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Sensible. Dull. Right.
By Ian Grant
Ray Lewington, then. Is that what all the fuss was about?

It is, of course, an extremely sensible decision. Really, the board - which has been trying so very hard to prove that lessons have been learnt and mistakes will not be repeated, and meeting with a rather mixed reaction - could not have made a more sober, level-headed choice, nor have reached its conclusion via a more thorough process. This decision eats no-added-sugar muesli for breakfast, spends its Sundays reading the Observer from cover-to-cover, buys its clothes in Marks and Spencer, and probably owns a Chris Rea album....

It will thrill no-one. There will be no grand press conferences, streamed via the website. There will be no rush for season tickets, no commemorative brochures, no great ovations. Nobody will be suggesting that members of the board are wetting themselves with excitement. The national media will heave a great sigh of disappointment at Tony Adams' failure to get the job, then forget all about it. It is, basically, a fairly dull appointment.

These are good things, though. The lack of razzmatazz, and other words involving lots of zeds, can only assist a return to fundamentals, to youth development and coaching and tactical awareness and team spirit and leadership and nous in the transfer market and other old-fashioned stuff. These are the qualities that a manager should be judged upon, both during his application and subsequently. When it comes down to it, nothing else matters much. Particularly in the First Division.

It is, therefore, reassuring to believe that the decision to appoint Ray Lewington was based on those fundamentals. Whatever else, it seems to me that we have recruited the right type of manager for this moment in our history, when we need a bit of stability and can afford no great influx of players. And that, in itself, is rather better than we have done at key points in our past.

It may look like a cop-out to some, another way of keeping costs at a minimum. It doesn't need to be anything of the sort, of course. The appointment has the potential to be just as positive and refreshing as the arrival of an outsider...and, in the case of some of the rumoured applicants, rather more so. Lewington inherits a squad that, though slightly frayed at the edges and somewhat thin in patches, is nonetheless a reasonable starting point. His familiarity with that squad, especially the impressive clutch of youngsters, can only be beneficial, particularly bearing in mind that there is little money with which to alter it. Clearly, much can go wrong...but the plan is extremely sound, even if its level of success is undetermined as yet.

It is easy to over-play the maintenance of continuity through promotion from within, considering that Lewington has been at Watford for just one year. However, with the addition of Nigel Gibbs to the coaching staff, there is a pleasantly comforting sense of evolution rather than revolution, in marked contrast to the jarring, ill-judged events of twelve months ago. The selection of Ray Lewington's assistant will be significant...but, again, there is the opportunity to build a management team that fully understands the club and the context in which it operates. None of this is spectacular, stirring stuff. It doesn't need to be.

Naturally, Ray Lewington has yet to impose his personality on Watford Football Club, both in a footballing sense and in the wider context of the town and the community. Graham Taylor has ensured that it is a job that involves much more than looking after a football team, and yet, curiously, there is often little consideration given to the characters behind the names put forward by anyone with an opinion when it is time to appoint a new manager. Strange, because the demands made of those in the job require more than mere coaching ability.

Perhaps that has to change, perhaps it will inevitably change. There is only one Graham Taylor...and, whether the manager is Ray Lewington or Luca Vialli, the continuation of the club's fine tradition of community work and positive public relations must surely be the responsibility of all involved. Fans, players, management, board. Each has a part, none can achieve the desired result alone.

And that, ultimately, is why I welcome today's news. Right now, Watford Football Club is moving forward again, more or less as a whole. Tentatively, slowly, we're getting things right at last. It feels as if this appointment is part of the recovery process.

Sensible. A bit dull. But right.

Good luck, Ray.