Watford v West Ham United

Cheer up. It's a bank holiday weekend. However, before you do that, here's Preview Percy's look at this weekend's trip to Watford......

Next up we face a second road trip in a row, this time heading in a northerly direction where we will face Watford at the traditional 3pm Saturday kick-off. There's engineering works in the Milton Keynes area which will result in a reduced service between Euston and Watford Junction. If you are coming in from Essex buses replace trains from Southend Victoria to Shenfield. There's also something similar going on between Barking and Grays via Rainham on the other line in from that part of the world. Check before you leave as I always say.

So Watford then. Regular readers might remember that the Avram Grant Olympic Rest Home For The Bewildered's resident Geordie Preview Alastair spent many years in that part of the world. And he is in fact back there convalescing after a slight to-do involving his dodgy ticker. So my pre-match plans will involve a quick visit to the Dickie Hart Convalescent Home just to see how the old sod is. At least he seems to be taking this one seriously - this is, after all, the man who celebrated his release from hospital after a quadruple bypass operation by going on a pub-crawl.

Like Preview Alastair's beloved Newcastle, Watford have yet to gain a point this season. They started off with a 3-0 home defeat to Brighton then last week they lost 1-0 up at Everton. This has left them bottom of the table at present, though I always preferred it when they didn't bother publishing it until after the third game - a bit like working out where the runners are when the stagger unwinds in a 400m.

Daisy, the full-time personal assistant with the beautiful smile tells me that three first teamers arrived during the window. First of these, chronologically speaking, was 29-year-old defender Craig Dawson who arrived for an "undisclosed" ?5.5m fee from West Brom. Dawson signed a four-year deal and went straight into the team, featuring in both of their matches so far. Dawson came to the professional game via the non-leagues, starting off with Radcliffe Borough before pitching up at home-town club Rochdale. In the latest instalment of "things you didn't know existed" we are pleased to be able to reveal that Dawson was rated the 14th best player ever in the Northern Premier League's Greatest 100 Players Of All Time poll.

Danny Welbeck was the next arrival, coming in on a free from Arsenal. Mr Welbeck's full name is rather splendid, rejoicing as he does in the moniker Daniel Nii Tackie Mensah Welbeck, a name that puts one in mind of the shrubbery-coveting knights from Monty Python & The Holy Grail. His time at Arsenal was punctuated by injury and a broken ankle sustained in the interminably long group stages of the Thursday Night League pretty much called time on his Arsenal, and presumably England career. His appearance in the 67th minute of the Everton match marked his first senior appearance since last November.

They broke their club record to bring in Senegalese midfielder Ismaila Sarr, ?30m being the reported fee paid to Rennes. He was part of the Senegal side that lost 1-0 to Algeria in the African Cuppa Soup in the summer and the prolonged holiday he took after the end of that tournament has kept him out of the squads thus far this season. However, the player has started training with his team mates so there's a chance that he will appear sooner rather than later. In a week for splendidly-named things, Sarr's first club back home in Senegal was an outfit named Generation Foot.

Getting a little ahead of things they have agreed to bring in Brazilian kid Joao Pedro from Fluminense. This deal was agreed some time ago - indeed it is said before the lad had even played a first XI game back in 2018. His latest ETA in Hertfordshire is January 2020 by which time he will have turned 18. However, other clubs have been sniffing around and the Hornets have inserted some sort of clause into the agreement which means that should the player go elsewhere Watford get EUR20m for not signing the player. Which makes you wonder how much we were on for not signing Messi.

There is an ex-Hammer in the ranks in the form of Domingos Quina whose appearances for our first XI were limited to the Thursday Night League matches which, in terms of first teamers, was a little bit like the League Cup. His goal against Cardiff for Watford last season made him the Hornet's youngest ever Premier League goalscorer apparently.

On the injury front they will be without Dele-Bashiru, Penaranda and professional verbal diarrhoea dispenser Troy Deeney. Deeney will miss this one having had an operation on his knee, presumably having twisted awkwardly whilst trying to remove his foot from his gob. There are also doubts about Pereyra and Doucoure, both of whom face late fitness tests.

And what of the wacky world of Association Football then? Well at Chelsea referee Graham Scott got caught in traffic leaving the slated 4th official to handle the match thanks to his late arrival. I presume that Scott will receive a suitable fine and/or suspension in the same manner as clubs are
sanctioned then.

Burnley's Sean Dyche continued on his hobby horse of players diving, pointing out that the current laws of the game effectively let divers get one free, the current sanction being only a yellow card. Alll very admirable but he might want to have a look closer to home given his players' tactic of clutching their faces every time they lose an aerial challenge. Last season's attempts to get Carroll sent off were disgraceful.

Oh and the Baroness has been getting in on the silly season headlines Last week's column in the Sun was used to moan about Daniel Sturridge who the good Baroness likened to Neymar but suggesting that his sulky attitude stopped clubs from signing him. Yet again the club's name is brought into disrepute by our vice-chair whose director contract must surely contain some sort of clause preventing her in making public statements that cast the club in a bad light. The FA are remarkably quiet - they can usually be relied to issue a fine or two on these occasions. Meanwhile the likes of me and you are saddled with the prospect of trying to work out which is more embarrassing: having a vice-chair who makes personal attacks on others within the game or having a vice-chair who thinks that Daniel Sturridge is as good as Neymar.

Last week. Well overall we can be grateful that they were as profligate as we had been in the corresponding fixture last season. VAR raised its ugly head again of course. It came up with a correct decision but the communication to those in the ground left a bit to be desired. I may have missed it on the screen but there didn't seem to be an explanation of why the goal had been chalked off. It would take precisely zero extra time to add a line to the onscreen decision so it would read "No Goal - Offside" although they would obviously struggle to fit "Goal Allowed despite two handballs, a shirt-pull and a push in the build up because Mike Dean is refereeing and has to be the centre of attention". Maybe they could take a leaf out of the cricket and broadcast the conversations between the bunker and the on field ref. One imagines it would go something like:

Stockley Park: "Er Mike - that penalty you gave was a clear dive and it was outside the box".

Dean: "So a penalty then"

Stockley Park: "Of course".

I am still confused by VAR. I mean what channel were they watching when Antonio had his legs taken away just inside the box? Perhaps it was simply too complicated for them to comprehend - after all Select Group referees aren't noted for their intelligence - they are the sort of people who spend a whole episode of Columbo trying to work out whodunnit.

Frankly we were awful in the first half. If there is one thing we all know about Chicharito it's that he is not the sort of striker you have when you are playing one up front. He is not that type of player. Drafting Antonio in for the second half at least gave the Brighton defence something to think about. We did improve and the odd thing was that, with them being so wasteful up the other end, if we had taken one of the chances we fashioned we could have nicked all three points, instead of the one we actually nicked.

Apart from the "Chicharito as lone striker" conundrum we lacked bite in the centre of midfield where Rice had to do pretty much everything unaided. This state of affairs will be assisted when the skipper returns of course but in the meantime Wilshere needs to realise that he doesn't always have half an hour to consider his options when the ball is played to him.

Injury news is that both Haller and Anderson are likely to be available - Haller will be particularly useful if we are going with just the one striker.

Prediction? Well losing two in two won't be doing much for their confidence - they had a poor run-in at the end of last season as well. All their comments post-Everton were of the "we deserved a point" variety but the fact that they didn't get one will be a nagging thought at the back of their collective mind. As for us, we know we will have to improve in midfield -preferred blend of there is that suspicion that we are still trying to work out the blend of steel and creativity across the middle and this is definitely one match where we will require enough of the former to allow the latter.

Taking everything into account I am minded to go for another draw this week so the ?2.50 that was going to be spent on the sending Preview Alastair a "Get Well Soon You Git Because It's Your Round" card will instead be sent via their app to the Winstone Turf Accountancy Group - when the fun stops they are checking the goal at Stockley Park - and placed on a 1-1 draw.

Enjoy the game!


When Last We Met At Vicarage Road: Won 4-1 (Premier League May 2019)

Technically it was only three games ago. Noble opened the scoring a little against the run of play on the quarter hour. That rarest of collectors' items, a Lanzini header put us 2-0 up just on the interval, the little one putting away the rebound after Antonio's drive came back off the bar. The clean sheet lasted all of 11 seconds into the second half as Deulofeu capitalised on some shocking defending. Holebas was the last man as he tangled with Antonio and saw red. Holebas's automatic ban was rescinded, allowing him to play in the Cup Final. In hindsight that might have been one appeal he'd have been better off losing.

Arnautovic and Noble (pen) completed the rout and the entertainment factor was completed by the good-natured taunting of a woman who had the misfortune of being the spitting image of Arsene Wenger.

Referee: Chris Kavanagh

We have had him so many times in the last couple of seasons I am thinking of taking out an injunction against him for stalking. Refereed the corresponding fixture last term, which, technically, was only three games ago.

Danger Man:Gerard Delofeu

Under normal circumstances one would opt for Deeney on the grounds that he usually scores against us but he is out, despite his pretty minimal talent. Delofeu on the other hand is one of the classier acts in their squad so I'll opt for him then.


Percy's Poser

Last week we asked you for the name of the Hove cheese shop that closed down, making headlines in the Brighton Argus. Well done to the suspiciously-named Mrs Edna Wensleydale of Fambridge who correctly identified the name of said emporium as "La Cave Au Fromage" - as Edna correctly noted "how very Hove".

This week we are indebted to the good people of the Hertfordshire Mercury and ask you: What is located at Northwestern Avenue in Watford, and what dubious title did the Mercury award it?

Best of luck!


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