Are Watford fans wrong to demand British signings?

Preconceptions are all too common amongst football fans. While Wayne Rooney is arguably going close to fulfilling his prophecy as ‘The Next Gazza’, Darius Vassell still has some work to do to match Michael Owen’s England goal tally.

Amongst Watford circles, Javier Acuna apparently only failed to rip the Championship apart last season because he had signed from Spain and had therefore been ‘Alex Geijo Mk II’ while the signing of Gianni Munari was lambasted by those who ‘just knew’ he wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as Cristian Battocchio.

Even now, the alleged capture of Jay Spearing has caused many to worry that he might ‘do an Andrews’, when he replaces Keith as our midfield barker, purely because he has signed from Bolton and plays in a similar position.

The point is that players tend to get thrown in together on the basis of assertions that are generally arbitrary.

So when it was, validly, decided amongst us fans last summer that we badly needed some Championship-hardened pros added to our squad, we could hardly believe our luck when we were presented with two men, one of whom had just finished playing his role in a side that had won the Championship, and another who had tasted the Premier League.

Lloyd Dyer, a player who had had the beating of us on numerous occasions. He had terrorised Lloyd Doyley just months earlier at Vicarage Road as his Leicester side ran rings around our half-baked efforts, and had arrived to blitz us into Premier League.

Keith Andrews – ‘The Next John Eustace’ – was perhaps even more what we craved. A strong player who would unite things behind the scenes, a leader on the pitch, ‘the final piece of the jigsaw’.

The anticipation was the closest we got to excitement about these Watford careers.

Perhaps that is harsh on Andrews, who it is easy to feel some sympathy for. When he played, he did possess those characteristics which we expected from him. He appeared to be a leader and his influence behind the scenes was evident as managerial chaos overshadowed our decent start to the season.

The Irishman has since spoken of his frustration at how things ended with us, having put so much effort into keeping the dressing room intact. The short-term signing of Adlene Guedioura, who took Andrews’ place in the squad as the fifth loan player, will have understandably frustrated him.

Yet the incident which saw him effectively leave the club, as Slavisa Jokanovic placed him on “gardening leave”, was clearly an unsavoury one. Andrews had only been left out of one game – at home to Cardiff – between his last start and his departing. Do we really need someone who is going to blow up like that at being omitted from one match-day squad?

His comments on Sky Sports before the 5-0 win at Fulham were the final straw. His relationship with Jokanovic had clearly broken down and he certainly let us know of it, in the most public fashion. Perhaps he wasn’t the personality that was required after all.

And that evening may be the best place to start with Dyer. On the full-time whistle, he appeared to have some cross words with Jokanovic after the most convincing of 5-0 thumpings. Surely he couldn’t be questioning the decision not to give him a game after such a result…could he?

Even if that night’s events are conjecture, Dyer’s rant at Beppe Sannino upon scoring the opener at Rotherham back in August did not leave much to the imagination. We had been told of the winger’s explosive pace, not of his explosive mouth, and he lost plenty of respect from Watford fans that night.

His career at Vicarage Road has, in hindsight, been in tatters since, although a succession of anonymous displays, in which he has shown very little of what we saw from him in Leicester blue have hardly helped build the bridges.

The pair have undoubtedly not been helped by the quick turnover in management – neither have probably known where they are standing all season. Who knows what promises they were given about game time, formations (Dyer’s inability to play at wing-back does beg the question of where he was told he might fit into the 3-5-2 system) and tactics.

The club is run in a unique way, one in which neither Dyer nor Andrews are accustomed. The system appears to have gobbled up Lewis McGugan too – the trio are likely never to don the Watford yellow again.

Slavisa Jokanovic gave a damning assessment of the trio, plus Matthias Ranegie, though, effectively stating that he had banished them from training because they had a poisonous effect on the squad. It is hard to argue that they have failed to deliver what we hoped.

And that brings us back to our preconceptions.

We were wrong to assume Keith Andrews would be ‘The Next Eustace’ – he wasn’t – and wrong to assume Dyer would be a superstar merely because he was British.

The technical abilities and personalities of players are not defined by their previous club or their nationalities. Maybe next time someone calls for a British manager who ‘knows how to get teams out of the division’, they might stop to remember this pair and that being a Brit is not necessarily the Holy Grail.

The ‘British Bulldog’ attributes are perfectly accessible in foreign players, just as there are numerous examples of the soft Brit who possess what you would expect of a foreign star.

Here’s hoping that the balance of the Watford squad will be restored this month with the type of player we need, wherever he comes from.

Now, I’m off to look up Vujadin Savic. I’ve heard he’s ‘The Next Essaid Belkalem’…


  1. Agree with the overall point that you are making that it is the character of the player that is most important rather than their nationality. As an aspiring journalist, there are a couple of things you might want to address. It’s not a preconception that Wayne Rooney might become ‘The Next Gazza’ as it’s not a preconceived notion. It’s more of a prediction. The events of a night cannot be conjecture – your understanding of them can be but not the events themselves. Also, the Republic of Ireland is not part of Britain and no Irishman will thank you for implying that it is. You obviously have a passion for journalism and I hope you succeed – it might be worth reading George Orwell’s essay on usage of the English language: If you can’t be bothered to read all of it, skip to the six rules for writing that he suggests. Hope you take this comment in the spirit it was intended, all the best.

  2. Thanks for the reply! Yep, of course you’re right on all those points. I hope it is pretty clear that Andrews is effectively British in footballing terms, he has spent his entire career in England, and that that’s what I meant. Of course you’re right to point that out though. Thanks for the feedback!

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