It’s funny. Sometimes I leave football happier after a defeat than I do after a more positive result. I’ve no doubt a lot of it has to do with my prevailing mood, the weather, what I had for lunch and a whole host of other unpredictable factors, but I’ve long since stopped trying to work out how football will leave me feeling.
For example, I was quite surprised to leave Vicarage Road after this weekend’s narrow defeat to Crystal Palace feeling happier than I did when departing the nil-nil home draw with Southampton. Shouldn’t work like that, should it? I set about trying to work out why and I realised it was because I’d mastered a skill. A vital part of the football supporters arsenal and armoury. I’m able to take the rough with the smooth.
It can’t always go to plan. It’s just the way it is. Look at Liverpool in the 80’s. Manchester United under Ferguson. Their supporters must have felt as close to untouchable as it gets, but even they faltered eventually. If you’re going to be a sports supporter, you’re never going to have it all your own way and for Watford it’s been one of those days.
The defeat against Crystal Palace was a slim one. Both teams were evenly matched for the majority of the game and it always felt as if one goal was going to be enough. Watford competed well enough to never be out of the game, without ever really looking like taking charge of it and Palace always looked more troublesome going forward, quick and powerful, breaking with pace and purpose. The game was ultimately decided by a penalty, Alan Nyom’s troubled afternoon – his toughest in a yellow shirt – culminating in the match deciding foul on Wilfired Zaha. It was probably no more than the Eagles deserved, but this wasn’t a game to get upset about. Whilst Watford fans will feel their team didn’t do themselves justice in front of the live television cameras, most will take comfort from the fact that this was simply one of those days that a newly promoted and freshly assembled squad will always endure. A decent performance with no reward.
Whilst Watford’s performances on the pitch have given previously negative pundits cause to start rethinking their pre-season predictions, the Hornets transfer policy still serves to raise eyebrows, with many doubtful that such a large influx of playing personnel can be anything but disruptive. In the main, Watford’s transfer dealings have been successful, but 24 hours after the defeat to Palace, it was reported that one of the most intriguing signings of the summer was spoiling for a move.
Swapping Rom and the Champions League for Vicarage Road and a relegation scrap probably isn’t most players idea of an ideal career arc, so it was greeted with some excitement and no little surprise when Greek defender Jose Holebas was announced as a Watford player. Immediately the transfer made headlines, with the player himself insisting that no deal had been done despite both clubs announcing it through their official channels. Despite his apparent protestations, he duly arrived in Hertfordshire and made an encouraging start in watford’s opening day draw at Everton.
Sadly, it’s been downhill form there for the German born Greek international, with Quique Sanchez Flores preferring Ikechi Anya or Chelsea loanee Nathan Ake in his preferred left back slot. Holebas wasn’t even named in the match day squad for the game with Crystal Palace and shortly afterwards it was revealed that he had spoken to the owner and was keen to move. Reports suggest the club will listen to offers in the January transfer window.
I had high hopes for Holebas so it’s disappointing to hear that it hasn’t panned out, but as always, it’s important to see the bigger picture. He didn’t fit in. It didn’t work out and this is one transfer that looks likely to be chalked up as a failure, but as with the game against Crystal Palace, this setback is nothing to fear. We’ve had a few days of the rough, but the outlook is still pretty smooth.