Beforehand, so much of the talk had been about countering the threat of Ellington and Roberts, and doing so without the considerable presence of Sean Dyche. Afterwards, so much of the talk should be about Neil Cox and Lloyd Doyley, who bossed that much-vaunted partnership about for the duration. For Cox, it was an evening of timely interventions, confident decisions, and minimal mistakes; the player that we appointed captain many months ago has not yet left the club. For the masterful Doyley, it was all about basic defending amplified to eleven: always tight, always disciplined, always quick, always concentrating, never beaten. Between them, and with plenty of help from elsewhere, they kept potent, strong, pacy strikers very quiet indeed.
Two memorable events happened at this game. Pierre Issa was stretchered off but one of those carrying him slipped resulting in him falling off the stretcher. This was featured a few weeks later in the ‘What happens next’ round on ‘A Question of Sport’.
More significantly Issa’s replacement was Lloyd Colin Doyley making his debut for the Hornets. He would make over 400 appearances during the next 15 years under 11 different managers, scoring twice and being sent off only once, which was a case of mistaken identity and was rescinded on appeal.
To say we’re going through a building period at the moment would be something of an understatement. Not just a new team but an entirely new ethos, as GT might put it. During this period, results might not always go the way we want, and the support bites its tongue instinctively. These things take time, after all, and it’s not as if Luca’s been hanging around stuffing up play-off semi-finals for years, is it ? But given that things will take time to gel, given that we’re not yet the all-conquering Vialli Army that many clearly anticipate, why do we feel the need to make life so bloody hard for ourselves?
To be honest, I could just copy and paste large chunks of my Wycombe report and save myself some work here. The same arguments apply – the lack of patience shown by Watford fans is deeply disturbing. At times it’s as if cheering the team on or encouraging certain players is seen as an implicit endorsement of the poorer aspects of our performance.