So we finally made it to the top and our first Championship in years.
Although it was a stuttering performance through early spring, the good
work of late autumn was rightly rewarded with the results of the past
weekend. The match of the season had to be that glorious October
afternoon where Luton were not just beaten but given payback for ten
years of suffering and a little bit more into the bargain.
But that, along with all the other performances, is, as they say, history
and we have Division 1 football to look forward to. No doubt as the
summer unfolds players will come and go and come August we will have a
squad that is prepared to do battle the length and breadth of the
country. Before the discussion of players begins let us all get one
thing straight - next season is about consolidation. It is not about
gaining promotion, although that would be a bonus if it came our way.
So, who should we buy ? Well, the bookies would probably reckon on John
Barnes returning to his old stomping ground but I am not convinced. We
might get one or two seasons from him but that is all. The money spent
in wages etc. will probably not justify his return. I would rather see
the money invested in a younger player with long term potential.
If you had asked me a month ago should Jason Lee go I would have
probably agreed, but now I am not so sure. His finish to the season was
ultimately the boost that we required to become Champions and that might
have done enough to convince GT to hold onto him. I think Gifton will
improve even more if we can hold onto him, and the return of Wayne
Andrews should not be underestimated. Taking the long term view again
suggests signing someone young, keen and full of pace. Not a journeyman
footballer - we have had too many of them in recent seasons.
The midfield appears to have sorted itself out, although I can't help
feeling we need a bit of experience and a solid tackler to sit in front
of the back four. Palmer is not quite the right player in my opinion - I
think this is one area where we will sign a replacement.
The other area is a long term replacement for Gibbsy. It is amazing what
he has done this season but his long and illustrious carear must surely
be drawing towards a close, especially with his history of injuries. A
replacement will be required, although not immediately. Experience again
might be useful rather than youth.
The final change we might see for next season is in goal ! Shock
horror! Alec Chamberlain has had a wonderful season and, as an ex-keeper,
I am delighted for him. I think long term, however, Chris Day will be
playing more often than this season. I might be wrong but I don't think
it is certain that Alec will start next season. He wasn't first choice
at the start of this season and took his chance brilliantly - but he does
not represent a long term solution.
In all I think the core nucleus of the team is young enough, committed
enough and good enough to keep us afloat next season especially with GT
as the manager. I think a few young players will be added to the squad
but I can also quite a few of the reserves being sold on. Don't be too
surprised either if we see more continentals on show next season - after
all GT is on Radio 5 for the World Cup.
Team choice is something that people will always disagree on and no doubt
some, or maybe all of you, will think that I've had too much beer (more
likely coffee) and have lost the plot - only time will tell. Expect
changes but don't necessarily expect heroes of the past to be wearing the
gold of Watford again next season.