What went wrong against Huddersfield yesterday, and is there more than meets the eye? Some thoughts on a disappointing final day
What did yesterday’s abject performance actually mean, and what may have caused it? The manner in which we were beaten was extremely worrying, regardless of the fact that in terms of league position the result meant extremely little. Are fans in a position to get to the bottom of the reasons why we played so poorly, and is there a deeper significance to the way the game panned out?
We should start by thinking about the relevance – or perceived relevance – of yesterday’s result and performance. On the last day of the season, it is likely that nothing will be up for grabs – relegation or promotion being decided on the final day is something that this club has not experienced often in its history. Last year was of course one of the times where more than just pride was at stake on the final day, but yesterday – and most other final days of the season in recent memory – could not have been further from those circumstances.
So, what are the players playing for in a game where our league position can move no more than one up or one down? What is the motivation for putting in a good performance and getting three points?
I daresay that to most fans, the answer to these questions are obvious, the final game should be like any other, players should put a shift in and should be expected to want to win. It is the players’ job to play in this manner, and not doing so means that they are not doing their job properly.
Some may take it one step further and say that, if anything, this game is more important than the penultimate game – which of course may mean nothing in terms of league position too – as it is right to want to go out on a high, and this final match will live longer in the memory than others towards the tail end of the season for the simple reason that it is the last one to happen for three months.
It is my opinion that players should be playing for professional pride on the final day, and the Huddersfield squad clearly took this game seriously. Whether our woeful showing was because of a lack of effort or a lack of cohesion, the point remains that this was probably our worst performance of the season.
Aside from a bright five minute period at the start of the game, we were gutless, without spark, and petulant when things didn’t go our way. We lacked any invention and there was a distinct lack of urgency from several key players in our starting eleven. Two very disappointing mistakes from Jonathan Bond at his near post made certain that the scoreline was as embarrassing as the performance, and it was right that we lost 4-1, as a 2-1 or even 2-0 would have told the wrong story.
It is not the first time that a Watford side has underperformed on the final day, and no doubt fans up and down the country will have witnessed substandard displays from their team. It won’t be the last time a set of players disappoint in their last game of the season.
It is rumoured however that this lack of bite was more than just a case of the players being unbothered by the scoreline in a match that meant little for the club’s final standing. Accusations of the squad being ‘on the beach’ before the season was finished are sure to abound, but more interesting are the stories that there was something of a training ground revolt following the loss at Charlton on Tuesday.
If rumours are to be believed, the squad was shaken by a small group of players who would not put up with the cancellation of a scheduled day off on Wednesday – a move made by Head Coach Beppe Sannino in the wake of Watford’s poor performance at the Valley. It has been suggested that these players – conspicuous in thier absence from the first team squad yesterday – attempted to arrange a mass boycott of training on Wednesday.
This is not the first time this season that it has been suggested that there is dressing room unrest, and while results are unimpressive these stories are easier to believe. It is a serious concern if there is a set of players who have effectively attempted a mutiny, and in such circumstances serious questions have to be asked about what the best course of action involves.
If the rumours are true, Beppe Sannino’s role must be called into question, as must the contracts of the players attempting to circumvent the authority of the Head Coach and the club itself. If there are players that have adversely affected morale and in turn our final performance, there is an argument to be had about whether they should be allowed to stay with the club in the long term. Equally, if the Head Coach has engendered an atmosphere in the club where key players are so frustrated that they attempt to undermine his position, questions must be asked of his methods and demeanour with the playing staff.
The owners and senior management will be looking for answers, and they have a summer to implement change where it is needed. Fans will also want the reasons for the performances in the final few games. We all have a long summer ahead.
There is much to be asked in the wake of such a disappointing performance, and the same questions will come up again and again. Was it a case of the players simply not putting in the effort and required concentration because of the perception that the final fixture meant nothing, or had the squad been hit hard by the attitude of some players following Charlton away? Is there more to this 4-1 defeat than meets the eye?
Without wishing to speculate any more than I have done already, I will leave these questions hanging in the air for now. The manner of the end of season reviews and interviews with players that will inevitably surface in local media in the coming days and weeks may give some indication of the atmosphere in the dressing room, but whether we ever hear the full story is not known.
Whatever did or did not happen does not change the fact that this summer is extremely important. Lessons must be learned, and the right players need to come in, with the right players departing too. A scattergun approach to player recruitment is not the way forward, and each member of this squad must be assessed in order to work out what is best for the club. If there is a poisonous element to the squad, I hope such a faction is moved on, and if the relationship between the coaching and playing staff is not healthy, I expect something to be done about it.
Most of all, I do not wish to find myself writing a similar piece at the close of next season. We rightly expect more from our football club than what was on show yesterday.
What do you think caused yesterday’s capitulation?
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