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COMMENT: Good to look back when assessing if Watford are moving forward
With every passing year prudent financial management and responsible ownership at football clubs appear to become less common.
The millions of pounds available in the Premier League mean owners are finding it hard to resist the temptation of throwing money – often not their own it must be added – in search of short-term success. In some cases, it works. Some.
But the problem is it causes a ripple effect which crashes it’s way down the football pyramid.
If a high number of Championship sides spend ridiculous sums chasing the dream of top-flight football, then those at the bottom need to stretch themselves to the limit in a bid to stay in the division.
This has a knock-on effect throughout football all the way down to the non-league level.
It has become widely accepted despite the danger it poses to the future of those club’s very existence. If you have a spare hour, look at the sums online. It is frightening.
The overall effect is clubs have to charge supporters even more for tickets, merchandise and television subscriptions to name a few – as they try to find the money ‘needed’ to build a squad capable of challenging, at both ends of the table.
It is a rant which I don’t want to get on to this week because neither you or I have the time I am sure. We also only have 11 pages of sport and I could fill that two-fold when I get on my high-horse.
The above is merely meant to set the scene. To provide some context.
On the pitch, Watford have failed to live up to the expectations many had hoped for this season. The key word in that sentence being expectation and I include myself in the group I call ‘many’.
It has been frustrating at times and the free-flowing football of last season has been seen less frequently.
But next season, Watford FC will remain.
There will still be a professional football club in the town. And it will be one which is growing.
Self-sufficiency has been talked about at Watford for as long as I have covered the club, which is almost six years. When I started, it was Julian Winter and Jimmy Russo. Now it is Scott Duxbury and Gino Pozzo.
The difference under the current regime is they are close to achieving it. Circumstances meant Winter and the Russos were fighting – maybe not a losing battle – but certainly an uphill one.
The relationship between the Hornets, Udinese and Granada has been vilified by many outside Hertfordshire. Again, that is an argument I don’t plan to address now.
But what it has enabled the Golden Boys to do is build a competitive squad whilst balancing the books.
And whilst promotion to the so-called promised land is looking increasingly unlikely this season, the club continues to grow off it.
Not only has relegation become a worry of yesteryear, they will have a new East Stand heading into the 2014/15 campaign, the South-West Corner will be completed and the club’s London Colney training ground will also be developed.
Time will tell whether the overall recruitment policy of the Pozzos will work in England. I believe it will, eventually.
But the improvements off the field are already there to see. The club are growing on a monthly basis and with each improvement, comes another revenue stream.
The Pozzos are not throwing money at Watford but they shouldn’t have to either. Good management, team unity and stability goes a long way in Championship football.
Watford have been blessed when it comes to managers during my time. But prior to the Pozzos’ arrival, they were all hampered by the constant upheaval caused by non-footballing matters.
If Brendan Rodgers, Malky Mackay and Sean Dyche had been given stability, time and a squad where they could retain their best players or have them replaced with a like-for-like replacement, then I am confident all three men would have secured promotion, eventually.
Stability on the field may not be a certainty under the Pozzos. After all, Udinese are able to compete with the giants of Italian football because they do sell nearly all of their top players for huge profit. As referred to above, it is something Watford fans should be used to.
But those players are nearly always replaced and it is the balance sheet which should give Watford fans the most optimism moving forward.
Only six clubs made a profit in Serie A last year and not only was Udinese one of them, they were top of the pile. Their €32.3m profit last season is even more incredible when you consider they currently have the fourth lowest average attendance in the division.
It isn’t a one-off either. Udinese have regularly made a profit because of their recruitment. I was critical of the policy two weeks ago when it came to implementation – some of the players signed and number of them brought in – but if they can make it work in England then it provides the Hornets with a chance to succeed which few clubs have.
On the pitch, difficult times could remain. It is a new country for the Pozzos. Mistakes will be made and the new owners have a lot to learn, but by all accounts they are.
But just over 18 months ago, Laurence Bassini was in charge, the club had the LNOC shadow hanging over them and faced another summer where they were likely to sell some of their best players.
In another 18 months time, Watford will have a new East Stand, a fitted out South-West Corner and there will almost certainly be a host of other improvements at Vicarage Road and London Colney completed.
Sometimes it is good to look back when assessing whether your club is moving forward. This is a club on the up.
Picture: Action Images
- Your interaction with opposition managers is usually limited to a few questions in a press conference, which makes it difficult to really gain a picture of someone’s personality.
My colleague, Tom Allnutt, and I had discussed how impressed we were with Paul Dickov’s demeanour after his post-match interviews and it seems the Scot is indeed a good guy.
Quite often we are the last to leave stadiums due to our website commitments which does give you the opportunity to speak to opposition staff as they close up.
We started to talk to a couple of the men who work at the Keepmoat Stadium before we left and they were praising Dickov’s personality and work ethic when the Rovers boss walked up the corridor.
We all exchanged a joke about how the staff had been slagging him off before the manager turned his attention on us, asking how we were, where we were heading and added he hoped we had a safe trip home.
It was two hours after the final whistle but it didn’t stop him talking to staff and a couple of reporters he didn’t know. As he left the ground, he then spent several minutes interacting with a few home supporters outside the ground.
It was a brief exchange but one which didn’t have to take place, not when you have a family at home. For most, it would just be considered common courtesy but that is a commodity which isn’t always displayed in the multi-billion pound industry of modern football.
- Whilst we were getting ready to leave the stadium on Tuesday night, posts on Twitter revealed two Watford fans had been ‘attacked’ by a group of Doncaster supporters in the club car park and their window had been ‘bricked’.
Following our chat with Dickov, we saw the two supporters waiting as the AA attempted to temporarily repair the window.
The brick was in fact a stone but that is a side point – it was still a traumatic experience nonetheless.
So we were pleased to see the two guys in good spirits.
They were happy to talk about the incident but did not want to contribute to an article, which is understandable.
They praised Doncaster’s staff and also headed home with a bizarre memento after Rovers gave them the advertising board which had been broken by Daniel Pudil when he vented his frustration. It was meant to help them fix the window to get home but it is sure to be a conversation starter when they have visitors.
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