Vicarage Road: Lodgings Available

Posted by on Jan 15, 2012 in Uncategorized | 13 Comments
Vicarage Road: Lodgings Available

In his recent post on the loan system, my fellow blogger Lloyd drew attention to its clever exploitation by Watford in recent seasons. Tom Cleverley was perhaps the best known of the Vicarage Road lodgers but Ben Foster did strikingly before him, while Henri Lansbury and Andrew Taylor also starred in gold.

More recently, Sean Dyche has repeated the trick. An unbeaten run that took the ‘Orns up until the end of 2011 and which was finally extinguished by Portsmouth on January’s second day, was largely fired by the good form of Michael Kightly and Nyron Nosworthy – the former in particular showing a heartening return to the public consciousness after an injury-wracked two years – it was the ex-Grays Athletic man, you’ll remember, who performed particularly well as Wolves raced to promotion in 2008-9.

A streak that started with a win in the previous fixture against the south coasters was peppered with ties but nonetheless signalled a new stability under Sean Dyche, the man called upon to replace Malky Mackay after the latter headed to the Severn Bridge in the Summer.

I like Dyche. He conducts himself well in interviews (to employ one of football’s most bafflingly clichéd phrases) and as a centre half and leader in his time as a player, it’s clear that a board chaired by storied manager Graham Taylor were looking for stability. With little actual cash to dispense permanently, temporary signings would be allied to a sound youth policy – Watford benefit from their location within half a day’s drive from a sizeable proportion of the British population.

Earlier this season, I saw a young side cruise to a comfortable victory at Reading’s Madejski Stadium – another short term tenant Andrea Weimann featuring prominently along with his former Villa team mate Jonathan Hogg. Yesterday, both were absent as a patchier looking XI hosted the Royals in the return fixture.

With Kightly also having returned to the metropolitan area from whence he came, the Hornets were forced to rely on Troy Deeney and Marvin Sordell for most of their attacking initiatives. The latter, profiled by ourselves very early on in his first team career last season, always looks athletic and hinting of danger – but a rumour that has seen him linked to West Ham may have unsettled him as he wasn’t quite at his best – players should perhaps realise that everyone is being associated with that ragbag of east Londoners these days.

Deeney did relatively well – scorching Adam Federici’s fingertips with a fizzer at one point and indulging in carefully thought out hold up play. The game was an even one and for a twenty minute spell in the second half, Watford were well on top – Craig Forsyth in particular showing up well on the wing until a couple of ill-advised challenges begun to endanger the amount of time he might have hoped to stay on the pitch and Dyche withdrew him.

On the opposite flank, the hangdog Mark Yeates, author of a brilliant goal in the earlier game, again showed an ability to adjust his sights well from range, but centre midfield pairing Prince Buaben and John Eustace were shaded out by the industrious Jay Tabb and Jem Karacan. Buaben showed slinkiness in a perfect through ball leading to Watford’s goal and Eustace is ever the general, but perhaps time is catching up with him?

Crucially, the Golden Boys were missing their strong man at the back – Martin Taylor may be agricultural in a way that gives combine harvesters a bad name but my, can he be dominant? His replacement Nosworthy is also a colossus but struggled at times to cope with Simon Church’s niggling attentions and can be pulled out of position too easily. Lee Hodson and Carl Dickinson at full back had mildly torrid afternoons given the pace of Reading’s wingers – although neither had an absolute ‘mare per se and the former in particular has settled well into the right back spot over recent weeks. Between the posts, Scott Loach remains crucial to the blueprint and cannot be blamed for the defeat.

So it seems likely that Dyche may look to augment the blend again soon. Ross Jenkins came on (too late on this occasion) and the club possesses other youngsters of note – most notably Matthew Whichelow – but stalwarts such as Lloyd Doyley and Adrian Mariappa, the latter ever solid here, may need greater talents around them. At the moment, the club hover above a cluster of clubs with seemingly more money to spend – Nottingham Forest and Doncaster most notably – and Dyche will have to make some smart decisions over the coming months.

Do read Ian Grant’s remarkably similar account of the game at superb Watford blog BHaPPY.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 47 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

13 Comments

  1. Matt R
    January 15, 2012

    thought we were very poor yesterday; you’re account is generous for me. Sordell was off colour, but very conscious both that he was on the telly and that plenty (Fulham, Southampton, Blackburn in particular in addition to West Ham) have been linked. Not as conscious that he was on TV as ref Salisbury to my mind, but a few bad decisions particularly early on.

    We lack zip and creativity. Kightly is a big loss; Yeates is fine as a “second” winger when attention is focused elsewhere but is neither quick nor reliable enough to be a main threat on his own. Forsyth has something, but is very raw. Hogg badly missed yesterday, we lost the game in midfield.

    Dyche… yes, I like him too but continue to resent his decision to abandon the focus on youngsrers that characterised Mackay’s team last season. Many of the kids introduced last term have barely made the bench this time, even when their attributes have been lacking (eg width, creativity yesterday – neither on the bench. At all.)

    Reply
  2. Tom Bodell
    January 15, 2012

    Hard to disagree with what’s been by either Matt or yourself.

    We missed Kightly and Hogg immensely. Eustace is still a very competent player but the form of Hogg over the past month or two has been nothing short of imperious and we desperately need him to be back soon. I retain concerns about the lack of creativity when Hogg and Eustace are paired together but Buaben has not been offering all that much lately – indeed yesterday was his best game in a while.

    The return of Stephen McGinn will be crucial as it offers us another option for an creatively-minded central midfielder other than Buaben who appears to be fire-proof at the moment by the virtue that he is the only attacking central midfielder in the squad who is fit.

    Re. Martin Taylor, we really haven’t missed him as good as he’s been for the last two years. Nyron Nosworthy has come in and done very well and when Taylor returns he has a fight on his hands to get his place back alongside Mariappa (player of the season for me s’far).

    If Marvin Sordell goes I hope Joe Garner gets a run in the side, he hasn’t had a proper go since the Autumn now and must be bored of kicking his heels on the bench. The worry will be that Sordell goes we have three strikers with three goals between them this season (Iwelumo 1 & Deeney 2).

    Reply
    • Matt R
      January 15, 2012

      We have several creative midfielders in the squad, but see above.

      Agree re Taylor, just hope Nos’s form holds with his new contract (remember Wayne Brown?)

      Garner… the new Will Hoskins.

      Reply
  3. Lanterne Rouge
    January 15, 2012

    Interesting comments fellas and of course you guys are much closer to things than I am. I didn’t mention Iwelumo as I had noticed some of the vitriol reserved for him on Twitter, inaccurate representation of right thinking fans though that medium is.

    All in all, as Ian’s report for BHaPPy sums up, it was all quite humdrum given the over familiarity of the two sides although Reading played reasonably well in spurts. Perhaps Dyche will revert to giving the kids more of a chance as you suggest Matt.

    Reply
    • Tom Bodell
      January 15, 2012

      Whilst I hope the kids are given a chance by Dyche, I can understand why he isn”t picking them. For the first time in ages we’ve got a bit of money to spend and he has utilized that. The reason we relied so heavily on kids was necessity owing to the lack of funds.

      I do however believe there needs to be more balance between youngsters & experienced signings. People like Adam Thompson and Matt Whichelow have a few games behind them and deserve the chance to rival the experienced heads.

      Reply
      • Matt R
        January 15, 2012

        Not going to disagree re balance, or claim that we shouldn’t have spent some money over the summer.

        But fundamentally disagree that the kids were played out of necessity. Bluntly, in our position we had what was perceived as a choice between heavy reliance on kids, and picking and choosing from second tier journeymen. Mackay went for the latter, Dyche the former, and Mackay has effectively recognised this choice in forums with Cardiff since he left.

        I’m not arguing that you CAN’T formulate a decent side out of the latter approach, but in the longer term it’s a no brainer. We have Harefield, a good record of bringing kids through and an extraordinary crop bubbling under from what we’ve seen. Following Mackay’s path, we become a club that young kids might opt for because they know they’ll get a go. There’s no long term future in the former unless we continue to get lucky, we’re not a big club by second tier standards.

        Back to the mix thing… I don’t see Dyche pursuing that, I really don’t. Hogg and Forsyth are both young… but not to use Murray, Whichelow, Mingoia (OK, now on loan) when we’re screaming for creativity and vim is just bloody minded idiocy. There’s a teamsworth of promising looking kids who were involved last season and aren’t getting a look in now. Maybe they’re not all ready, maybe not all will fulful their potential, but to have Ajax, Valencia, whoever else visiting Harefield and then NOT to trust our kids is bonkers.

        Reply
        • Matt R
          January 15, 2012

          sorry… got Mackay and Dyche’s strategies arse over tit in paragraph two didn’t I? Vision distorted by head of steam…

          Reply
          • Tom Bodell
            January 15, 2012

            Agree 110% on Dyche’s decision not to dip into the plethora of creative, home-grown midfielders at our disposal.

            To be honest you are also right about the choice Mackay had between journeyman and youngsters, but I do feel that youngsters were helped by the fact Mackay was only ever able to bring in a few permanent signings & the seven substitute bench. On top of that we had players who were going to cost the club money if they featured so were never in the selection picture.

            Most accurately, I guess it’s a mix of all the above points of view.

            Reply
  4. Lanterne Rouge
    January 15, 2012

    Tempting to ask both of you fellas what your first choice XI would be if all players were fit and loanees recalled!!??

    Reply
    • Tom Bodell
      January 15, 2012

      Loach; Hodson, Mariappa, Nosworthy, Doyley; Yeates, Hogg, Buaben, Whichelow; Deeney & Sordell.

      Hodson has come in and done well. Nosworthy & Mariappa are a good partnership. Dickinson worries me so Doyley comes in. Yeates gets the nod because we have no other wingers and he’s playing better than Forsyth. By the same same token I’d give Whichelow a run; the boy really excited me every time I saw him last season and made things happen, something we desperately need.

      Eustace played well yesterday and against Bradford but Hogg has been immense lately. Buaben gets in on the grounds that he’s the only fit attack-minded CM. When McGinn is back he will have a strong rival for that shirt. Deeney & Sordell to continue as they are.

      Reply
      • Matt R
        January 15, 2012

        The problem is that the kids aren’t being used at all, not with one individual who should be in but isn’t. For example, the Whichelow calls have been addressed more than once by the suggestion that he’s gone off the rails a bit. If that’s the case, he shouldn’t be in, obviously. But based on what we’ve seen of them, taking Tom’s eleven… I’d have Taylor for Nosworthy, there’s not enough height in the team as it is. McGinn for Bobbins, as you imply. I’d certainly have Murray on the bench, maybe ahead of Yeates. And I wouldn’t have beefed up the squad with mediocre players who clog up the bench. I

        Reply
  5. putajumperon
    January 15, 2012

    Didn’t make the game yesterday so won’t even bother to add my two penneth… but as the above was penned by eloquent, fair and reasonable writers I am sure between them the correct picture of the tragedy that unfolded at Vicarage Road is here for all to see.

    Thanks for keeping bringing me in from the dark.

    ps. when is Nigel Gibbs returning to the motherland?

    Reply
  6. Lanterne Rouge
    January 16, 2012

    Great comments folks. Although Dyche and Mackay were both no nonsense defenders and leaders, the difference in their playing careers and the levels they played at would lead me to suspect that Mackay had more bargaining power with the board when he took over than Dyche does so now – he’s likely happy to be managing a Championship club at all and so appreciates the need to be careful with budgets.

    Reply

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