Our penultimate look at the 2011/12 season sees us cast an eye over the midfield
Next under the microscope of the Vital Watford 2011/12 season review are the club`s midfielders. Remember, anyone who played any part in a competitive game for the ‘Orns this season gets marked!
4. John Eustace: How long can John Eustace go on? Captain marvel was exactly that this season, again. Even when injury forced him out the side and Jonathan Hogg and Prince Buaben forged a steady little partnership, Super John barged his way back into the side with a couple of goals. Without wishing to put down in words an inappropriate one-man love affair, Eustace can do it all. He leads, he plays the hard man, he puts his head in where it hurts and he has seriously added goals to his game this season. He can also pick and pass and 9/10, it`s the spectacular ‘no-look` chips that connect with a team mate.8/10chrisgwfc: 7/10 – Another solid season for the skipper. Struggled in his partnership with Hogg earlier in the season but when he came back into the side in the new year as the more attacking midfielder has looked his old self.
7. Mark Yeates: Devastatingly frustrating, Mark Yeates has been in and out of the side all season, but, the stats don`t lie and somehow he was our top assist-maker. Unfortunately, his eight assists do not excuse his chronic laziness, inability to follow instructions, track back or protect his full-back. Yeates was at his most effective when Michael Kightly was the ‘main winger` as it were, taking the burden of being the winger through whom everything creative would go. Since it has been discovered that Sean Murray can play right-midfield really rather effectively, Yeates has been out of favour.5/10chrisgwfc: 6/10 – Potentially Watford’s most frustrating player. Has tailed off after a strong start to the season, but remains leading assists with eight, although a portion of those have come from the corners and free kicks he monopolizes when in the side.
11. Craig Forsyth: I`ve said it before, I`ll say it again, Craig Forsyth is not a striker. For starters, he`s too damn tall and gangly. He cannot cross a football, he doesn`t have much pace and he does not possess the innate ability to get his head down, get to the line, beat his marker and put in a tantalising cross. Whilst I understand he is still young and has only completed one season in English football, I do firmly believe that his future lies in being a striker. He has shown a real ability to strike a football very sweetly and has scored some well-taken, and in the instance of his strike at home to Leicester, important goals. He can hold the ball up too – perhaps better than our actual Scottish striker! Had Will Buckley and/or Don Cowie not departed, I doubt he would have been used so frequently, so it`s hard to be too unkind.6/10chrisgwfc: 6/10 – A season of ups and downs for Forsyth in his first season in English football. Looks a bit lost on the wing at times but potential is there. Looks like he could make a striker and has played at centre back in development games. Can strike a ball cleanly also as seen against Bradford against Leicester.
14. Ross Jenkins: Ross Jenkins needs football. There is no two-ways about it. At 20-something now, he has not been a true ‘regular` since his breakthrough campaign in 2008/09. He is clearly a good player and someone who can one day replace John Eustace. The question is when is that day? And will Jonathan Hogg trump him too that spot? A central pairing of Eustace and Jenkins is too slow and defensive to bear thinking about, and something similar would go for a Hogg-Jenkins axis. Whether a loan move or a permanent move beckon, who knows? I wouldn`t want rid, but for his own good some time away and game time would be hugely beneficial after another campaign where he stopped in, albeit well, for the aforementioned Eustace just a handful of times.5/10chrisgwfc: Jenkins, 5/10 – A frustrating season for Jenkins. After starting the first 4 or 5 games of the season lost his place to Jonathan Hogg after his arrival. Potential still to be the natural successor to Eustace but could do with some first team games on loan next season.
18 (1). Michael Kightly: Now and again you get the pleasure of seeing a really genuinely good player in a Watford shirt, someone you never expected to see wearing the yellow of Watford. Michael Kightly was one of those players. As loan moves go, it looked like it might not work out when he was injured on debut, but after an extension to the initial month`s deal, he proved exactly why he was too good for this level. Pacey, dynamic and creative, he brought the kind of panache to the side that all supporters happily lap up. In a lot of ways he was responsible for igniting the season.8/10chrisgwfc: 8/10 – A really good piece of business to get this man in for just over two months. Added a different dimension to our team with his pace and trickery scoring some wonderful goals. Just a shame he wasn`t ours.
18 (2). Alex Kacaniklic: A mouthful and a handful, (no leud jokes gents!), Kacaniklic was another winger who proved a brilliant bit of business on again, during an unfortunately short spell. I`m delighted to see him go back to Fulham and play games and it`s even more pleasing to think that he came to us without having made a senior career appearance. Kudos to Dyche and his scouting team for indentifying and subsequently taking a risk on the young Swede. Much like Kightly, he invigorated us.8/19chrisgwfc: 7/10 – Didn’t have the same impact as Kightly but still added a different dimension to our midfield. Grew steadily into our team and looked a real prospect as the time he was recalled.
19. Prince Buaben: Almost certainly the most adept ball player at the club, Buaben has suffered from bad luck and poor timing this season. A slow start to the season as he arrived unfit meant that it was well into the Autumn before we saw a man who was very much sought after when we captured him. It was clear however from early on that this was someone who has no little ability about him. The issue, as with many ball-playing midfielders at this level, is just how much he affects the game. When he is on song, he is an integral cog in the offensive third, when he isn`t, the game passes him by and he very much becomes the archetypal ‘nothing midfielder`. One man who will definitely benefit from a full pre-season schedule ahead of next campaign.7/10chrisgwfc: 7/10 – A decent first season in English football for the Prince. Had to wait his chance but settled into the English game quicker than most who make the move from Scotland. Possibly our best ‘ball player’ and is often a threat breaking from the midfield lines.
22. Sean Murray: As Matt Rowson wrote very eloquently for the brilliant Two Unfortunates, we all knew about young Mr Murray. Those of us who know our way around an internet browser had seen his YouTube moment – the 40 yard stunner for the youth team, and we expected big, big things. Thankfully he delivered, and although he has committed the cardinal sin of tattooing 99% of his arm space like much of the football world nowadays, he has been a revelation. Deployed wide despite being a central player he has excelled and chipped in with a healthy number of goals. It was a bold, bold move to hand Murray a start against Spurs in the FA Cup, but clearly the tact paid off!8/10chrisgwfc: 8/10 – Had to wait for his chance which came unexpectedly against Tottenham and has not looked back since. Isn’t blessed with great pace but his industry and ability on the ball make him one to watch for the future. A definite future Premier League footballer.
32. Jonathan Hogg: Small victories count for a lot as far as I`m concerned, so here goes. We signed Jonathan Hogg in late August, and using my encyclopaedic Football Manager knowledge it registered that he was a defensive midfielder. I was poo pooed, but lo and behold he is. At the time, we were certainly not crying out for one, but he has proved an excellent piece of business. Everything that partner in crime John Eustace is (without the goals, pearly whites or curly hair), Hogg has only had a couple of bad patches. Has a super-seeded Jenkins in the race to take over Super John`s throne? Probably.8/10chrisgwfc: 7/10 – Made an impact after arriving as his tenacious attitude added an extra competetive nature to our midfield. Excelled between Nov-Feb before suffering a slight dip in form. Could use the ball better in some situations.