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01/02: Reports:

Nationwide Division One, 31/01/02
Preston North End
By Tim Pseudonym

I'm a firm believer that life is cyclical. If you look at various aspects over a long enough period of time, you will invariably find a pattern that sees peaks and troughs, good times and bad, highs and lows. Anyone who has worked in large corporate organisations will recognise the seemingly constant changes in structure from flat to hierarchical, centralised to de-centralised. I still believe that at some stage in the future, Manchester United will find themselves struggling. They haven't always been so dominant and will not remain so in the future. It's still only twenty-five years or so since they were actually relegated, you know.

The same patterns apply on a more micro level to football too. At various stages during the last twenty years, you may have occasionally thought good things about Gary Lineker, like when he equalised against Germany in 1990. At other times, like when he continually harped on about Graham's decision to substitute him during the Sweden game, you probably thought the opposite. Time reveals all though and deep down, weighing up the pros and cons, we all know he's just a wanker. If Lineker had shown half the pace during the Sweden game as his Lexus showed on the M1 last night, maybe Graham wouldn't have substituted him after all. For the purpose of clarity, he passed us at a speed comfortably in excess of one hundred miles per hour as we made our way back from Deepdale.

Having now played almost forty games this season you can apply this thinking to Watford, both players and management. Take Patrick Blondeau. He started the season well, his form dipped a bit but then he improved a little. For the last three away games though, he has been truly awful and was more than a little fortunate to stay on the pitch at Preston. Take Lloyd Doyley. A headless chicken of a debut which reminded me of Tim Sherwood as a teenager. His cycle though has definitely been of an upward nature and long may it continue. He looked very assured again last night and the lack of applause when he was substituted was more due to amazement at how Blondeau stayed when he didn't.

And take Ramon Vega. His highs and lows have been more extreme than anyone, yet last night, as for several games now, he was superb. Our man of the match in my opinion by some way. He seems to have got over his temporary colour blindness and now seems able to pass the ball out from the back finding yellow shirts on a consistent basis. As for his ability in the air, I can't recall seeing a Watford defender win as many aerial challenges as Vega seems to at present. Good and bad then. Good players emerging and those of lesser ability showing their true colours.

If you plotted all this on a graph you would see these trends more clearly. Some generally upward (Vega), others the opposite (Blondeau). Then you'll get the occasional one where the line starts fairly low and doesn't really deviate. Luca has promised much since his arrival. Players that can get us out of the Nationwide League and then keep us in the Premiership was one. Fun was another. At the moment, I don't believe Watford has the former and I'm certainly not having the latter. In my opinion, Luca's graph has not raised itself anywhere near the level we were both expecting and also promised. Those promises might have been implicit rather than explicit but they were there all the same. More worrying is the lack of any upward trend. Almost forty games has passed and with the exception of forty-five minutes against ten-man Wimbledon, we are still looking as unfamiliar with ourselves as we did at Maine Road.

I really want to be part of the 'give it time' brigade...but at the moment they are not dangling any signs of improvement that I can clutch.