A programme was advertised as being for sale on the club’s official website a week before the game took place (most clubs continued to produce programmes during the period whilst football was being played behind closed doors because of Covid-19).
However after the sacking of Nigel Pearson this quickly disappeared and two days after the game fans who had ordered a copy were emailed to say that they’d been refunded and their order cancelled.
It must be the first time in over 100 years that Watford did not make a programme available for a competitive fixture. A person linked closely with club told me that only four copies survived the cull that took place in the 50 or so hours between Pearson’s sacking and the fixture taking place. Below is the front cover which I found posted on Facebook but I don’t have a copy and have yet to find one being sold on eBay.
Sterling took the game away from the home side before half-time, firing in a rising shot to open the scoring before doubling the advantage by following up his own saved penalty – awarded for a foul on him by Will Hughes.
Mullins had set up to contain and the pre-match feeling was that even a narrow defeat might not be the worst result if goal difference was to be a factor in Watford’s bid for survival. Mullins and his players did not even get that. This was as one-sided a game as could be imagined, the gulf in class and, as significantly, belief yawning wide. Sterling got his second when he followed up to score after Ben Foster had brilliantly kept out his penalty and the second half was an ordeal for everybody that holds Watford dear.
“I don’t think we helped ourselves,” said Foster, the only Watford player to emerge with credit. “I don’t think we did enough to do anything but what the result suggested. The confidence is so crazy – crazy low. I don’t know why it should be but you get into a state of trying to minimise as much damage as you can and it’s a dangerous way to do things. They’re Man City. They’re very, very good.”
In fact Watford playing City at any time has been traumatic of late with this result meaning the aggregate score from their last three meetings alone – including last season’s FA Cup Final – is 18-0 (6-0, 8-0, 4-0) while scrolling even further back it increases to 39-3. That is simply extraordinary as is the truth that it could have been far worse without an outstanding display from goalkeeper Ben Foster who did not hold back afterwards with his criticism.
But that Pearson did well to drag us up by our bootlaces and that Pearson is not the right person to be in charge of this club longer term are not mutually exclusive. I’ve got some sympathy with the view that, if Pearson was going at the end of the season anyway, given the awfulness of much of our football and of West Ham in particular and if he’s been stupid enough to mouth off to his boss, perhaps this wasn’t quite the crass stupidity that kneejerk assessments have painted it.