The Best Top Division XI

The marvellous From The Rookery End pod is hitting ten years old this year, and their latest episode is a terrific discussion about the best ever Watford XI to play in the top tier of English football.  Being a bore, I figured I’d have a stab at it, using the same criteria as them, namely – a minimum of 3 players from 1982-88 and 2015 onwards, and two from the single season interludes of 99/00 & 06/07.

So, here’s my line up

lineup (1)


From 82 – 88 (an era, I must confess, I don’t remember): Coton, Blissett, Barnes.

From 99-00: Stevie Palmer, Richard Johnson, Micah Hyde

From 06-07: Ashley Young, Marlon King

From 2015 onwards: Cathcart, Doucoure, Holebas


I’ll do my best to justify them; if nothing else there’s a plethora of players who’d be furious with missing out. Foster, Gomes, Page, Doyley, Mahon, Deeney, Deulofeu….

So, I feel like the 82-88 kind of pick themselves. Two of the three are club legends inextricably linked with the era, and too many people think Coton is amazing to ignore in goal…..

So by picking those three, it sort of provides a spine to the team. The back three is a mixture, the pure aggression and will to win of Jose Holebas, the laid back calm of Craig Cathcart and the versatility of Stevie Palmer.

In front of those three, Richard Johnson will be winning the ball back, and then splattering it in from thirty yards in a way I don’t think I’ve seen any midfielder do in a Watford shirt (apart from maybe Daniel Toszer?)

If he’s not able to do that, Micah Hyde and Abdoulaye Doucoure will be running rings around the opposition, making space on the wings for pace and, frankly, #balling skills of John Barnes and Ashley Young.


Up front, there’s just pure, pure goals. Luther doesn’t need an introduction. Marlon never really got going after wrecking his knee, but for being able to find the bottom corner like no other striker, he gets a place.


It’s not a perfect XI, for sure. But I reckon this’d give Teams A & B a bit of a go…..

Reinventing The (Pit) Wheel


Once again, the nice people at NPR have released Public Service Broadcasting’s new album a little early to give us all a sneak peak.

It doesn’t feel that long ago that I was lauding the release of the marvellous Race for Space , and yet here we are, two years later with a new album of a more earthly sort.

Once again, the question of how does a band built around something of a gimmick keep it going, keep it fresh and keep pushing the boundaries?

The answer is found buried in the middle of Every Valley. Whilst first single Progress had impressed, it didn’t offer anything especially new; it’s relaxed tone & female vocals were reminiscent of Valentina even if this offered a new take on the world. But it’s the triumvirate of Turn No More (featuring the Manics’ James Dean Bradfield), They Gave Me A Lamp (featuring Haiku Salut) and particularly the gorgeous You & Me, a duet between Willgoose (!) and Lisa Jen Brown that they really spread their wings.

Thematically, Every Valley offers something similar to Race for Space; it’s a clear narrative, but unlike the hopeful tones of Tomorrow, Every Valley leaves us with the haunting, glorious tones of the last remnants of the pit community, a male voice choir singing  the standard Take Me Home, a song about a life that’s now gone; leaving far behind the “Lords of the coalface….the Kings of the underworld” that Richard Burton saw in his youth.

Unlike their second long player, the triumphant middle is missing; there’s none of the emotional highs of Go or The Other Side; this is a story of decline – first single Progress marks that slide, with Go To The Road and the big sludgy riff of All Out detailing the beginnings of the losing battle fought by the miners to keep their jobs and their dignity.

That’s not to say that, musically, this loses anything to Race For Space. It’s an absolute wonder of an album, with more brass, more guitar, more vocal. This is a band which absolutely trusts in the intelligence of their listeners, and is all the better for it.

Once again, we’re left asking where do Public Service Broadcasting go from here? Who knows, but it’s going to be a hell of journey…..



Live Review: Ash @ Shepherds Bush Empire, 03/12/2015


(Picture from @danny_randon)


I’ve blathered on before, on these pages, about how wonderful Ash are……and there’s no one going to stop me doing it again.

24 hours on from my first gig in just shy of a year (the shame, the shame) and, if I’m honest, the brilliance hasn’t really faded.

Of course, the best thing about seeing a band 20 years into their career is the welter of songs at their disposal. In the case of Ash, it’s an absurd back catalogue; there were 21 songs in their 90-odd minute set. You could probably put together another 20 song set that wouldn’t dip in quality.

Kicking off with the chant along  “Go! Fight! Win!” from Kablammo, the pace barely drops; barely letting the last chord finish, they launch into the classics “A Life Less Ordinary” and “Jack Names The Planets” It’s these older songs that really get the crowd moving; the reaction to the wonderful “Free”, and later on “Machinery” from Kablammo is muted. The reaction to “Kung Fu” is pandemonium, however, as a thousand odd people bounce to the pop-punk genius that hasn’t aged a day.

If there’s a disappointment, it’s that there’s nothing from either “Twilight of the Innocents” or the enjoyable “A-Z Collection” both of which seemed to have been more or less erased from Ash set lists over the years.

That said, it’s churlish to complain, the crowd pleasing finale is “Shining Light” and “Girl From Mars” two songs of ridiculous quality. Somehow, though, the 6 song encore tops this. They’d announced the day before that Charlotte Hatherley would be joining them on stage, and as they four rolled back on stage, they launched into a brilliant “Meltdown” chased by “Free All Angels” wonderful opener “Walking Barefoot” The real surprise was two songs from their much maligned sophomore LP “Nu-Clear Sounds” “Projects” & “Wildsurf” (arguably the two best songs on the album) and best of all, a cover of Weezer’s magical “Only In Dreams” which brought the house down.

They closed, as they usually do, with “Burn Baby Burn”. One last chance for the crowd to dance, and they take it. The foursome take the salute for the first time in four years. It’s a magical moment to end a fabulous evening.


Full set list:


  1. Go! Fight! Win!
  2. A Life Less Ordinary
  3. Jack Names The Planets
  4. Goldfinger
  5. Free
  6. Kung Fu
  7. Cocoon
  8. Angel Interceptor
  9. Let’s Ride
  10. Oh Yeah
  11. Orpheus
  12. Evel Knievel
  13. Machinery
  14. Shining Light
  15. Girl From Mars
  16. Meltdown
  17. Walking Barefoot
  18. Projects
  19. Wildsurf
  20. Only In Dreams
  21. Burn Baby Burn






Heart & Soul: A farewell to Fernando Forestieri & Danny Pudil

177 games. 23 goals. The sum total of Fernando Forestieri & Daniel Pudil’s Watford careers. In the Pozzo era, of course, we’re supposed to be used to players coming & going at the speed of light. With the clubs ambition being shown in the quality of players brought in to keep us up, it’s natural that two players who could hardly be described as regulars in the last couple of seasons should be allowed to go……

But that doesn’t really do justice to two players who weren’t just a key part of the team which came so close to promotion in 2012/13. They were probably the first two players to really “get” what being a Watford player is about.

Forestieri, of course, was the clown prince. Whilst his early performances were somewhat…..tainted by his propensity for going down easily, what was immediately recognisable was the absurd level of talent that he had. Of course, his finest moment was the wonderful beautiful cross which we all know what follows from….

Go on, watch it. You know you want to.

But it was also this:

The kids loved him because he wears his emotion on his sleeve. We all loved him, because he’s capable of doing this

Watching him in full flow reminds you that football’s supposed to be fun. It shouldn’t be a grind. He was all heart, and his presidency of the Junior Hornets was fitting, because frankly, he comes across as a big kid. In the very best sense of the word. A former colleague lives on the Nascot Grange, where Forestieri lives. She reported what a nice man both Fernando was – taking the time (along with Davide Faraoni) to have kick arounds with the kids & invite them to games. The best kind of community work.

Danny Pudil, as you’d kind of hope & expect from a full back wasn’t quite as exciting as Fernando. What he was, though, was an improvement on Karl Dickinson, and – arguably – the best left back of the last 20 odd years. Yes, his love of going forward meant that he got caught the wrong side regularly, and with it would follow the inevitable yellow card. First season aside, he’s never been a regular – offensively not as good as Anya, he found it hard getting game time in the last couple of years. But there wasn’t any whining, just getting his head down & training. His decision to live in the centre of Watford, taking advantage of the clubs tie up Zincos and be regularly seen with his little boy at Cassiobury Park was a key part of the supporters getting onside with the new regime.

…and now they’re both gone. Sheffield Wednesday have got themselves two quality Championship players. At least as a supporter, they’ll both be very much missed in a yellow shirt. Whilst the likes of Troy Deeney & Almen Abdi are around, of course, the heart of the club feels strong. But there’s something about two of the first players to sign up permanently in our little corner of Hertfordshire going that makes it feel as though a bit of the heart & soul of the club is gone.

Watford and the rival revival

Jimmy Armchair

Thank God for Bournemouth.

No, really. Football’s so much better when there’s a team that really gets on your tits.

Bournemouth are all over mine, I tell you. The diving, the favours from refs, the adoration from the media, the smug schoolboy who’s apparently their manager.

It’s been years since we last enjoyed getting properly annoyed by another team. That lot from up the road have been seriously letting us down. Another thing to hate L***n for.

L***n have been absolutely useless. All they’ve done is make us laugh with their relegations, their administrations, their promotion failures, and the mountain of lard who’s apparently their centre-half. It’s just not good enough. They haven’t wound us up for years.

You see, here’s the thing about football rivalry. It needs to be underpinned by envy. For years, L***n have had nothing we want. But we wouldn’t say no to any of the things that have been winding us up about Bournemouth. (Apart from the smug schoolboy. Bournemouth can carry on proudly pinching his…

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Guess the team!

With the news that Watford are playing away in the northern wastelands just two days after taking on Southampton at Vicarage Road, what looked like a game likely to see a raft of changes has become a certainty. So, what’s your predicted starting XI in Lancashire.

Bonus points for guessing the number of people insane enough to travel up….

Assuming that Quique keeps the same shape as the league games, my guess is the following:

GK: Arlauskis

RB: Paredes

CB: Hoban

CB: Britos

LB: Holebas

DCM: Watson

DCM: Smith

AM: Berghuis

AM: Layún

AM: Forestieri

CF: Vydra

Thoughts: Watford 0 – 0 West Bromwich Albion

An entirely different feeling of disappointment compared to the last competitive game at Vicarage Road. Going into the game, it was one of those that you’d consider winnable, not be disappointed with a draw & annoyed if you’d lost.

As it was, this was a game we should’ve won, could’ve lost & probably shouldn’t have been a draw.

A quick word on our visitors: In a strange way, West Brom’s demolition by Man City on Monday was probably the worst result possible for Watford. Normally, you’d expect a reasonably established team like WBA to come to the Vic looking for three points. Instead, having been picked to pieces by Aguero & co on Monday, Pulis was obviously keen to return to the defensive solidity his teams are famous for. So it was an 8 man defence that the ‘orns huffed, puffed & couldn’t blow down. I can understand the frustration of the away supporters at an appallingly negative away performance, but Pulis is no mug. That was a back to basics riposte to being beaten by City. In spite of that, they were achingly close to stealing the win (possibly the biggest theft since Hatton Garden?)

Meeeeeeeeeeeeeh, meeeeeeeeeeeeh…….’king Nyom: When Marco Cassetti signed, all the way back in 2012, it felt like we’d entered a new world of full backs. Cassetti was something of a classic Alfa Romeo (lovely to look at, prone to break down) to Lloyd Doyley’s reliable Volvo (not pretty, but he got the job done) Allan Nyom, on first impressions appears to be a Koenigsegg, or possibly a Ferrari of some description. Good going forwards, solid at the back, great cross, hammer blow of a shot. God it was fun watching him until he ran out of steam with the rest of the team in the last 15 minutes. (the title of this section, for the uninitiated, is a reference to the marvellous “Boro Pat” series of videos on Youtube – the language is very much *not* for children)

4-4-2? The brave new world of Qique Sanchez Flores was flagged as playing 4-2-3-1. With the decision to drop Jose Holebas for Odion Ighalo (who’d not so much insisted on selection as kicked the manager’s door down) to this untutored eye, it appeared to be a switch to 2 up front, with Layún & Jurado staying fairly wide & with the full backs bombing on. Could’ve fooled me that it wasn’t a very, very conventional 4-4-2, in fact.

The New Boys: Nyom aside, all of the new boys put in good showings. Capoue was absolute class, never a ball wasted as he glided over the pitch. Behrami, whilst not as effective with the ball as without, was an absolute pest breaking up play, and being a nuisance nullifying what little threat the Baggies had. Whilst his set pieces by & large weren’t quite there, you can see why Jurado is a player QSF insisted the club sign. If he was a little younger, you’d wonder how long he’d remain at the Vic before heading off to the big time. Sebastian Prödl relished the physical battle, and his partnership with Craig Cathcart looks like one that’s lasted much, much longer than two competitive games.

One last thing: As those of you who actually read my twitter from time to time (why, you lunatics?) may have noticed, my time as a 50/50 seller has ended as the Trust decided over the summer to introduced new incentives which didn’t include a match ticket. So these reviews will be few & far between. So thanks for reading!