Eustace not Useless

Posted by on Sep 28, 2010 in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Sarcastic texts from pals as my Reading favourites tumbled 3-0 to Watford last Spring did little to improve my mood as even the BBC implied that the Royals had laid down to preserve the Hornets’ Championship status (not that Mr. Claridge was at the game of course), but my annoyance at the time was exacerbated by the Hertfordshire club’s all out superiority on the day and the fact that Reading had actually tried. Now that result doesn’t look so bad.
The close season looked grim for the Golden Boys and The Seventy Two were even inspired to ask a portentous question. Shorn of their elegant loan performers of last term and a stalwart American in Jay DeMerit, uncertainty reigned as BHaPPY’s Matt Rowson helped with our pre-season outlook, although he defiantly pointed to the quality of Watford’s Yoof.
A 3-2 win over Norwich on Sky, before anyone else had laid thrown the dice, looked anomalous, particularly given the influence of the inconsistent Danny Graham on that game (I myself had been surprised by his effectiveness in that aforementioned Berks v Herts clash), but since then, Watford have been defeated just the once, and but scrappily at home to Leeds. Draws peppered early September but recent weeks have been Phoenix like. A 6-1 at a Millwall side with their tails up again looked freakish, but a dominant 3-1 win over a Boro coming off back to back wins was probably more significant.
Since Matt’s appraisal, the loan system has been exploited again and Jordon Mutch (from Birmingham) and Andrew Taylor (from Middlesbrough, somewhat inanely on their part) have proved useful recruits.
But, it’s Malky Mackay’s existing talent pond that has really shown its mettle. January buy Will Buckley has sparkled after a good pre-season, and he and Don Cowie have benefitted from the departures of Tom Cleverley and Henri Lansbury to forge more pivotal roles. 19 year old Marvin Sordell, back from exile at Tranmere, has been a livewire foil to the effective Graham, scoring 5 into the bargain, and Scott Loach is now an England man, you’ll remember.
But it’s two longer established names that have provided the real bedrock for an immensely satisfying few weeks. Aidy Mariappa, assisted by a Martin Taylor whose top flight absence has more to do with Wenger whingeing than a lack of talent, has had a barmstorming start, reminiscent of his manager’s playing days and John Eustace, one of the most injured players in recent English football history, has brought muscle and poise to the middle of the park. As Matt said of Eustace’s role in that annihilation of the Lions: “Eustace bossed this game like Mr. Bronson with a Loud Hailer”. The returning Brendan Rodgers must be quaking.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham 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 50 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 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.


  1. Lloyd
    September 28, 2010

    Good to see Watford make a decent start, much like last season.

    I haven't seen a few of these emerging talents, so I can't comment on whether they'll hold out (unlike last year's injury-stricken squad), but to my mind a defence comprising Mariappa and Taylor isn't exactly rock-like.

    I'd contend that Taylor isn't playing in the Premiership because he's slow and oafish rather than for any politicking on Wenger's part.

    Gotta have respect for Eustace, though. What a player.

    September 28, 2010

    I've always thought Eustace was a slower, more ineffective version of Phil Neville but he's flourished of late (apparently due to moving back with his family over the summer) and has scored a few cracking goals. Lest we forget that he was wanted at Leeds by Simon Grayson not so long ago.

  3. SodChipSaveLuther
    September 28, 2010

    Eustace's turning down of leeds and signing a new contract in the summer was the point for most hornets supporters as the point where we thought we may stand a chance this season. I don't think any of us expected a bicycle kick like against Coventry though.

  4. Stanley
    September 29, 2010

    Forgive me for begrudging Watford one of their recent wins. I must admit, now the pain has subsided a little, that the `Orns were magnificent. The pace and movement of Graham and Sordell must linger in the nightmares of Paul Robinson and Darren Ward, while – despite Lloyd's misgivings – Mariappa and Taylor complimented each other well at the back. Eustace was the one who held it all together, though. I haven't seen such a dominant performance for a very long time. From a player whose career looked to be petering out not so long ago.

    Judging by last night's defeat, consistency will be an issue over the full season. But, if Graham and Sordell's goals, Buckley's creative vision and Eustace's steel are not enough, there's always Scott Loach to fall back on.

  5. Fantasy football game
    October 3, 2010

    ı still think that he is slowww.

  6. Matt R
    October 4, 2010

    The first team is looking excellent… I'd dispute both the assertion that Mariappa and Taylor are wobbly, and that Graham is inconsistent.

    Mariappa is an excellent defender, and (whisper it) will probably benefit from the departure of Demerit, who was physically peerless, brave as a lion but didn't know what he was doing half the time and wasn't a captain or a leader. Taylor has benefitted from a proper pre-season, and they now look sorted.

    Graham's goalscoring tends to go in fits and bursts, and if that's what defines a striker's form then I guess Graham is inconsistent. However his workrate and contribution to the team are much more dependable, and even in his fallow mid-season last time he was pulling defences around, making space for Lansbury, Cleverley and the others breaking through.

    The size of the squad is the biggest concern. There are very few areas where you'd fancy us to carry an injury – Eustace is certainly one of those we'd struggle to do without. But there are decent kids who haven't had much of a run yet – centre back Dale Bennett and winger Michael Bryan, midfielder Josh Wallace (another bizarre departure from Middlesbrough, this time permanently) and some younger kids being spoken very excitedly about.

    Would take mid-table now, with both hands. But it'd be a very enjoyable mid table.

    Finally, would love to be able to say that “Mr Bronson with a loudhailer” was my invention, but my co-editor Ian deserves the credit for that one.

  7. Lanterne Rouge
    October 4, 2010

    Bronson struck fear into me as a kid although he was never as fearsome when they discovered his barnet was a wig.

    Another good win for Hornets suggests the Swansea match was a blip.

  8. Matt R
    October 5, 2010

    Swansea was odd. They played us off the park for much of the game; we have a problem coming from behind, much better counterattacking hence the away form. Swansea scored and were then very good at keeping the ball.

    We started to turn the game when we went direct. You wouldn't have thought a Watford side would be averse to this sort of thing… but if anything the introduction of Troy Deeney from the bench was overdue on about 60 minutes, I'd have done it at half time.

    We then started to launch missiles into the box, and Swansea struggled badly. Two goals resulted, and we had another chalked off for offside late in injury time. Tremendous fun, and a tremendous game. Sadly no points.


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