I’m so sad to hear about the passing of Trefor Jones. I loved his books, website and amazing research into our wonderful club. Thanks so much Trefor. Without you I wouldn’t have set up Old Watford. Rest in peace up in Hornet Heaven.
Javi Gracia told Watford to come back stronger after Manchester City cup final defeat, says Andre Gray
Watford’s best chance of over-turning the odds came early on when City keeper Ederson saved at the feel of Roberto Pereyra and they were furious when referee Kevin Friend waved away penalty claims after Vincent Kompany blocked Abdoulaye Doucoure’s shot.
Watford then had a strong call for a penalty turned down by Kevin Friend as Abdoulaye Doucoure’s shot hit the arm of Vincent Kompany. Though the hand was by his side, we have recently seen penalties given by VAR for similar incidents, particularly in Europe, though the VAR controversially opted against a spot kick this time.
In the process it was also a demonstration of the gulf that now exists between a team that has just won back-to-back Premier League titles and one that finished 10 places further back, 48 points worse off, playing in only their second final.
Might it have been different if Pereyra had taken Watford’s best chance on 14 minutes? Gracia said something about it in passing later although it felt a little wishful. The Watford coach’s point was that you really have to take your chances in those moments to have any hope at all. Abdoulaye Doucoure sprung the trap on 14 minutes and Pereyra had just Ederson to beat. But the man who is arguably the Premier League’s best goalkeeper came out at speed and seized the initiative from the Watford attacker whose shot hit Ederson’s legs.
Except that at 5-0, something remarkable happens. We’ve been loud, in general, and in defiance of the scoreline. Louder than a month ago, louder than City, the grim memory of the Palace play off now surely dismissed. Because at 5-0 the songs start to thunder and the flags start to wave and suddenly the away end is a torrent of yellow and red as flags get frantically waved. I destroy two, the second of which floats down to the posh seats below as it detaches from its pole. It’s breathtaking and emotional.
City’s fifth came as a low cross from Silva was converted by Sterling. At this point something remarkable happened, the flags started waving in the Watford end. First a few and then the stand was a sea of red and yellow, all around us getting to their feet to wave the flags and sing our hearts out for the lads.
Watford’s road to the FA Cup final: Gerard Deulofeu comes off the bench to sink Wolverhampton Wanderers
John Barnes: ‘Winning the FA Cup would be so special for Watford… you remember honours, not whether you’ve stayed in the league for eight or nine years’
Troy Deeney: ‘Vincent Kompany is the league’s best centre-back since Rio Ferdinand, but if I’m on form he’ll have a tough day’
What if we win? Yes, we’re underdogs. But at least we’re that. Any club in the country would love to be that right now, certainly Wolves who, whatever your attitude after three eventful games will be watching on nervously, telling themselves that this is something they can’t affect, because they can’t affect it, but worrying anyway.
Vicarage Road, Friday 12th April
Rickmansworth High Street, Tuesday 14th May
Watford, Friday 17th May
Watford vs West Ham United: Jose Holebas to miss FA Cup final after sending off in heavy Hornets defeat
As warm-ups for Wembley finals go, this was a pretty tortuous audition for Watford. With an end-of-season vibe in the stands, this was always going to be the sideshow to the main event of the FA Cup final next Saturday but 10-man Watford spectacularly imploded against a clinical West Ham to hand Manuel Pellegrini’s side a top-half finish at their expense.
The normally ice-cool Gracia was left incandescent by an extremely harsh red card for José Holebas, who now looks set to miss the biggest game of his life. It was history cruelly repeating itself after Watford’s captain Wilf Rostron was suspended for the 1984 final after being sent off undeservedly at derby rivals Luton.
I still have not got over the injustice done to Wilf Rostron in 1984. My sister took a banner to the final declaring “Wilf is Innocent”. I have never forgiven either Roger Milford or Paul Elliott for their parts in him missing the cup final. The thought that Jose Holebas, who has become a bit of a cult figure for his Eeyore-like demeanour but has also been one of our best players this season, was going to miss the final broke my heart. I have to say that it was a good thing that I chose to work from home today as, when the news came through that the red card had been overturned, I sobbed uncontrollably. Suddenly there is a good omen for next Saturday. Jose is innocent and the Hornets have the opportunity to choose from their best players for the final. Our chances are slim, but in a cup game you never know. As long as we all take our best game to Wembley, we have a chance. Oh, there go those nerves again.
A disappointing finale to an otherwise fantastic season. Frustrating to have finished in the bottom half of the Premier League, but don’t let that fool you…A record points total and an FA Cup Final still to look forward to. Progress. That’s all we wanted at the start of the season and we got it. Next season we aim to progress further.
FA Cup finalists Watford started brightly, going close through Troy Deeney and Gerard Deulofeu, but were left to rue their slow start to the second half that saw Chelsea quickly take the game away from them.
Even at a club where life is never simple these are strange times indeed. Chelsea have secured Champions League football, reached the League Cup final earlier this year and could secure passage to Baku and the Europa League final later this week, yet Sarri remains unloved. Perhaps the rather chaotic first-half showing here partly explained why, given their lack of pattern or focus as Watford, slicker and stronger, threatened to run riot.
Watford struck the frame of the goal twice and spurned a host of chances and given the opportunities they created and the positive way they played it is odd that they finish this season having lost their last 11 games against the ‘Big Six’.
To be fair, and as was reflected by a venerable Chelsea panel in the tube afterwards, we started the game as unlike a side preoccupied with the Cup Final as it’s possible to imagine. We were lively, assertive and direct, pinning the home side back with some verve and energy.
We left plenty of time for our walk to Stamford Bridge and to negotiate our way past the multiple phalanxes of security guards. There was a surprise in store as we were greeted by a voice announcing, “FA Cup Finalists to the left.” I was still smiling when I heard another directing us on “The road to Wembley.” A rather lovely and unexpected welcome which meant that my opinion of Chelsea went up massively.
Javi Gracia’s selection showed three changes to their previous game, as Heurelho Gomes, Gerard Deulofeu and Richarlison came in for Orestis Karnezis, Étienne Capoue and Troy Deeney. Despite the defeat his side finished 14th and the Spaniard indicated he will remain in place next season. “I think so,” Gracia said.
The return of Gomes to the team meant that he would make his 100th Premier League appearance for the Hornets and would be wearing the captain’s armband as he did so. There was also much joy among the travelling fans when it was confirmed that Chalobah would be on the bench after so long out due to injury.
Previously v Manchester City
To their credit, Watford’s supporters stuck around to applaud their team during the lap of honour after the final whistle. “You give us a bit of shit from time to time,” Deeney said. “But we deserve it.”
Mazzarri has often cited injuries as the reason for his team’s indifferent performances and the situation was so bad here that he was forced to select two goalkeepers among the substitutes. But there was no excuse for continuing his perverse insistence on beginning with club captain and leader Troy Deeney on the bench. That left his team short of heart and spirit and it showed.
As for Watford, this was their sixth straight defeat since they secured 40 points and it was too much for some parts of the home support, who baited their departing manager. When referee Jon Moss called Mazzarri over for a chat about his conduct, the home fans chanted for their manager to be dismissed. When the fifth goal went in it got even nastier, with Mazzarri invited to “f— off”, and “get out of our club”.
Our leader, in a final peevish move by his manager, was on the bench (and it’s arguable that in the admittedly ring-rusty Ben Watson, another to have been discarded cheaply by Mazzarri, we had another wise head underemployed). And, of course, we named two goalkeepers… much as we all love Rene Gilmartin this was no tribute to a departing hero (notably, no fawning 26th minute intro/outro for Rene who isn’t nearly a vain enough peacock to have suggested one) but a pathetically self-indulgent sulky statement by the outgoing coach. “Look what I’m left with”. A Charlie Rowan, a Carl Stewart or an Ogo Obi could have filled that space and garnered Mazzarri more sympathy and options.
Mazzarri surprised everyone by naming two goalkeepers on the bench, something which I have never ever seen done before. It was as baffling as it was disrespectful to those young players trying to break into the first team.
Walter Mazzarri to leave Watford at end of season with Marco Silva on list of potential replacements