As 2017 begins, we now find Watford without 8 of the senior players available to put in an appearance for the first team. It feels like Watford are a broken team – mentally and physically. What’s to blame? We all have our theories, but the injuries cannot be over looked. We had a fantastic injury record last season, but this could be a major down fall for the club. Maybe we should have seen it all coming when we signed Brice Dja Dje Dje, perfect for Walter’s 3-5-2 apparently, but deemed not fit enough to make any sort of an impact on the first team matchday squad in the first half of this season. He was left off the final squad list. Will he make it on after January?
It got us to thinking, what are our favourite Watford injuries, the ones that made a difference? What are the best broken bits that make up ‘The Ultimate Broken Watford Player’?
Let’s start from the bottom (no, not literally!!). Ben Iroha and his bunion/big toe. It didn’t have major implications on the pitch, it was off the pitch that we heard its true impact. What is deemed (by us anyway) to be the greatest chant in Watford History – “He played for Nigeria in two World Cups, but then he got bunions and had to give up, Ben Iroha.. B B Ben Irooooha”. It was catchy, it was to the tune of an all-time classic and it is factually correct, not many chants are!
When you see a Watford player go down, your heart skips a beat and you pray they will jump back up and continue. We knew Joel Ekstrand wasn’t going to get up when he was injured against Ipswich, you clearly heard his pain echo around the Vic. He called it “an explosion of pain through your knee.” Not quite as harrowing, when Almen Abdi, another Wave 1 Pozzo loanie, injured his heel we despaired for weeks. We’d fallen in love with him, some way too much, and this injury looked career threatening. In the end the only career it ended was Gianfranco Zola’s as Watford manager.
The shin bone always seems to be the most dramatic of injuries. You may have seen a horror picture or two, and I’m told that George Catleugh broke his leg in the 1960s. I was born, but my favourite leg break at Vicarage Road was Robbie Savage’s when he was at Blackburn. In hindsight it was poor form to laugh and jeer him, but it was Robbie Savage.
Slightly further up the leg, we find the knee, and many Watford players have suffered from a knee problem. Back in the early 80’s, Martin Patching had to undertake two operations on a savage injury to his right knee. He was all set to retire as a landlord, but Graham Taylor patched up Patching and he made a romantic appearance at the end of the 1982-83 season against Liverpool, where he scored a goal in a 2-1 win that saw Watford qualify for Europe for the first time.
Those are good, positive consequences of an injury. But one that carried the largest of consequences? I give you Tony Coton and Steve Sherwood and their sprained index fingers. How might the 1987 FA Cup Semi Final against Spurs have gone if we’d had Tony in-between the sticks, stopping Clive Allen, instead of the wine waiter – Gary Plumley?
To complete our Ultimate broken player we need to look at the shoulders, and above, a place where we don’t get as many in football. Goalkeeper Andy Rankin broke a collar bone after a thump to the ground, and Almen Abdi’s shoulder popped out in a game against Leeds. He was rather an injury prone player wasn’t he? Glad he’s gone, to be honest. And of course when Steve McGinn smashed his cheekbone against QPR in 2010, which led to the first of Danny Graham’s famous vests with a message.
And to top off this battered and bruised Hornet we must have the head of a great man. Our cherry will be Luther and his skull. He cracked it on the knee of Goalkeeper Gary Bailey when Watford played Manchester United in a 5-1 drubbing at Vicarage Road at the very end of the 1984-85 season. Thank goodness Luther only had to pop down the road to the hospital.
I now want you to picture all these body parts, of all these players and put them together in your mind. You should have some sort of Frankenstein monster visualised, which you will of course adore because he is a Watford player and will cheer him on whenever he pulls on a yellow shirt. He’d never play enough games to get match fit and the strain on the physios with FULL body massages before and after a game would be too much for even a Premier League club’s budget. Of course IF he ever made it on to the pitch, you’d pray he would be able to make a difference to the Golden Boys as he is bound to go off injured after only a few minutes – but would he last longer than Stefano Okaka did against West Ham? Just, maybe!