inclined.

I'll certainly be tuning in to The Foootball League Show later, for a re-run.

Enjoy your evening folks and again, thanks for reading.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Resilience, Focus and Bravery.

Hello and welcome.

Having previously written a couple of fairly well received articles that Vital Watford kindly shared, I thought I'd post my latest wittering via my own page and see how we go.

Out walking the mutt this morning, with the sun shining and my thoughts immediately turned to the weekend and of course Watford FC. Not only the impending fixture with Ipswich Town but as is often the way with me, to the ups, downs, the whys and what fors surrounding the season to date and visions for the future.

As my mind wandered through a myriad of scenarios of what could have been, the reoccurring theme, as to why we are not where the majority thought we would be at this stage of the season (when they were asked last summer), was that of resilience, focus and bravery (in fact, the lack thereof).

I think it is clear to many who watch, week in week out, that Beppe Sannino has done a grand job of halting and indeed reversing the tailspin we were in during the final days under Gianfrano Zola.

We have become harder to beat, particularly at home and with that, Beppe Sannino has, for me, earned a crack at a full season's assault on promotion but that will not come to fruition unless there are some changes. A little in personnel but more in attitude.

In goal, Manuel Alumina, a mentally fragile keeper throughout his career in England, had arguably the best season of his life, during 2012/13's run to Wembley and was deserving of the number 1 shirt on the opening day of the current campaign. A thoroughly decent man and a fantastic keeper on his day, 2013/14 has been a bit of a nightmare for him and it is just not feasible that a keeper making so many errors (especially at this stage of his career), can be first choice for a team aiming for promotion. If he stays it must be as second choice.

Jonathon Bond should go out on loan to a decent League One side or perhaps a Championship side with less lofty ambitions than Watford. If this happens, Watford FC must, as much as possible, make sure the loan club guarantees Bond a full season of first team football. 

I believe in Bondy and rather than make the sort of mistakes that a keeper of his age will inevitably make, in a Watford shirt, he can do it elsewhere, learn and come back to Watford to be number one, with 40 odd games at a decent level under his belt.

In the meantime, I feel that Watford should go out and get a Jussi Jaaskelainen, a Brad Friedel or a Mark Schwarzer on a 1 year deal. All keepers sitting around on the bench at their respective clubs. Keepers who are not going to impede the vision of Bond's career path. These chaps are all mentally tough, vastly experienced and leaders. Perhaps one of them would like to pick the splinters out of his arse and have one last crack at glory?

Marco Casssetti has been better at centre back than he has been at wing back this season but the fact remains that the legs are not what they were and perhaps the worry over what happens next (contract up at the end of the season and his family have not joined him in England) has, perhaps, accelerated more uncertainty into his game. Rather than cajoling, rallying and leading the back line, I have often noted him bawling out his team mates after a lapse, the arguing often continuing long after 100% focus should be back on the game. As with Manu, I have huge admiration and respect for Marco. In general, I have thoroughly enjoyed his contribution to the Watford cause but think that, as this season ends, so should his career in England.

Tommie Hoban is a young man I envisage filling the Cassetti shaped gap and more. Although appearing ungainly at times, he is strong both on the floor and in the air. He brings to mind a young Tony Adams and like Adams, he suffered a huge setback just as his career got going. For Tony, it was being ripped apart by Marco van Basten and the gang at Euro 88 and being depicted as a Donkey by the merciless tabloid press. For Tommie it's been a very long injury but one he fortunately seems fully recovered from.

Tony Adams came back from his Euro hell to captain Arsenal to the league title the very next season. If Tommie wants it enough, he can similarly take the game by the scruff of the neck and turn what appears to be a genuine natural defensive football talent, into something more.

He is a Watford captain in the making and with the mercurial Angella alongside him and with Beppe perhaps having an eye on 4-4-2 for next season, Tommie can be the rock the defence is built on. He appears a quick learner and with the likes of Fitz Hall and Lloyd Doyley still around, he has decent, no nonsense defensive role models to learn from. The defensive line needs to be braver. Tommie can hopefully lead by example.

If Watford can keep the majority of the current squad for the next campaign and naturally address the metal fragility that stems from the keeper through the heart of the defence, then the future is bright.

Communication should become less of an issue, as the Coach especially, fast-tracks his learning of English.

Signing up Daniel Tozser for at least a further season, will be a massive piece of business, given how quickly he has settled and the return of Almen Abdi...... well, it doesn't need me to tell you.

As much as I currently refuse to contemplate a Premier League side picking off our brilliant talisman, Troy Deeney, my mouth waters at the (perhaps distantly rumoured) prospect of Matěj Vydra returning with a huge point to prove, following his West Brom nightmare.

What I hope does not happen, is that we continue with the recent policy of throwing a lot of players at the head coach, hoping something sticks. Of course we must use the resources available via our relationship with Udinese and Grenada and of course via the domestic avenue but in a much more measured way.

We can hope, following this season's merry-go-round in the transfer market, that future signings are on more of a 'horses for courses' basis (rather than supermarket sweep style). Sannino seems like a guy who will speak his mind and have some influence over who comes and who goes. Which is a must, as a director of football and head coach should work together to achieve their goals. It doesn't work unless there is a happy overlap in the two roles.

It's no surprise that during Beppe's tenure, the squad has been streamlined, by way of letting players surplus to requirements go out on loan (some will not return) and results have been ok with a more settled and compact 20 odd players to pick from.

Undoubtedly, there will be comings and goings in the summer and we wait in anticipation but ultimately, the continuation of the instilling of resilience, focus and bravery into the mind-set of the available personnel, will be as key as any physical signing.

Beppe Sannino, I am not afraid to admit, has my unwavering support and I am very much looking forward to what comes next.

There! Got that off my chest.

You can also follow myself and my son, Aidan's Watford related ramblings on Twitter @hoganwatford

Wishing you all a very happy Easter and 3 points tomorrow.

Many thanks for reading and feel free to share.