Supporting a small club like Watford is wonderful — the way that each and every win, especially in the top flight of English football, is like a little trophy you can take home with you and worship. The signings that come from nowhere and turn into the stalwarts of your team; the strong sensation of pride when your team gains rare media coverage; the ever-present feeling of community which buzzes around the ground at every home game. In fact, injuries and the odd disappointing loss aside, there’s only one thing about Watford that makes supporting this club hard: we will never, ever, be able to hold on to our better players and managers.
Morale coming into the game against West Ham was the lowest I’d seen since last season’s epic collapse at the end of Walter Mazzarri’s reign. Not only were the Hornets coming off the back of three extremely disheartening and preventable losses, there was also speculation surrounding Marco Silva’s future at the club. Countless sources had been linking the former Olympiacos boss with a move to a struggling Everton; his image and reputation among Watford fans swiftly took a turn for the worse.
Nevertheless, the atmosphere at Vicarage Road was still rocking under the floodlights before the game started. Sure, the losses against Chelsea, Stoke and Everton were incredibly dismaying, but the lowest Watford were able to finish the weekend was ninth in the table — encouraging as that is, it just makes me shiver when I think about what could’ve been. Had we picked up nine more points prior to this game, which was easily achievable, we’d be perching proudly in fourth place with the possibility of going second in the table.
Anyway, as I had been telling myself all week when I pondered on the thought of Marco Silva walking around Finch Farm with a smile on his face, the only thing that matters on match day is the “here and now”. I was intrigued to see which Watford would emerge to the Z-Cars theme before kick off — the fluid, confident outfit we saw at the start of the season; the lacklustre, lifeless group of players which suffered the 1-0 loss to Stoke; or the bottlers who threw away six points in games at Chelsea and Everton. Admittedly, as the game progressed, I was pleasantly surprised.
Perhaps my assessment above was harsh. There has only been one game this season where Watford have failed to produce an exciting display: again, dare I mention it, the loss to Stoke. The Hornets have shown a trend of colourful, gripping, enthralling performances which have unearthed an immensely positive atmosphere around the club, and I was delighted to see it return for the Hammers’ visit after a short absence.
The Hornets asserted their dominance on the game early on, and claimed the reward for their early efforts in the 11th minute. Debutant Marvin Zeegelaar threaded a pass through to Richarlison who met the ball on the byline and teased Pablo Zabaleta with some trickery before laying the ball back to the Dutch left-back. Zeegelaar then crossed the ball in for Will Hughes who failed an attempt at a header, however the ball was brought down sumptuously by Andre Gray who then failed an attempt at a shot at goal before Hughes poked the ball past Joe Hart. I’ve been feeling sorry for Hughes for a while now — he’s clearly blessed with a fine host of footballing talents, but he’s been kept out of the team by flawless performances from other players in his position. Luckily for him though, and to my delight, that goal will mean more of Will Hughes in a yellow and red shirt, even with Roberto Pereyra returning from injury.
Watford didn’t drop their intensity after the opening goal, however there were a few scares at the other end of the pitch which could have sent the game in a different direction entirely. First, a remarkable reactionary save from Heurelho Gomes after Cheikhou Kouyate, clean through on goal, struck from just outside the six-yard box. Then, just six minutes later, an extraordinary triple save from the iconic Brazilian to keep out Marko Arnautovic. Despite the balance of play looking firmly in Watford’s favour, the scoreline would’ve been quite contrasting heading into the break had it not been for the heroics of Heurelho Gomes.
The Hornets continued their dominant and irresistible football after half time. There was a five or so minute spell where Watford were suppressing West Ham in their own half, stringing short passes together and pouncing on their opponents if they lost possession — it made for beautiful viewing for the Watford faithful. All the effort and determination shown by the Golden Boys finally earned them that decisive second goal, as Man of the Match Will Hughes played Richarlison in behind the away team’s back line. The effervescent forward, who is now being courted by some of Europe’s elite clubs, has lately been low on confidence when bearing down on goal, but he made no mistake this time.
2-0 to Watford, an instant reaction after three defeats that as a fan were extremely hard to take, and a party atmosphere at Vicarage Road. The underlying problem was still there, though — Marco Silva has still not committed his future to the Hornets. Although it’s worrying to know that our best manager in decades could be leaving us for one of our long-term rivals, this season has already given me so much to remember and I am of the opinion that we can replicate this football with someone other than Silva at the helm. And anyway, as I said earlier: it’s really just about the “here and now”.
Do you agree with these thoughts Watford fans? Let us know in the comments below!