Patience a virtue for Pozzo project
SO WE'RE under national scrutiny it seems, but not for the right reasons. After Rory Smith's fairly upbeat & informative piece for The Times centred around the Pozzo family's model, comes Martin Samuel's article for The Daily Mail which suggests Watford 'are a snapshot of all that's wrong with the modern game.'
The way the Pozzo family have gone about their business so buying out Laurence Bassini over the summer is a contentious issue for all Hornet's supporters.
Whether or not you're enjoying the influx of exotic talent from Udinese or Granada, there's no getting away from the fact that Watford is a club built of two fundamental pillars; one being it's family club reputation, and the other being the constant conveyor built of home-grown talent.
We might not churn out the same calibre of player that Dario Gradi has been consistently responsible for at Crewe, but it's fair to say that from John Barnes to Sean Murray, some extremely talented individuals have graduated from the Vicarage Road youth ranks.
Understandably Samuel attacks the fact that the sheer volume of loanees is blocking the route to the first team for the Murray's of this world, conveniently ignoring the fact that for every Murray, there are five Dominic Blizzard's or Jerel Ifil's who make the grade out of necessity alone.
Whilst we undoubtedly have far too many players, (42 if you include those out on-loan), Gianfranco Zola is in the luxurious position of not having to call upon any Tom, Dick or Harry who might be up to the rigours of professional football in order to fill out his squad.
One of the benefits of having such a large roster to choose from is that the 18 who are selected on a matchday have earned the right to be there. They're no longer there because there's no one else, those are the 18 form players in Zola's ranks come matchday.
Quite simply, players who are good enough to make the grade for the first-team will continue to progress from the academy, be that in conjunction with the Harefield Project or not.
Probably the most contentious issue is the number of loanees. There are too many and nobody is denying that. As mentioned previously there are advantages to be gained from the regulations regarding international loans, which leave a Steve Beleck-sized loophole which the Pozzo's continue to exploit.
Let's get a few things straight - it is ridiculous to borrow so many players from one team, but there is nothing to stop other clubs filling out the gaps in their squads with loanees from abroad. The rules are the same for everybody after all.
Having had the privilege of speaking to Daniel Pudil amongst others, it is very clear that the players do not have to come to Watford and that whilst Zola isn't the man who produces the names, he can say 'no' if he doesn't fancy the player.
Samnuel suggests that after just seven league fixtures the die is cast for the Hornet's season, in what he himself labels as a 'famously unpredictable league'. We're relegation fodder already by all accounts, which seems a tad premature with 39 league fixtures still to play.
He even goes as far as to admit that it's too early to judge the success of the project, before launching into an attack on the Pozzo's plan.
A project is exactly what this is, and a plan is exactly what the family come armed with. They have been in football long enough to know that wholesale change of this degree takes time to have the desired impact, and that success won't be instant, but they do at least have a track-record of bringing success to clubs on this model.
The less said about Laurence Bassini, the better, but one can only assume that Samuel would be (rightfully) scathing about an owner with Bassini's (lack of) credentials. This are proven owners, and in a country where foreign ownership so often turns sour, perspective is needed.
A large chunk of the article is dedicated to lamenting the relationship between Zola, technical director Gian Luca Nani, and CEO Scott Duxbury.
Whilst the trio didn't bring unparalleled success to the Boleyn Ground, they kept them in the Premier League - unlike messrs Gold, Sullivan, Brady & Grant.
There are doubts, and they remain prominent amongst even the most positive Watford supporters, but right now is not the time to judge the success of the Pozzo family's tenure. This is a radical departure from how the club has been run in recent years, but apart from a couple of single-season stays in the top-flight, where did that get us?
If in a couple of years time no progress has been made, then the project may not have succeeded, but for now patience remains a virtue.For further reading on the subject of Samuel's article today, check out From the Rookery End's take on things. Make sure you have a read of A Watford Blog's view whilst you're at it.