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BLIND, STUPID AND DESPERATE
 
Editorials:
A pig's ear
By Colin Wiggins
 
Don't blame Vialli. Don't even blame Wilkins. The insipid, damaged and alien club that is the new Watford FC is not really of their making. Don't blame ITV Digital either, who have been cast in the role of a convenient scapegoat to mask the foolish behavior of so many clubs. The last contribution I made to these pages was the Kenny Jackett tribute at the end of last season, which I wrote when Graham Taylor was publicly voicing his disappointment at the unnecessarily heavy-handed and ungracious manner with which the club had dumped both Kenny and Luther Blissett. Many supporters thought it was a disgraceful way to behave, maybe characteristic of many so-called 'big' clubs, but absolutely nothing to do with the Watford ethic that had been carefully established by GT first time around, then destroyed by the club itself before being patiently re-established.

In my Kenny Jackett tribute I expressed the hope that the club had not shot itself through the foot again, by repeating the crass errors of judgement made when Bassett arrived. I worried that the Watford board were wannabe Big Club Directors who failed to understand the true nature of our club and, along with many others, felt that the mistakes made with the appointment of Bassett were in danger of being repeated. But a year later I fear it is even worse. This time, the club has shot the whole bloody foot off completely. And seriously damaged the other one as well.

Vialli was appointed as some sort of managerial genius, amidst whoops of delight. Yes, we know about his unquestioned achievements as a player but his track record as a manager simply does not exist. He inherited a Chelsea team built by someone else and under the strength of its own momentum, it picked up a couple of big trophies. But even then, there were worrying signs. Remember that day we turned Chelsea over with Allan Smart hitting the winner? Remember the spiritless performance from Vialli's team? If you do, you will also recall the gleeful chants of 'what a waste of money' aimed at the hapless carthorse, Chris Sutton, who had cost Chelsea I don't know how many millions. And I remember a heroic performance from Robert Page, that Vialli must have missed.

So who was Vialli's best signing, Sutton or Vega? One thing that Vialli has proved beyond doubt is that he finds it quite hard to tell a good player from a boiled potato. Furthermore, at Chelsea he had not been impressive as a motivator. His Chelsea side specialised in The Gutless Performance, particularly away from home against the small fry. Is anyone really surprised that Vialli's multi-millionaire Watford managed to be the only First Division side capable of capitulating at Barnsley, Crewe and Stockport?

When I recall the merciless mockery of the geriatric Steve Claridge, as he found himself goalside of the lumbering Vega yet again, or the battling spirit of the teenage losers of Stockport, and compare them to our own players, I am tempted to weep. But I don't blame Vialli, it is not his fault that he is not made to be a manager. Instead, I point the finger at those who appointed him, uninteresting businessmen with all the wealth they could hope for, but none of the desperately wanted glamour. So they try to buy themselves glamour by rubbing shoulders with the elegant and charming Italian superstar, Gianluca Vialli. It was the Board who countenanced the obscene salaries for medoiocre players, because that is what the big glamour clubs do. But the charm and delight of Watford is that it is not a big glamour club. It is located, for heaven's sake, in Watford, not the King's Road.

I don't even blame the players he has signed, who, with one exception, have proved to be startlingly average, at best. Blondeau, Vega, Hughes, Glass, Gayle have cost and are still costing the club a fortune, gobbling up all the funds that GT's stewardship had bequeathed. But with a contract worth upwards of 750,000 per annum, for three years, with no clause to say you won't be paid if you don't perform, then maybe most people would be happy fannying about for a while, safe in the knowledge they would never need to work again. These salaries are offensive to the honest, working people who watch football and, yes, I know other clubs do it but that is not a good enough reason for Watford to follow suit. I find it all deeply saddening. I used to love Watford FC and all they stood for. But I have to admit, it's been contemptuously flung away to be replaced by the unedifying spectacle of the board, so business-like in their sharp suits, bringing the morally dubious practices of the business world to our club and, frankly, buggering it up a treat.

Now what? Appoint, sack, appoint, sack. appoint, sack? Just like those Big Clubs we so desperately want to be! We've arrived! For now, QPR and York have my sincerely felt best wishes.

(14/06/02)