By Ian Grant
March 30 2013
1. Much earlier in the season, before all of the water went under the bridge, I’d prepared a rather pointed and yet, hopefully, vaguely amusing analogy for a report on our home game with Brighton.
It rode a favourite hobby horse, of the type you can use to test how much your partner really loves you: the tendency of restaurants to serve panna cotta, that most gently, kindly delectable of puddings, with some kind of fruit compote, rhubarb or blackcurrant or something similarly sharp. And really, why would anyone who actually likes panna cotta enough to pick it from a menu want that? It’s like writing a piece for string quartet and amplified foghorn. I blame Masterchef.
I quickly realised that the analogy, an attempt at drawing a comparison with the drowning of an essentially mild and likeable Championship side by a new regime and its vast quantity of randomly-imported rhubarb, had a serious flaw. That flaw, of course, was that nobody compares Sean Dyche to a milk pudding and escapes without a thick ear. And besides, the game itself didn’t fit the mould I’d prepared for it.
The analogy fits even less well now. The most tiresome aspect of the recent glib, misinformed controversy is that we went through all of that stuff months ago: there’s an implicit suggestion in much of the criticism that Watford supporters have blindly followed a winning team, oblivious to the wider issues and ignorant of the facts. The reality is that many of the supporters I know wouldn’t blindly follow anything; some of them, and me too, would obstinately and proudly run in the opposite direction at the very suggestion. In short, if this didn’t still feel like Watford, if it just felt like someone else’s kindergarten team or a theoretical exercise, the league table wouldn’t shut many of us up.
But it does feel like Watford. In many ways, it feels more like Watford than anything for many years: this is a club whose identity has been enhanced, not obscured or replaced. A new version, undoubtedly, with much to get used to. But the remarkable achievement of this season, however it ends, has been to pull this club closer together, to turn it into something coherent and comprehensible. The point of vintage Watford – Graham Taylor’s Watford, to be clear – was always to be more than a team on a pitch; the club had ends other than merely producing three points on a Saturday. That, of course, made the three points on a Saturday all the more sweet. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting a lot of things right again.
And so we welcomed Sean Dyche back to a very different club. We applauded him warmly, and quite rightly; he applauded us, which was typically decent of him. And he stood on the touchline with Ian Woan, pointing and shouting and looking as if he’d never left. And then we went our separate ways again. And now we’re here, you wouldn’t change it, would you?
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