Sixy Talk – Into the Hornets Nest

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Bloggers are easily come by in the Premier League, they’re ten a penny and many of them are all too ready to share a word or two with anyone with a passing twitter account.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing mind, we’re just finding it a little harder to come by people willing to answer our questions in The Championship and I reckon it’s just because things are just a little more real and have things like lives that get in the way of being media savvy once you get out of the top flight.

Still, we keep plugging away and this week we’ve managed to find Matt Rowson (@mattrowson) who blogs about all things Watford over at BHappy (not BSAD).  He’s been at this business for as some of the folks around here, but more of that later and let’s get straight on with things, the sooner we start, the sooner we can ask him a daft question about pies.


Wigan Athletic, what do you really think of us?

I’m not aware of any Watford consensus, not that that exists on many topics anyway.  Perhaps some lingering goodwill from your purchase of Marlon King many moons ago after Fulham had tried to strong-arm us into letting him go for nothing.  Most of all a side that I suspect many were rooting for in the top flight, sticking it to the man in a generally endearing and inoffensive way.  There was much jumping around and air punching on Ben Watson’s goal in May, certainly in our household.  I guess that applies as much to everywhere else in the UK as Watford.


What’s been happening to Watford since the last time the two clubs met?

Ha.  What HASN’T been happening.  We last met in the top flight in 2006/07. We’d been promoted on the basis of a very effective team unit… solid at the back and with goals on the break.  Marlon King was injured early on that season, Ashley Young moved centrally to cover and then sold in the January.  We kinda needed everything to go our way and didn’t.  Aidy Boothroyd took us to an unconvincing play-off defeat the next season and left the following October.  Brendan Rodgers dragged us out of a relegation scrap into mid-table then did a bunk to Reading.  Malky Mackay spent two thoroughly enjoyable years in charge keeping us competitive against financial odds; when he went to Cardiff Sean Dyche took over and if his side was more solid than sexy but still punched well above its weight.


Then, as you may have heard, the game changed.  A convoluted ownership structure saw Lord Ashcroft sell the club to Laurence Bassini, a perhaps… shady character who didn’t seem to have the club’s best interests at heart.  Let’s leave it there.  Fortunately Ashcroft’s sale was riddled with provisos that allowed him to take the club back if certain promises weren’t kept.  And thus he reclaimed the club and sold it to the Pozzo family.


The Pozzos have owned Udinese for over 25 years and Granada in Spain for four.  Their model is based around a vast international scouting network and is fundamentally the classic buy-low-sell-high approach that the vast majority below the Prem have to adopt… but at a whole new level.  So the many loans from Udinese that you will no doubt have heard about were fundamentally players who they saw as being better suited to British football… most of the loans became permanent this summer.  The approach has attracted criticism… but whilst I’m biased (not least by the prospect of oblivion – not mere ineptitude, non-existence –  that this replaced) I’m comfortable with it.  Fundamentally a wealthy new owner could have bankrolled new signings.  This approach, whilst it has required investment, is merely more sustainable.  Helps that it’s producing such thrilling results, obviously… from when we clicked last season in late October we were simply fabulous.


…and what can we expect from you on Saturday, who do we need to look out for?

We have a big squad with plenty of cover in most positions. Despite a reasonably strong start most would agree that it hasn’t QUITE clicked yet…  our big wins have come against teams that have let us play, and woe betide anyone who does that.  We’ll play 3-5-2, and after a 2 hour marathon against Norwich on Tuesday it’s relatively easy to call the team.  Almunia in goal needs no introduction – a great stopper at this level and good talker who took a massive pay cut to play for us.  Three at the back will certainly feature the monstrous Gabriele Angella – tough but elegant – and Lloyd Doyley, twelve years in the first team squad now and rejected then recalled by virtually every manager.  The third will be one of the three who played on Tuesday, probably Swedish international Joel Ekstrand.


Ikechi Anya will be on one flank… extremely quick and with extraordinary spirit and stamina, he has improved steadily since his arrival last summer and was recently capped by Scotland, scoring on his debut.  Either Daniel Pudil (Czech) or Italian Davide Faraoni.  Centre mid…  Lewis McGugan signed from Forest this summer and doing well, Brazilian anchor Iriney plus one, perhaps precocious Irish U21 Sean Murray.  Up front, talisman Troy Deeney, a leader, target man and goalscorer in one, and the irrepressible Fernando Forestieri.  Difficult not to love our team at the moment… whatever its occasional defensive deficiencies.


Zola seems to be out of the reckoning at Sunderland, but he’s a manager that people seem to have an eye on, are you resigned to losing him at some point, or can he fulfil his ambitions at Vicarage Rd?

I can’t see him leaving before the summer at the earliest.  If we do go up I would guess it would take a Chelsea-type offer; if we don’t, you wouldn’t blame him for looking around.  He’s done a splendid and rather overlooked job – whatever the resources, moulding a team to play as we did last season as quickly as he did took some doing.


If I’ve got this right, you started off running a Watford Fanzine are now restricted to blogging.  Is the internet killing the fanzine scene or can they run happily alongside each other?

Ian and I spent about 10 years editing an ambitious website, still online at for posterity.  Blogging provided an alternative more conducive to family life as we’ve both gotten older and gotten all responsible.  Is internet killing the fanzine?  Yes, of course it is… why stand out in the cold getting abused when you can get the same abuse from the comfort of your own home from behind a computer screen?  I’d think of it as evolution rather than replacement though.  It’s the same ethos with rather less dampness.


When I came to your place for the cup game in 1990, I brought my own pies (Pooles, back when Pooles were good and didn’t owe us loads of money – Latics fans).  I didn’t get to eat them properly as they got squashed in my jacket pocket, so I went hungry that day.  Can you get decent pies in Watford and if so, what’s your favourite flavour and how do you go about eating it?


I was also at said cup game, and I think that I’ve attended every competitive Latics – Hornets game through happenstance.  Pies at Watford aren’t in great supply…  there was a halcyon period in the late 90s/

early00s when Pie City dominated a popular corner of a town centre precinct. A seemingly endless array of fillings cased in pastry at a surprisingly accessible price, long since sadly departed to the great receiver in the sky.  For food… the chippie on Market Street isn’t bad, and there’s a decent and inconspicuous bakery on Vicarage Road.  For drinks, as you’ll know, Oddfellows on Fearnley Street is the away pub, five minutes from the ground.

Pies and receivership aren’t the happiest combination at Latics today but thanks to Matt for his time and words.  We’ll wish him luck for the rest of the season (after the game of course) but only if he wishes us luck for tomorrow, because I suspect that we’ll need it much, much more.



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