Watching Watford in the Premier League each year is like watching a rubbish GIF. Here’s Pereyra beating his man to win a free-kick on the edge of the box — and here’s Holebas trotting up to hoof it into the wall. Starts out great, ends up crap. Over and over.
It’s inevitable. When the clocks go back, the players pass back. And back. And back and back. When autumn changes to winter, it’s like they all suffer Seasonal Affective Disorder — though S.A.D doesn’t quite capture it. It’s bloody M.I.S.E.R.A.B.L.E.
As soon as winter arrives, the team sleepwalks through games. Maybe they’re hibernating.
It’d definitely explain why Troy Deeney builds up so much body fat each summer.
The multi-lingual squad seems to communicate via body language. When Etienne Capoue dangles a lazy leg, he’s saying to his mates: ‘Look at me, lads, I just don’t care’. Daryl Janmaat replies by jogging back after his winger. He’s saying: ‘Me too, mate. CBA. Can’t be arsed.’
Whatever happened to Watford players giving a toss?
As a fan, I go way all the way back to Barry Endean. Barry cared. In January 1971, Watford were going out of the FA Cup at Oxford. Barry wasn’t happy. In his own words in the Watford Observer: “There were only a couple of minutes left. The crowd was irritating me. I pulled down my shorts. I mean… we were almost out of the Cup. I was near to tears.”
Barry Endean cared so much that he pulled down his shorts. Yanked them down. He had to do it. We were going out of the cup.
Would any of the 2017/18 squad care that much? Would they pull down their shorts if we were going out of the cup?
After the season ended, I went to ask them. And here’s what I found. This is the only post-season assessment that matters. It’s…
WATFORD’S SQUAD ASSESSED BY WHETHER THEY WOULD PULL DOWN THEIR SHORTS IF THE HORNS WERE GOING OUT OF THE CUP
“Drop my shorts? Jog on,” Tom tells me. But he’s the one jogging — home from his holiday job at the library. He enjoys moving the books around. Quietly, efficiently. No-one ever notices him.
He’s jogging at a nice steady pace. Not too fast, not too slow. Easy for me to keep up with — as every Premier League midfielder keeps finding.
“I’m a family man,” he says. “My young kids wouldn’t want to see me drop my shorts.”
I’d ask his kids if this is true, but Tom’s pace means they’re miles ahead of us.
“Drop me shorts? Are you ‘avin’ a laugh?” Andre asks. He’s busy getting another tattoo done.
“Take me shirt off, no problem. Show off me tats of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King — symbolisin’ the struggle.”
He’s got tattoos over every inch of his back, chest and arms. But none of them seem to depict his OWN struggle — to control the ball when it’s passed to him.
“Nah,” he says, “not me shorts.”
He sounds certain. But his eyes betray a lack of confidence. Like, if he tried to pull down his shorts, he’d miss and pull down his pants as well — revealing buttocks with as little ink as his goalscoring record for Watford.
Andre Gray won’t dare TRY pulling down his shorts.
“Remember down at Southampton, Jose, when we were going out of the cup,” I ask him. “Why didn’t you drop your shorts to show how much you cared?”
“You and me. Now. Let’s sort it out,” he says. “Right here.”
The look in his eye makes me think it’s MY shorts that are going to get pulled down.
Luckily, Chris Kabasele holds him back.
I meet Isaac at a swish Hertfordshire hotel. “Would you ever drop your shorts?” I ask him.
“I’d need a couple of bottles of Baileys first,” he says.
He looks a bit embarrassed. He says: “Probably wouldn’t go as planned, either.”
“Dropping shorts would ruin image,” Sebastian says, sipping a skinny macchiato in his local Hampstead artisan coffee roastery.
Seb shows me a selection of soft-focus glamour photos from his latest modelling shoot. “Lederhosen always on”, he points out. “Is important leave much to imagination.”
Which neatly sums up Watford’s approach to football in the second half of every season.
I meet the lad in London. He nods and says: “I very happy drop shorts”.
I smile. It looks like I’ve finally found someone who cares as much about the team as Barry Endean did.
Then he explains why he’d happily drop his shorts.
“September, I take off shirt. Since November, no goal. I so sad. How you say — frustrated. When I score again I take off shirt AND shorts AND socks.”
I imagine him whirling his entire kit around his head as he runs out of the stadium, down the road, all the way to Chelsea to sign a contract there. I stop smiling.
It’s no surprise. Watford players don’t care the way they did in the days when everyone wore a hat.
(Even the ball wore a hat according to this photo of the great Barry Endean.)
Next season, I want to see players showing they really do care.
If we’re losing, I want to see the pitch absolutely bloody LITTERED with shorts.
(Red OR black, this is no time to argue.)
Thank you for reading.
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