FTRE Mike has been known to write a blog post or two. In fact he’s just written this one for The Seventy Two blog about why Vicarage Road is one of the most enviable clubs in the country for our faith in youth?
My Dad always told the young, stroppy, football sticker hungry me that: ‘I want, I want doesn’t get’. well, he;ll be pleased and perhaps surprised to learn that this seems to be one of the rare occasions when his wisdom struck a chord and has sunk in, as I like to think I’m a fairly undemanding character. At least I am when it comes to football (I still crave sweets and stickers).
As a Watford supporter, I’m fairly happy with our position in the great footballing scheme of things. Whilst a generation of football fans could be forgiven for thinking there isn’t much to be celebrated outside qualification for the Champions League, I can think of nothing better than taking my seat in our three sided ground to see us do battle with the likes of Burnley, Palace and Millwall in the Championship. The extent of my wish-list from a footballing point of view is that we A) Don’t get relegated and B) Score the occasional decent goal. That’s pretty much it. Reasonable, right?
Off the pitch however, I need a bit more from my club.
The good news? They are delivering. Against Coventry City last month, teeenage striker Britt Assombalonga made his full debut for the Hornets. Apart from his fantastic name, nothing too remarkable about that perhaps, until you realise that his was the 50th debut to be made by a graduate from the Watford Academy scheme. Set up in its current guise 12 years ago, Watford have handed first team debuts to players from the scheme at a rate of just over four a season. If there is a better hit rate than that, I would (genuinely) like to hear about it.
The best thing about this success (apart from the obvious benefits on the pitch) is that it bucks the prevailing trend in football to be short termist. The much heralded set up didn’t happen overnight, it took a lot of work, planning and finance – work, planning and finance that could have been used on more immediate projects, especially at a club with a paucity of ready cash. However, the club decided it was the way forward and we’ve been reaping the Ashley Young and Marvin Sordell shaped rewards ever since. I am of course proud of the results, and I’m proud that the club had the foresight to put these wheels in motion in the first place – however, this needs to continue. Having come so far, it is essential that the club continues to invest in the set up. 50 graduates is great, but we need another 50 if we are to continue to prosper.
Investment then. And there I was saying I’m not demanding. The bad news? I haven’t finished yet. I want more from my club. I say the club, I mean fans. I mean us.
The man now holding the purse strings at WD18 is Laurence Bassini, who purchased the club last year. Initial stories about the new owner weren’t encouraging, he had previously been made bankrupt and it was hard to find any evidence of any business success, let alone any history of being involved with football. Some time into his tenure Mr Bassini has continually and contraversially evaded the spotlight – twice citing illness as a reason for missing fans forums – and Watford fans are no wiser as to who this man is or why he is involved. My hope is that he is dedicated to the Hornets cause and that he is here to continue the good work that is going on at Vicarage Road. ‘Always assume positive intent’ was another piece of advice my Dad was keen on sharing and there is no reason to doubt Mr Bassini has anything other than the clubs interests at heart. However, with clubs bigger than ours being left close to extinction by unscrupulous owners and opportunists, as fans we have to take responsibility for at least trying to hold those in power to account. Question the owner, question the club. Write, email, phone. Ask stuff. Anything but apathy. Otherwise it could be too late.
So there you have it. In a nutshell Watford must not get relegated. Score goals. Continue to invest and develop our youth structure. And we as fans need to take responsibility for finding out what is going on at our club. Do all that and I’ll be a happy camper. It’s not too much to ask. Is it?