Assessing the Watford squad ahead of the 2014-15 season

With July now upon us and England’s quadrennial early exit from the World Cup out of the way, attentions will now inevitably turn to club football and for Watford fans, a season which again offers more hope than could have been dreamt of under previous regimes.

With the Hornets having completed plenty of their transfer business already – some exciting, some less so – I take a look at the make-up of the squad and where, if anywhere, further additions need to be made ahead of the upcoming 2014-15 campaign as Beppe Sannino’s men look to bounce back from what was, by their standards, a poor season last time around.

Goalkeepers

With Manuel Almunia having presumably turned down the offer of a contract extension at Vicarage Road, Watford acted quickly to secure the services of experienced stopper Heurelho Gomes from Tottenham Hotspur.

While Gomes was known for the odd clanger at White Hart Lane, it appears to have been forgotten by some that he was widely recognised as one of the top goalkeepers in the country during the 2009-10 season when Spurs qualified for the Champions League.

With a wealth of international and European experience behind him, the 33-year-old can go down as another that would have been totally out of reach pre-Pozzo family.

Almunia had a similar reputation when he became a Hornet and made a great success of his time here – there is no reason why Gomes can’t do the same.

As back-up to Gomes, Jonathan Bond will be looking to improve on what was a disappointing 2013-14 campaign.

If Bond was to be afforded some time out on loan, as he surely needs if he is to ever break through as the Hornets’ number one, then efforts will need to continue to be made to sign a third goalkeeper of a decent standard.

Gary Woods remains in talks to renew his deal and he may be the best available option after trialist Chris Lewington opted to sign for Colchester United.

16-year-old scholar Nathan Gartside signed a two-year deal but it would be a surprise if he was involved in the first-team squad.

Defenders

The number of centre-backs that are now contracted to the club is surely the clearest sign yet that Beppe Sannino intends to stick with the 3-5-2 formation that he inherited from Gianfranco Zola last season.

The squad is certainly well-stocked in this department, and it would be a surprise if any more were signed, but the choice of which three to play appears less clear.

Of the seven who, on the face of it, will be fighting for three positions, only Gabrielle Angella really demands inclusion after an impressive debut season at Vicarage Road.

Of the other six – Joel Ekstrand, Tommie Hoban, Lloyd Doyley, Essaid Belkalem, Gabriel Tamas and Craig Cathcart – none really stand out as obvious picks and it will be fascinating to see which two Sannino plumps for.

Ekstrand is clearly a talented defender and Doyley a terrific club servant, but both had poor seasons by their standards last year while Belkalem, who was hardly involved, has starred for Algeria at the World Cup – receiving national acclaim for his performances this week by being selected in The Guardian’s World Cup Round of 16 XI.

In addition to these options, Tamas has experienced Premier League promotion with West Bromwich Albion while the signing of Cathcart appears to be sensible enough – despite some inexplicable negativity surrounding him because of a few iffy performances in a loan spell five years ago.

There is plenty of strength in depth but it is crucial that Sannino picks his first choice back three early and gives it a chance to gel – too much chopping and changing was one of the reasons for poor defending last season.

Wing-backs

Assuming that the signing of Ecuador international Juan Carlos Paredes goes through, we again looked well-stocked in this department.

Paredes will replace the outgoing Marco Davide Faraoni, and will hopefully show much more of an appetite for English football than the Italian. His performances at the World Cup have been good, although most observers would note that he appears far more suited to a wing-back role than full-back, a further indication that 3-5-2 will be Sannino’s Plan A.

It seems likely that Paredes will generally compete with Ikechi Anya for a place on the right-hand side although the Scottish speedster is also perfectly adequate on the left-hand side, just as new signing Lloyd Dyer, who usually plays on the left, can play on the right.

Dyer looks an excellent acquisition having been part of a squad that won the league last season; he is exactly the type of Championship-hardened player that we were calling out for.

The 31-year-old was used as an out-and-out winger by Leicester though and if he is to nail down a starting position at Vicarage Road, rather than just being used as a winger when chasing a goal, he will have to take a leaf out of Anya’s book and work to improve the defensive side of his game – again, presuming that we will be playing 3-5-2.

Dyer will be up against the stiff competition of Daniel Pudil on the left-hand side. The Czech international was one of a few who perhaps had a better 2013-14 campaign than he did in 2012-13 and he will be looking to build on that this time around.

Midfielders

The centre of the park is the one area, with the squad as it is now, that needs strengthening. Even with the (hopefully) inevitable capture of Daniel Tozser, the struggles in midfield last season are evidence to suggest that Sannino may need one more.

With the Hungary international in the side, it would still only take an injury to Almen Abdi to make Watford look vulnerable.

Lewis McGugan actually appeared to perk up towards the end of last season, his goal-scoring record improving markedly, but as we became accustomed to, days will come when he is all but a threat. If McGugan can continue from where he left off, we may have a player on our hands but preparations need to be made for the opposite.

When we was left out or injured last season, in addition to the Abdi injury, the midfield pairing of Cristian Battocchio and Sean Murray, in front of Tozser, were overrun far too often, especially away from home. They are both talented players and will hopefully continue to improve but if a couple of injuries were to leave them exposed as the first choice midfield, it would be a cause for concern.

Tozser and one more, hopefully a holding player, is the order of the day here if we are to be totally comfortable with our options, possibly allowing one of Murray and Battocchio to go out on loan.

Forwards

This, more than any other area of the pitch, is where we are the envy of the division.

In Troy Deeney, Matej Vydra and Fernando Forestieri we have three, proven, top-class Championship forwards who have scored goals in this division and would undoubtedly be wanted by any other side at this level.

The Deeney/Vydra partnership has been much discussed since the return of the Czech Republic international was announced, and this is of course a huge cause for excitement, but we shouldn’t forget that Forestieri who was superb on occasions last season but was let down largely due to injury.

Vydra was absolutely magnificent at times two years ago, it is hard to remember a better run off form from any Hornet in the last decade than that December-February period, but when he was misfiring, Forestieri stood in very well.

Both will be utilised alongside the main man Deeney, who it is imperative that we keep hold of unless a ridiculous offer comes in. His talismanic status means that he is worth far more to us than he would be to anyone else, and therefore we should keep hold of him.

Mathias Ranegie proved himself useful towards the latter stages of last season and would be an excellent deputy while the return of Diego Fabbrini to the setup is also a positive – the Italian was so close to being devastatingly good at times last season.

Fabbrini could do with spending a few hours in the gym to beef up and must improve his awareness but has all the talent to be incredibly good at this level – he was selected for Italy only 12 months before moving to Vicarage Road after all.

Our forward options are excellent and there is surely no need to invest any further in this area, unless the worst happens and we lose Deeney to the Premier League.

Here’s a line-up that could potentially start the Hornets’ opening game of the season against Bolton Wanderers: Gomes; Tamas, Angella, Hoban; Anya, Abdi, Tozser, McGugan, Dyer; Deeney, Vydra.

What do you think? Where do Watford need to strengthen and which players will make the starting line-up come August 11? Let me know in the comments below!

Vydra return could spark ‘special’ season

Unless, as a Watford fan, you have avoided all forms of communication recently, you will be aware that Matej Vydra has made a triumphant return to Vicarage Road.

The news, which was somewhat surprising, given that the 22-year-old recently told Czech news agency CTK that he harboured hopes of a second spell in England’s top tier, sparked fans into a social media frenzy.

And despite the forward’s counter-productive loan spell with West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League, the knock-on effects of Watford capturing their number one summer transfer target could see the Hornets bounce back from an equally disappointing 2013-14 season (I hope I’m not getting too carried away here) to win promotion under the Pozzo family’s stewardship at the third time of asking.

By saying that, I’m not underestimating the competitive nature of the league; if anything it will be tougher this year, but I feel that, by the time August rolls around, Giuseppe Sannino’s side will have the necessary tools to compete for promotion.

Vydra was Watford’s top scorer during the 2012-13 campaign, netting 22 goals in 47 appearances as he helped himself to the Championship’s Player of the Season award and his side to the Championship play-off final.

His form earned him a new five-year contract with parent club Udinese last summer and, after the Czech Republic international expressed his desire to play in England’s top tier, a chance with the Baggies followed.

But the move did not quite work out as planned, however, as Vydra scored just three times in 22 appearances.

The Czech Republic international was the subject of interest from Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United last summer, but although more more top-tier interest seemed unlikely after an underwhelming 2013-14 season, Vydra admitted that he harboured hopes of a permanent switch to the Premier League ahead of the upcoming 2014-15 campaign.

It appears that – for whatever reason – an attractive enough offer of a second spell in the Premier League was not on the table for Vydra this summer, but the knock-on effects of his decision to return to Watford will almost certainly see the Vicarage Road side reap the benefits.

Winning promotion from the Championship is worth an estimated £120 million and Vydra, who has proven he can score lots of goals in the second tier, will probably know by now that the Hornets represent his best chance of becoming a Premier League player once more – a win-win for both parties.

While the player has been given an opportunity to achieve his personal goal, the club have solved the issue of not having a ‘pacey striker’ who can run in behind defences.

Throughout last season fans were crying out for a forward in the same ilk as Vydra, and that gap has been plugged by, well, the ‘pacey striker’ whose boots we were trying to fill in the first place.

Although a lack of goals was not the main issue plaguing the Hornets last season (I’ll get to that in a second), reuniting the 22-year-old with another proven 20-goal forward in Troy Deeney is certainly not going to do any harm (except, perhaps, to opposition defences).

Speaking of Deeney, I recently wrote that keeping him at Watford was one of the ‘five things that should happen at Vicarage Road this summer‘ and while there has undoubtedly been interest in the ex-Walsall man, I feel that Vydra’s return might just encourage him to stick around in order to finish the job they started during the 2012-13 season.

Both the Hornets’ defensive frailties from last season and a tendency to concede late goals, partially due to a lack of fitness, are issues that Vydra will not be able to fix.

However, a couple of experienced, if not overwhelming, defensive additions in Craig Cathcart and Gabriel Tamas and a full pre-season under head coach Sannino have me in an optimistic mood for the season ahead.

Not to mention a return to fitness for the hugely popular duo of Almen Abdi and Fernando Forestieri, the probable return of Daniel Tozser on a permanent basis and a couple of new signings thrown in for good measure.

What do you think? Could Vydra’s return be the start of a another memorable season in the Hornets’ history? Let me know in the comments below.

Can you tell that I can’t wait for the new season to start? Forza Watford!

Who could be on their way out of Watford this summer?

At last the end has arrived, a time for most to sit back and reflect on the season just passed, however for Watford fans it’s a season that won’t live long in the memory.

The Hornets’ dismal campaign came to an end on Saturday with Giuseppe Sannino’s men being comprehensively beaten 4-1 by Huddersfield Town, condemning his under-performing side to a 13th place finish.

Thoughts turn to the upcoming transfer window and, if rumours are to be believed, it’s going to be another eventful one at Vicarage Road. Below I’ll look at some of the players who have been linked with moves away from Watford and offer my verdict on whether, ultimately, they will stay or go this summer.

Manuel Almunia

Almunia has had an indifferent season this year and a number of his performances have been nothing short of erratic.

The 2013-14 campaign could have been the Spaniard’s last at Vicarage Road.

At times the former Arsenal goalkeeper has pulled off some fantastic saves to keep Watford in games and other times (Millwall being a perfect example) he has a tendency to botch the most simple of saves.

Almunia isn’t getting any younger and it looked like a farewell to the Watford fans during the ‘lap of honour’ after the Hornets’ final game of the season, where he appeared to be waving goodbye to the fans and hugging his fellow team-mates.

Of course I might be reading too much into this, but I think he will leave in the summer and another similarly-experienced goalkeeper is required if the Hornets are going to challenge for promotion next season.

If he does hang up his boots, or move on to pastures new, Almunia will go down as a in Watford history for his heroics in last summer’s play-off semi final against Leicester City and for that, Manuel, I thank you.

Verdict: GONE

Joel Ekstrand

Ekstrand has struggled this season in comparison to last year; the Sweden international looks a shadow of the player he was during the Hornets’ run to the Championship play-off final and whether he’s just lost his confidence, or if it’s because he is simply unsettled, I don’t know.

I’ve always rated Ekstrand even with his indifferent form this year so it’ll be sad to see him go, but a move would perhaps be beneficial for both himself and Watford.

I don’t think many Watford fans will be losing sleep if he does decide to ply his trade elsewhere and l won’t be surprised to see him depart during the summer.

Verdict: GONE

Alexander Merkel

Merkel arrived at Vicarage Road in January on loan from Udinese but is yet to make much of an impression.

The midfielder is still trying to live up to the reputation he gained as a teenager but, after picking up a red card against Reading on his debut, he has been reduced to cameo appearances from the substitutes bench.

Both Christian Battochio and Sean Murray seem to be ahead of Merkel in the pecking order, which leads me to believe that Sannino doesn’t see much of a future at Watford for the 22-year-old.

It’s not been all bad for the former AC Milan midfielder, he has shown glimpses of quality but looks almost certain to head back to parent club Udinese due to a lack of game time.

It will be a shame if he does leave Watford as I think, given a run of games, he could prove to be a valuable player.

Verdict: GONE

Troy Deeney

Speculation regarding a summer move to the Premier League for the former Walsall man has ramped up in recent weeks.

Rumours began circulating that Aston Villa and Newcastle United were considering making bids for the 25-year-old – with a transfer fee of around £8 million also being mentioned – while recently-promoted Burnley could also make an offer for his services.

Watford will find it hard to keep hold of the Deeney this summer after back-to-back 20-goal seasons, and the forward’s performances have certainly been worthy of a move to the Premier League.

At times he looks like the only player that wants to get ‘stuck in’ and the forward’s stoppage-time penalty during the Huddersfield defeat could turn out to be the last time his finds the net in a Hornets’ shirt.

That goal pushed Deeney’s goal tally up to an impressive 24 in the league, only 4 behind the Championship’s leading scorer Ross McCormack, and I’m in no doubt that he will have suitors this summer.

Personally, I think he’ll stay where he is and I hope the owners have the same mindset.

If Watford are to win promotion, Troy Deeney will be a huge part of that – especially due to the fact that he’s such a valued member of the squad. Another 20-goal season would help the 2014-15 promotion bid and that could push his value closer to the £10 million mark.

Management need to do everything in their power to ensure he starts the first game next season.

He seems to have such a good relationship with the fans, a mutual appreciation you could say and it’ll be a bitter pill to swallow for the Watford faithful if the striker departs for bigger and better things

However, if Deeney was to depart I don’t think many could blame him. He’s served us well and shown enough quality to warrant a shot at succeeding in the Premier League and, after Saturday’s dismal performance, why would he want to stick around?

The only saving grace in this case is that if Deeney is to go, the Hornets’ owners, the Pozzo family, will ensure that the club get the maximum value for him, so it’s going to have to be a big offer to lure them into a sale.

It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I think Deeney will still be at Vicarage Road next season.

Verdict: STAY

Fitz Hall

After initially giving ‘One Size’ a one-month contract having continued to train with the club despite his release at the end of the 2012-13 season, in November the Hornets gambled and gave the injury-prone defender another one-month deal to the end of the season.

Hall made one start and one substitute appearance before his contract expired but was allowed to continue training with Watford under new head coach Sannino.

He signed another short-term deal in January, which was later extended until the end of the 2014-15 campaign, but unfortunately it’s not quite worked out for the 33-year-old as he has continued to struggle with injuries. This leads me to believe that Hall’s contract will not be renewed.

It’s a shame because I still believe he’s a top class player when fit and, as someone who is big, strong and powerful while possessing leadership qualities that have been sorely lacking this season, he is exactly what we need in a defender; making his ongoing injury problems even more frustrating.

Verdict: GONE

Marco Davide Faraoni

When Faraoni arrived at Vicarage Road a lot was expected from the former Italy under-21 international. It’s fair to say that the hasn’t lived up to his hype; the quality he has is unquestionable, however he’s just far too inconsistent and often backs out of challenges.

I would love it if he was to remain a Watford player because he really could be fantastic player, but I often get the feeling that his heart is not really in it.

There were rumours of a move back to Italy with Torino in January, and I expect Faraoni might be plying his trade there come August.

It looked like a phenomenal transfer on paper but unfortunately it just hasn’t come to fruition for either party.

Verdict: GONE

Marco Cassetti

Towards the beginning of the season Cassetti seemed to flourish playing in a more central defensive role where his lack of pace could not be as exposed as often as it was at wing-back.

While still a capable and intelligent player, I would be very surprised if the Hornets were to keep the 36-year-old for another year.

Cassetti has been a great servant to Watford in the two years he’s been with the club, keeping us mesmerised with his fantastic beard as well as his calm and composed style of football.

Although he could still prove a valuable asset, I don’t think that the scenario that sees the Italian sign another one-year deal is particularly likely as he looks set to return home to his family.

Verdict: GONE

Currently out on loan:

Javier Acuna

Acuna is another of Watford technical director Gianluca Nani’s summer signings that didn’t quite work out.

The 25-year-old forward failed to get a run of games under Gianfranco Zola and was subsequently shipped out to La Liga side Osasuna where he’s scored one goal in 13 games.

For me, Acuna never really got a chance at Vicarage Road so I’d welcome him back to see what he can do. Whether or not that actually happens is a different story altogether.

Verdict: STAY

Diego Fabbrini

Fabbrini received a lot of criticism from Watford fans before a loan move to Serie B outfit Siena materialised in January.

The forward made it clear he didn’t want to pass to anyone else which would have been a little more acceptable if he actually found the net, but he didn’t. I think there’s a good player in there somewhere but I’m not sure the Hornets will be willing to wait until that materialises.

Verdict: GONE

Iriney

Like Acuna, Iriney struggled to make an impact at Watford and was promptly sent back to Spain on loan in January.

Shortly before his transfer window move to RCD Mallorca, the midfielder showed some real promise and I honestly believe he could still have a role to play at the club. After all, there’s a reason he’s amassed over 150 appearances in La Liga.

I think Iriney will be back at Watford for next season.

Verdict: STAY

Whatever happens this summer it sure to be another busy transfer window of comings and goings.

If the players listed above are to leave this summer, then it’s essential that Watford don’t make the same mistake as last year and get in adequate replacements.

Which players do you think will remain at Vicarage Road and which will move on to pastures new? Let me know in the comments below!

Five reasons for Watford fans to be positive


Despite last Monday’s defeat at Queens Park Rangers surely now putting an end to any hopes of Watford clambering up into the play-off positions, there is an air of positivity about the direction that the team is going in on the pitch.

The Hornets outplayed the riches of QPR on Easter Monday for long periods and lost the game as a result of their commitment to winning it.

Two excellent performances over the Easter weekend against Ipswich Town and the aforementioned defeat at Loftus Road appear to have finally won over any lingering doubts about Beppe Sannino’s suitability to the role of head coach and if the virtually impossible doesn’t happen this season, as expected, then there is plenty to be positive about heading into the 2014-15 campaign.

Below are five reasons for Watford fans to be positive ahead of next season.

The return of ‘The Professor’ Almen Abdi

Almen Abdi’s reintroduction and the instantaneous improvement of the team’s performances has reaffirmed the Swiss playmaker’s role as Watford’s most vital cog.

He plays with an effortless panache, never taking two touches when one will do, and creates space for others with his excellent movement. Lewis McGugan appears so much more of a threat when afforded that room on the edge of the opposition penalty area and Abdi’s relationship with Daniel Tozser is verging on the telepathic already; a mouth-watering prospect heading into next season (provided we sign the latter permanently).

It is hard not to look back and think what might have been had last year’s player of the season been fit throughout this campaign but if Abdi is a fit-and-happy Hornet come August then the rest of the Championship should beware.

We’ve finally found the right balance

Sannino’s tenure began a complete overhaul of the Hornets’ playing style. Adopting more of a 5-3-2 formation than a 3-5-2, the emphasis was on keeping tight at the back and looking to take one of a few chances created in order to win the game.

As time has gone on, we have remained tight defensively, and are scoring more freely. The late goals conceded are a major concern but I feel that this is more of a psychological problem than tactical one.

Watford have scored three or more in five of the last six home league games, while also putting four past Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, and if they could defend as tightly in the last 10 minutes as they do throughout first 80, we would undoubtedly be sitting pretty in the play-off positions right now.

Sannino has found the correct tactical balance.

We have Beppe Sannino

Speaking of Sannino, the Vicarage Road faithful are beginning to fall in love with eccentric Italian who is making the team truly tick for perhaps the first time since February 2013.

His extravagant approach on the sidelines may well have been treated with scorn had results not gone our way, but have now endeared themselves to Hornets’ fans.

Sannino has instilled belief and confidence into a team that looked bereft of such facets in the autumn.

Within weeks of his first job in a foreign country and culture, the Italian had turned around a run of five consecutive home defeats, in which Gianfranco Zola’s side failed to score in the last four, into the greatest home form in the club’s history; quite extraordinary.

The away form is not as bad as appears on paper either. A combination of late goals, poor refereeing decisions and a bit of bad luck has culminated in a run of results that don’t reflect the performances we have been putting in.

Sannino is absolutely the right man to spearhead our promotion push next season; as he reminded us on the BBC’s Late Kick-Off recently, ‘I am Gaffer’.

An exciting transfer window beckons

The club’s hierarchy have accepted that mistakes have been made this season which will be put right this summer.

Allowing experienced players with knowledge of the league and the grit to succeed in it, i.e. John Eustace, to leave has been accepted as an error by Gianfranco Zola in the aftermath of his resignation and one would imagine that the scattergun approach to signings last summer is one that Gianluca Nani will not want a repeat of. It is a huge summer for the Hornets’ technical director.

Nani’s successful signings ratio this season has not even been particularly close to 50% and for every Daniel Tozser there has been a Samba Diakite; for Albert Riera, a Lucas Neill.

But it is worth remembering that the Hornets were acting under a transfer embargo over the summer which appeared to restrict them from spending any sort of transfer fee. If we spend a bit of money over the summer and use the Udinese link a little more prudently, then there is every reason to be positive.

Watford won’t be viewed as a threat

It has been obvious from day one this season that opposition were setting up with ten men behind the ball to frustrate us, and it has worked.

Watford surprised opposition throughout the 2012-13 campaign but this season they simply knew what to expect but perhaps, after a season of relative under-achievement, they can aim to surprise a few more next year.

If, from a mid-table season, the Hornets have lulled a few opponents into a false sense of security going into games against us, then we can use that to our advantage.

I see no reason why this season can’t just be a bad one-off in what is undoubtedly a very positive time for the club. We are now getting very close to being very good, but others may not know it yet.

A customary reflection on Watford’s mixed-bag season


At the end of every season it’s customary to take a moment to pause and reflect on the season just gone.

In a sport where records, past statistics and history are of such massive relevance, reflecting on the newest addition to our team’s history is done often and extensively by many, and with varying results.

In Watford’s case, whereas last season, with its last minute winning goals and gut-wrenching drama, was a season that most could get behind, this season has proven far more difficult for us to maintain a united front as fans.

Last season had clearly defined periods of success and failure, but the current campaign has seemed to dip in and out like a toddler testing to see if the sea is too cold, never quite sure whether to tip over into a full blown promotion push or wallow comfortably outside of the play-offs and all of the associated heartbreak that’s possible within. This indecision and inconsistency has led me to change my views and ideas on our progress and relative success almost on a weekly basis.

Upon seeing players of the quality of Gabrielle Angella, Daniel Tozser and Albert Riera take the field emblazoned with the was-red-now-yellow moose/hart on their breasts, I feel pride, whereas every goal these men in yellow concede in the last 10 minutes of a match causes me to reconsider even watching 11 guys kick a ball around on a Saturday afternoon.

But for every McGugan corner that fails to clear the defender at the near post, there have been moments like the reception for Almen Abdi upon his return from injury, Troy Deeney’s long overdue Bournemouth hat-trick, and going 2-0 up at the Etihad (regrettably I wasn’t there, rather cheering St Albans on to putting 5 goals past a certain Jack Bonham and his Arlesey Town side).

At the start of the season many of those so-called ‘football experts’ claimed that our Wembley disappointment could cause a hangover that may see us struggle this season. While many of us scoffed, buoyed by having signed the loanees despite a transfer embargo, I can’t really argue that this season has shown many of the hallmarks of a hangover.

I’ve had many hangovers in my time and feel that I’d be qualified to say that the feeling after the home matches against Yeovil and Sheffield Wednesday felt not unlike the feeling the day after dragging yourself in at 5 in the morning, ears ringing and coat smelling strongly of tobacco. But if Zola’s last act was one resembling a thundering hangover then Sannino’s first act has been the strong coffee and alka seltzer we desperately needed.

The follicly challenged Italian has certainly helped steady a sinking ship, and has led to unbeaten run upon unbeaten run, but I can’t help but feel that his greatest accomplishment could be just round the corner.

Whereas a wasteful pre-season and the weight of expectation set us up for a fall from the beginning last season, Sannino will whip this squad, and whatever additions arrive over the Summer, into shape. Newly unburdened by that expectation, and probably back to being relegation hot favourites with most of the bookies, we have a blank canvas for next season.

With a shiny new East Stand glimmering in the background I look forward to the back end of the summer, sitting on my red plastic chair, and cheering on those same moose/hart emblazoned shirts, while also periodically shouting expletives at the referee.