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Watford v West Ham United

Filed: Monday, 15th August 2011
By: Preview Percy

When we visited Preview Percy this week he had a smile on his face for once. We thought it was because we'd won away from home but it turned out that his dentures were playing up again. Here the miserable old buffer takes a look at this week's visit to Vicarage Road....

They’re coming up thick and fast now as we shoehorn our extra league matches into the calendar. Next we crawl around the M25 for a 7.45pm kick-off against Watford.

The Hertfordshire club have had upheaval a-plenty over the summer. Manager Malky Mackay accepted the invitation to cross the Severn Bridge leading to the appointment of his assistant Sean Dyche to the no.1 spot. It’s fair to say that Dyche isn’t the most experienced of bosses. The Watford post represents his first full managerial position and his coaching CV contains little more than the work he’s done at Vicarage Road. Dyche’s assistant is former Forest midfielder Ian Woan. Woan has a bit more coaching experience having been at a number of clubs since closing his playing career in the US with (and I am not making this up) Syracuse Salty Dogs. Woan arrived in the summer having latterly worked as first XI coach at Portsmouth.

Their season got off to a decent start with a 2-2 draw up at Burnley, where they led twice before giving up a late equaliser. Like ourselves their League Cup match fell foul of the recent civil unrest, the tie against Bristol Rovers being rearranged for next week. On Saturday they went down 1-0 at home to Derby County who, according to Dyche, “picked our pockets”. The reference to pockets was unintentionally apt, the Rams’ winner coming as it did from Steve Davies. It was apparently a 20 yard effort and the lack of a deflection prevents me from claiming that it went in off the yellow.

Their first choice ‘keeper is Scott Loach. The England U21 international (14 caps) was on the receiving end of some rotten luck a few years back. The first league goal he is credited with having conceded was the infamous “goal that never was” against Reading, a goal awarded by serially incompetent referee Stuart Attwell after confirming the hallucinations of one of his assistants. Loach has featured in a number of full England squads, usually when others have been unavailable for selection, but he has yet to win a full cap.

The captain’s armband is currently in the possession of midfielder John Eustace. Eustace was the luckless player deemed to have scored the aforementioned “goal that never was”, his being the offending clearance that went a mere 12 feet wide of the upright. Eustace arrived from Stoke back in 2008 and has spent time at Derby on loan. Watford’s financial problems initially threatened to limit the player’s appearances for a while during the 2009/10 season, appearance fee clauses in his contract apparently meaning that the club couldn’t afford to pick him. In the end Eustace signed a contract amendment, allowing him to return to playing action and, despite coming close to a move on occasion (at one page he actually passed a medical at Leeds), he has remained at Vicarage Road ever since, signing a contract extension this summer that will keep him at Watford for another two years.

Amongst the summer arrivals was Chris Iwelumo who came in from Burnley for an “undisclosed fee”. Watford is Iwelumo’s thirteenth club (including loan spells) since his professional debut for St Mirren in 1995. The Coatbridge-born striker made his Scotland debut in 2008 in a World Cup qualifier at Hampden Park against Norway. The match finished 0-0 thanks largely in part to an astonishingly bad miss from the player. The miss was so terrible that the tv commentators were even more confused than normal, carrying on for several seconds as if the goal had actually been scored. Iwelumo is therefore probably unique amongst the Watford squad (if not the whole of football) in wishing that a match in which he had taken part had been refereed by Stuart Atwell.

Another sweaty in the new arrivals lounge is midfielder Craig Forsyth, who became Dyche’s first signing back in June. No proper transfer fee was paid for the 22 year old but an agreed compensation figure was paid to Dundee, with whom the player has been since the age of 17.

Dyche went to the other half of Dundee to sign Ghanaian midfielder Prince Buaben from United. Buaben grew up in the Netherlands and came through the famous Ajax youth system. He impressed them sufficiently enough for them to offer him professional contract but Dutch immigration rules meant that he was a year short of the time required for him to qualify for a resident’s permit, No permit meant no work visa, no work visa meant no professional contract. He returned home to Ghana, whose Commonwealth status made a UK visa slightly easier to get hold of than a Dutch one. He signed for Dundee United in 2007, scoring 9 goals in 123 league & cup appearances and picking up a Scottish Cup winners medal on the way before making the trip South to Watford this summer.

Another new arrival this summer is winger Mark Yeates who came in for yet another “undisclosed fee” from Sheffield United. Yeates spent five years on Spurs’ books, most of which were spent on loan at a succession of other clubs on loan. He eventually ended up at one of those clubs, Colchester, on a full time basis after failing a medical at Crystal Palace. Yeates scored the first competitive goal at Colchester’s new ground when they moved from Layer Road. He did well enough in Essex to earn a move to Middlesbrough, though things didn’t go particularly well for him at the Riverside. Things went little better for him in a year and a half with the Sheffield Hypocrites who were, no doubt, as glad to get him off the wage bill as he was to leave the club. Yeates, alongside the aforementioned Fosyth was on target up at Turf Moor on the opening day.

And so to us. Well at the weekend we enjoyed that rarest of experiences of late, an away win. It wasn’t the greatest of matches in all honesty but it made a pleasant change to see us actually hold on to a lead for a change. It was far from perfect mind – I’d like to have seen us take the game to the opposition a bit more but hey three points are three points. The win now means that we are averaging more than one away win a season over the past three seasons including the current one. Ok so that average stands at 1.3333333 away wins per season but from small acorns grow mighty oaks and if there’s ever an award for most meaningless statistic of the season I’d like to be in with a shout.

If somebody were stupid enough to pay me to select the side there are a couple of changes I’d make. I’m not sure what the status of George McCartney’s fitness is but Herita Ilunga hasn’t inspired an awful lot of confidence over the last couple of weeks. At Doncaster, though he did weigh in with a couple of important challenges, he did continue his worrying trend of getting caught in possession. Chuck in some wayward passing and the attraction of starting Linda as soon as possible grows by the minute, however, given Mr Allardyce’s insistence on the highest of fitness levels, the fact that Linda only arrived at Chadwell Heath on Monday may count against him.

Up front I’d prefer Cole to Piquionne – the former has put himself about more than the latter and of the two Cole looks the more likely to make things happen. Other than these two positions I wouldn’t expect the side to look too different to that which started against Doncaster.

So predictions then. They’ve started ok – and reports suggest that the Derby defeat was a bit harsh on them. We’ll need to up our game a bit for this one – if we sit back and wait for them to give the ball away as Doncaster did in the first half we may well be disappointed. Three points shouldn’t be beyond us but Mr Allardyce is nothing if not a pragmatist and he probably wouldn’t shed too many tears if we came away with just the one point. So I’m going for a draw this time round. 1-1 sounds about right to me as we extend our unbeaten run to, er, two matches.

Enjoy the game!

Last season: N/a – again

Player to watch: Mark Yeates – a scan of match reports suggests that he is the one that creates many of their chances.

Referee: Dean Whitestone – Another new one to us. Few in the Championship seem to have a good word to say of him, though whoever decided to create the Facebook page “Dean Whitestone is the Crappest Ref” clearly never encountered Mike Dean. The last two matches listed for Mr Whitestone ended up with a 1-0 win for Dagenham & Redbridge at Macclesfield and a 4-1 win for Leyton Orient at Plymouth last season so a nice East London away hat-trick would be nice. A closer look at his record shows that he has sent off five players over his last four matches so don’t expect him to be too reticent in brandishing the cards. By some strange coincidence his last two sendings off have been goalkeepers, both for deliberate handball outside the box. Better watch those lines Greeno.

Daft fact of the week: In the whole of 2005 a mere ten people purchased train tickets for journeys to Watford West railway station. This may seem a ridiculously small number of journeys in a year until you consider the fact that the station had effectively closed permanently 9 years earlier. Despite this, the ticket sales were still more than those made for journeys to Gainsborough Central, a station that is actually open. Meanwhile, the ten people who bought the tickets are probably still on a platform somewhere. Somebody ought to tell them we’ve won an away match.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by Preview Percy
04:25PM 18th Aug 2011
''@Simon: As I recall Peter Eustace was actually known as 'Useless Eustace' - there was a one-frame cartoon of that name that used to appear in the Daily Mirror until the mid-'70s. As a result the player was doomed to have that nickname irrespective of whether or not he was actually any good. Which he wasn't.

@Guy - I was hoping that people wouldn't notice! Since I get paid but a single packet of Werthers Originals for each of these I was skimping a bit on the research but now that I've been rumbled I guess the bosses will withhold payment unless I actually do the job properly, so look out for that sort of thing in future previews.''

by Viney
03:07PM 17th Aug 2011
''Alright, alright, that's exactly what I needed!''

by simon goddard
10:26AM 16th Aug 2011
''John Eustace - son of former Hammer, Peter Eustace known to every Irons' fan at the time as 'Peter Useless'. Let's hope his offspring follows suit this evening!''

by Guy
09:01PM 15th Aug 2011
''Instead of doing last season you should do last time played because last season will be mostly pointless this year. Just some feedback.''

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