Date: 17th September 2012 at 12:10am
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A view about the Watford game despite seeing exactly 0% of it. Plus, Samuel Eto’o?

Saturday wasn’t a good day for me. Work meant that I couldn’t get to The Reebok. The timing of the shifts meant that I was either half awake, half asleep (there’s a difference you know) or just plain asleep. I managed to keep one eye on the scores but the other eye resolutely refused to open, which meant that half the time I thought Watford were winning. This happens when your work makes you walk around as if you have a Stella hangover, without having actually drunk any Stella.

So, to that end, there is very little I can tell you about yesterday’s game. We won. We scored twice. By all accounts, OC’s half time team talk had its usual effect and Watford came out the better side in the second half. They scored by fluke. They hit the bar. The front pairing of SKD and N’Gog seemed to work well before N’Gog’s lack of match fitness and a tweak forced him off. Afobe did an impression of Ivan Klasnic, and not a scoring impression. Chris Eagles played well again. The defence can still put you in a blind panic. Mark Davies was anonymous and just what the hell was he doing on the wing? Martin Petrov has killed Owen Coyle’s puppies. And Marvin Sordell, the best finisher at the club, was his accomplice. Darren Pratley was booed by some of the fans when he came on. He may be pants but this was wholly out of order.

By all accounts.

Now, let’s not get carried away. This is one win, albeit a much needed one. It has lifted us up to eleventh but we are just as close to the relegation zone as we are to the play offs. And, for as bad as Watford played in the first half (like a team that has actually just been introduced to each other), they got their act together in the second. There will be tougher tests to come, this week alone.

This may well all sound a bit negative, but it is, in fact, pragmatic. I welcome a win as much as the next man, even if the next man is aussiemike. But we all know with this club over the past two years that one win does not a surge up the table make. So, let’s take it one step at a time.

If there is one issue I can be sure of, it is this chestnut of OC not playing all the subs. With a more packed programme, you would expect a full utilisation of the squad. But Ricketts, Petrov, LCY and Sordell were all left twiddling their thumbs. LCY you may be able to understand having travelled all the way to randomformersovietstate and back. But the other three were ready and able, especially Petrov who has had virtually zero game time so far. It is interesting that the manager chose to utilise Mavies in a wider position rather than play Petrov, who is a player who will cause problems to opposition defenders, regardless of his defensive qualities. Against tiring legs, he would have been able to put in crosses for SKD to get on the end of.

Still, we move onto Birmingham tomorrow knowing another win would see a further large jump up the table, although the opposite is also true. They let a two goal lead slip on Saturday and will be suffering from this. We have a good recent record there, three wins in six, and are going in on the back of a morale boosting win.

Expect a goalless draw.

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Big Sam was on Goals on Sunday yesterday. Over the years, the rose tinted glasses that people saw his reign in have become cracked and are now missing a lens, but you cannot deny the success that he brought to the club. Everyone knows the story that he left because the club refused to sanction money for the striker that could move the club towards Champions League qualification.

At least, that’s what he says. Garty has a different version.

Whoever that striker was, one striker he did try to sign was Samuel Eto’o, long before he signed for Barcelona. Well, I say long before. I mean in football terms. Allardyce makes out that he needed eight million Euros and it wasn’t forthcoming from the board.

You can see some grain of truth in this, but whether or not the story is being fudged by history is another matter. At the time we had just started bringing in players that no one wanted (Djorkaeff, Okocha, SKD) and weren’t really spending money on transfer fees, preferring instead to pay wages. Garty was probably happy with this scenario and when the equivalent of £5-6million was quoted for a player from a middling Spanish club and dangled in front of him, you can imagine his jaw hitting the floor.

Now, this story also hinges on whether Eto’o would have signed for a Premier League team who had just survived two successive relegation campaigns, who most pundits had down for another struggle and who were in the process of signing Southampton’s reserve striker on a free. It isn’t entirely implausible, given Big Sam’s ability to get other players to come to Horwich, but it also has the ring of never actually leaving the planning board.

Nevertheless, after Eto’o started banging them in at Camp Nou, it may have greased the wheels for Allardyce to get the money for Anelka a couple of years later.

I guess we’ll never know.
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Right, that’s your lot for today. We will return for a Birmingham preview tomorrow in a week that we can only say is ‘all go’.

 

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