Saturday's results saw mixed emotions for me. Wimbledon's win puts us in a commanding position in the battle for Premiership survival, whilst the results at Valley Parade and at White Hart Lane left me feeling a curious mixture of euphoria (that Spurs had lost to the bottom club at home) and dismay (that the Hornets had replaced Wednesday at the bottom).
Perhaps it would do to explain this article's title. There are many 'supporters' of football for whom the presence of Watford in the top flight is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with our game. The Premiership (in
this instance, the word 'Premiership' is a pseudonym for 'Sky TV') needs the 'big' sides (presumed to mean Birmingham, Man City and Wolves). One minnow (Wimbledon) is just about bearable but two (three if you count Bradford) - absolutely intolerable! Who do these clubs think they are? How dare they gatecrash what is a 'socially exclusive' gathering of football's great and good? Suffice to say, sensible people steer clear of such 'supporters' as often as possible - braver men than me might even consider that such crap was best answered by a succession of rapid blows to the head using a cudgel wrapped in barbed wire - but I digress!
So, does Watford's predicament vindicate their argument? Is the Premiership too great a gap for the side to bridge? Much as I like the Hornets, it would take a miracle for them to turn this round. Ian has already written that there is a lot of expensive rubbish in the Premiership - one only has to look at the squads of Derby, Middlesborough or Newcastle to agree with him. However, the financial gulf that exists between even outfits like Coventry and Wimbledon and the Hornets is fast becoming unreal. Ten years ago, it would be a very delighted young secondary school pupil who would have been amazed at the results 'Wimbledon 5 Watford 0' and 'Coventry 4 Watford 0' - now it doesn't seem at all surprising, given the vast disparity in resources. When Wimbledon can afford to shell out a total of £22 million in the last twelve months you fear for the future promotees. How can they (unless, like Blackburn, they have money to burn) hope to compete?
Watford's problems certainly seem to stem from a collective lack of confidence - amplified by the problems caused by injuries and suspensions. The goalkeepers both appear fragile, and the defenders seem prone to occasional lapses which at this level are punished all too often. (The Dons defence does the same but our strikers are more prolific than the Hornets'.) That said, this team produced some quite scintillating displays last season. They are clearly capable of more. The solution is not immediately apparent - I hope Watford aren't thinking of signing Collymore! - but I wouldn't despair, Watford have come a long way in a very short time period. Which of you reading this page would have thought in May '97 you would be watching a Premiership outfit?
Above all, I would hope Watford fans would refrain from emulating their Bradford counterparts and immediately attacking the manager (Paul Jewell has received hate mail and abusive phone calls). GT has succeeded in working miracles with a flea's budget and have patience, I believe next time he'll get it right.
So is Watford's plight a vindication of the Aristoprat footy fans mentioned at the start of the article? No. The Premiership will be much the poorer if Watford are replaced by one of the larger northern sides - and if, God forbid, Wolves should somehow make it above seventh place I will feel like dying. As I say, it looks bad, but keep the faith, and thanks to Watford for showing that dreams, however briefly, can become reality for supporters of smaller clubs throughout Britain.