The right man?
By Dave Angel
What's going on? Tipped for the playoffs by most pundits (and fans) and we are languishing at the bottom of the table without a win this year. People are blaming injuries but I see the problem as more than this. It is only recently that our injuries got really bad (Sheffield United comes to mind), and although people like Gary Porter are good players, the majority of those out, weren't in good form beforehand anyway. The events at Barnsley with the scuffle between Penrice and Mooney prompted me to write. Penrice was having a go at Pitcher for not making the correct run in his eyes. Mooney started sticking up for the youngster and when the whistle went the two players were still arguing. Both sprinted down the tunnel, knocking stewards out of the way, to get out of public view. If team spirit is that bad to start in team fighting, I feel that if something does not change we are odds on for the drop. We may never see the heights again with the new Sky deal increasing the gulf between divisions. To me the majority of the blame for this season must go down to the manager. I realise a lot of people reading this will not agree with this but to me it is without doubt. I realise Roeder has done a lot of good for Watford with good signings (Phillips, Foster, Mooney) and the position last season but here is a list of some of the errors I believe Roeder has made.
In no particular order:-
1) Injuries. The scapegoat appeared to be Billy Hails. Nobody had had any complaints with him previously. What is interesting is that the majority of our injuries occur in training. Is the training schedule to blame, rather than mere bad luck or bad physiotherapy?
2) Gary Porter at left back. He received player of the year two years ago. Since then he has been a shadow of his former self.He does not seem interested during matches at left back. What a waste of a superb playmaker and battler combined. I realise we had both Barnes and Ludden out but could a stopgap not have been signed on loan or on a free till they got fit?
3) Tommy Mooney at left back. Mooney is a good attacking winger/striker, not a defensive player. Against Barnsley we were destroyed down the right wing. Mooney was always forward and I can't remember him making a defensive tackle. All this while a very good defensive youngster is on the bench in the form of Ludden.
4) Not signing a striker. Is Dixon really the answer? He seems like nothing more than a first class donkey to me. Roeder has spent 2 years making excuses for not replacing Furlong, spending thousands of pounds travelling Britain and Europe (Rushfeldt). Would people like Barnes at York, and Shaun Goater, both prolific scorers in the lower league really be that bad or that expensive?
5) Some bad signings recently. When signings are made I always ask myself if he is better than what we have got and recently I come up with the answer no. Palmer appears better suited to centre back. Is Hodge at his age better than Ramage on form, or Payne better than Hessy?
6) Not playing youngsters. Players like Pitcher, Page, Ludden and Connolly seem like good players with lots of potential. Would it not have been better to play them and give them an extended run in the first team. They would gain experience and add what Watford have been lacking in enthusiasm. Instead he has signed players over 30, who are not, if at all, better. An ageing team never brings success (look at Charlton's youngsters at the top).
7) Selling Beadle at the wrong time. Would anyone doubt that he would have played most of the season upfront. Although not a great player he was the only big man at the club, and would have filled the role adequately. Instead we have been resigned to playing one upfront regularly. As soon as he left he started scoring loads for Bristol Rovers.
8) 3 centre backs playing at once (4 often if you include Palmer). Look at other teams playing 5 at the back. They all have a defender confident on the ball. Can any of our defenders fulfill that role? It has left our midfield undermanned and overrun. Barnsley was the best example of this. Every time we attacked there were never any options available, leaving us passing backwards and sideways. This led ultimately to mistakes and their second goal.
9) Bad man management. Should Ramage really have been allowed to come back 2 stone overweight. It is obvious Roeder has his favourite players (Payne for example). A fight between players on the same team should also never happen in an professional sport. Too many players are out of form. To me this must be the manager's fault.
10) Our boring displays this season showing no wish to attack.
11) Normally only dealing in the transfer market with certain clubs his mates manage (Millwall - Moralee, Dixon, Pitcher, Lavin, QPR - Penrice, Hodge). Is this really coincidence?
12) Refusing to use substitutes, even if he is behind. This is just one example of his stubborness - refusing to admit his tactics could have been wrong.
13) Never criticising the team. Always stating that we were unlucky nearly every time we lose.
14) Taking us to the bottom of a mediocre league, with what most people agree with me on, a good set of players.
I know that this is a list of Roeder bad points, but there are probably more I could add. I have tried to be against Roeder in this article, but this was the purpose - to get people thinking if he really is the right man for the job.
By Ian Grant
As anyone who reads BSaD regularly will know, I'm in favour of keeping the current management team - here's a short attempt to counter some of Dave's points. You can make your own minds up.
1) Some of the injuries have been preventable - for instance, Penrice came back too early and aggravated his problem at Birmingham. However, many of them (Hessenthaler, Phillips, Hodge, Penrice, Mooney etc) have been sustained during games and it's difficult to see what we can do about that. Certainly, it's been proved that laying the blame at Billy Hail's door is unfounded - similarly, I'd argue that the new physio has had to deal with an unbelievable amount of injured players and cannot be expected to work miracles. It's impossible to tell what happens behind the closed doors of the treatment room but he is well-qualified (unlike Hails, I believe).
2) I agree to a great extent - moving Porter to left back was an emergency measure and really shouldn't have been a long-term situation. Again, it comes back to injuries to Ludden and Barnes (the latter is an experienced full-back and showed what a good signing he could have been at Palace last season). If we signed a stop-gap then we'd be paying wages to a permanent reserve-teamer when the others were fit.
3) Hmmm. Tommy's proved that he ain't a striker - his goal ratio is pathetic and he's said himself that he doesn't enjoy the role. The left-back position has brought varied results from Tom - I've seen him play magnificently there and I've seen him torn to shreds. I don't know, to be honest.
4) Dixon isn't the answer and Roeder's admitted as much. He's a short-term solution for a miniscule fee. Wilkinson would also have been a stopgap, bearing in mind his age, but would have cost over ten times as much, so that seems like a good decision to me. Whether Dixon's any good or not is another matter....
As for not signing a striker before, the manager and chairman are both at fault for that. However, the transfer market does not make it easy - with severe restrictions on our finances, there are limits to the quality of player we can afford. Let's remember that STEVE BUTLER was sold for stlg 250,000 not so long ago. I suspect that lower division clubs are not going to let their stars go cheaply. That said, we really should have found an answer by now and I hope we sort something out soon.
5) I'm in a minority of one here, but I think Palmer's a bargain - a solid, quality defensive midfielder. He's an unspectacular player but he gets the job done. Certainly, I'd say he's better than what we had in that position - ie Johnson. Hodge looked superb against Tranmere - again, he's got quality and he's prepared to put in the work. We're only talking about the First Division and I don't think that age makes that much of a difference, within reason. Who's the top scorer in the division, after all? John flippin' Aldridge!
6) Yes and no, really. Giving youngsters a run in the first team is extremely desirable, but it helps a great deal if that team is doing well. In the current climate, it would be easy for confidence to be dented. Perhaps we're leaning towards experience too much, but I'd say it's better to do that than send kids into a relegation battle.
7) Beadle was pretty crap, though! He'd started getting serious stick from some sections of the fans and his confidence was at rock-bottom - he only scored once and never used his height to any effect. In the end, we got a reasonable offer for him, which meant we made a profit on a failed deal. Personally, I don't think he would have held down a first team place - he wasn't good enough.
8) Part of the problem is that we don't have fit midfielders. Too often we're forced to play people like Bazeley or Pitcher just to get three in there - that inevitably means we're going to get over-run. I have some faith in playing five at the back, but it really depends on who we're playing - we were slaughtered at Portsmouth with that formation. In other words, it would be nice to be able to be flexible with our formations - however, with the available players, it's proving to be very difficult.
9) Ask any Derby supporter about Ramage and they'll tell you about his lack of discipline. No manager can be expected to watch over his players during the summer (especially when they live in Derby). Ramage's attitude is very unprofessional. A fight between two players is very bad - again, though, the manager isn't always there to stop his players acting like idiots. I would hope that the club discipline that Roeder spoke so much about when he arrived will mean that they are heavily fined.
10) Goes back to the formations, really. I wouldn't excuse some of the performances but on occasions we've been penned back because we haven't had the midfield manpower to win the ball back and keep possession. In this respect, Hessenthaler has been desperately missed. Equally, so much of last season's attacking play went through Ramage and he's been totally out of form.
11) As far as Millwall deals go, I believe that Roeder has very little time for Mick McCarthy - they never really got on. So I don't think they're best buddies or anything.
12) No excuses from me on this one. Recently, we've had an assortment of kids and half-fit pros on the bench but, prior to that, Roeder's reluctance to use subs has been hugely frustrating. Stubborn? Well, one man's stubbornness is another's strong resolve in the face of adversity (you WHAT? - Ed). A manager who isn't stubborn is going to get precisely nowhere - it's a job requiring leadership, sometimes that leadership is bound to be mistaken.
13) The first bit isn't the same as the second - I've never particularly liked managers who slate their teams in front of the press and I'm quite happy to see criticism kept in the dressing room. However, claiming that we're unlucky when we've been soundly beaten (as against Norwich) does no-one any favours. Besides, neither of these is exactly a sackable offence, surely?
14) A good set of players? Definitely. But how many of them have actually been consistently fit? We don't have a single ever-present player and our side is constantly changing due to injuries. That really does make a big difference.
In summary, although I'd criticise Roeder on a number of points, I don't believe that justifies sacking him. The squad he's built is, by First Division standards, a good one and is well capable of getting us out of trouble - if we can get a settled, injury-free side.