We look back over an immensely successful 2014/15 season, by taking some of the defining moments one at a time. Here is an introduction to the End of Season Review series
Like a good book, a gripping TV show, or indeed a well-constructed rollercoaster, this season has had enough twists and turns that it`s more than a little difficult to sum it up succinctly. There was no single turning point, no defining event, and any attempt to reason that our season hinged on one particular moment is doomed to fail.
There are cases to be put forward about any number of moments that have come to define the season, and some are stronger than others. After all, would Billy McKinlay have got this squad promoted? We don`t know, but we do know that the appointment of Slavisa Jokanovic looks pretty bloody defining in the course of our season.
That ignores so much else though, and you could just as easily point to any number of tiny moments that pushed things ever more in our favour. After all, that patch of sand at the AmEx has a good case for the most important piece of the jigsaw.
The point is, we have been on a complex journey this season – the third volume of the Pozzo set.
Volume One was full of lights, drama, and ever-lengthening chapters as fans` initial uncertainty became joy. There were fresh-faced, brand new characters; they came to us from obscurity, sheer youth, another group`s supporting cast, or just plain nowhere (see Jean-Alain Fanchone).
There was a sense of abandon that morphed into belief as the season went on – a hazy rush whose crescendo was conducted by the unassuming frame and unpredictable genius of Gianfranco Zola. Ultimately though, Volume One was an expressionist masterpiece that never made it to the National Gallery. The climax was exciting, but the hero died. A damp (and quiet) squib at Wembley, and we never want to read those final pages again.
I will stop with the relentless metaphors now that we are at Volume Two. (Well spotted. Forgive me.)
A few canny additions and a bit more bite, that`s all we needed, surely? Zola`s propensity to instil a kind of ruthless joie de vivre was missing here though, and his strength became his weakness. He was ‘too nice`, they said, and that would be his undoing here in the unforgiving landscape of the Championship. Just a few months ago Zola turned a child, a lanky centre-half called Nathaniel Chablo-, Chalo-, Chabolah? into the midfield maestro and certain future England star Oh Lord, Chalobah. This time around Zola`s magic could do nothing but sustain a known quantity in Lewis McGugan – glimpses, only, of brilliance.
Zola brought us highs; could not deal with the lows.
(Let`s indulge in more metaphor-ery.)
And so the second act of Volume Two gave us Beppe Sannino. A poorly-translated overdubbed section of the story that drifted off at the end, again and again. Certainly very robust, but ultimately very difficult to understand fully. The final scenes that were played out underneath the Vicarage Road sun (always bright) ended up setting up some of the darker events to come at the start of Volume Three.
As exciting and out-of-the-blue Volume One was, and as intriguing and ripe for analysis Volume Two was, it is Volume Three that has brought success, and deserves reflection most. On paper, plenty on the outside looking in refer to the four bosses that took charge over the course of one season, the poor record against the top six, the disciplinary record, the foreigners, yet more loans?
Where Bournemouth brought the mainstream media an apparent fairytale, Watford could not. We`re not as simple as that. Neither are Bournemouth, really, but it`s certainly an easier story to tell than this one. The enigmatic prodigy never has simple glory, and in many ways it wouldn`t have suited what Watford have become to have taken the top prize in the end.
Second place keeps those that know only about the four bosses, the poor record against the top six, the disciplinary record, the foreigners, and so on, away from our story. We should be grateful for that. We can tell our own story, and we can tell it right. Not to those that know only about the four bosses, but to each other.
Like I said at the start, this season has not been about any one moment. Over the next few weeks, Vital Watford will tell the stories surrounding several of the most important and captivating events of the 2014/15 season. It won`t be a systematic review of Volume Three as such, but it will hopefully give pause for reflection, and bring a smile to a few Hornets supporters` faces.
The first part of the ‘Volume Three` series will be published on Vital Watford in the coming days.