How can a fixture that was relatively recently contested in the Premier League feel so quintessentially Champo? Leeds should associate playing Watford with Raphinha wonder goals and Diego Llorente winners, yet both clubs have hit shuffle since getting themselves relegated, and now Sam Byram is back, and Tom Ince is there, and it’s our third game in six days, and suddenly I’m double checking they’re not going to bring Chris Iwelumo on up front, are they?
This probably goes a long way to explaining why this fixture is now being played in the Championship. It’s easy to forget that Jesse Marsch did enjoy a honeymoon period at Leeds, climaxing in the away end singing his name after a 3-0 win at Vicarage Road. Leeds had won ten points out of the last twelve, and were nine clear of the relegation zone.
Brilliance from Raphinha and Jack Harrison made it, by all accounts, a great away day, but plenty of fans were watching on TV through their fingers. Bielsaball was dead, and Leeds were getting sloppy, counting their blessings of individual inspiration and Watford defenders falling over to gift Rodrigo another goal. Marsch was relying on last-minute winners against Norwich and Wolves, and teams as bad as Watford, who had appointed Roy Hodgson as their third manager of the season. Imagine falling for the grift of giving a failed England boss who doesn’t seem particularly arsed a load of money in a desperate attempt to avoid relegation!
Hopefully this is a good omen from Moxco’s match report, writing about the returning Liam Cooper:
Bielsa’s football was the making of Cooper, but since coming back into the side he’s been applying all he learned while going back to the way he used to play in the bad before times. He anticipated danger, won interceptions, tackles, blocks. Cooper was the first to pivot to Bielsa’s ideas when he came, now he looks first to rise to what Marsch wants. Alongside him, Llorente was inconsistent: sometimes tackling with all the trimmings, other times just… I don’t even know what.
Their story since then
It’s Watford: you know the score. Still owned by the Pozzo family, following relegation they appointed Rob Edwards then sacked him after ten games with the team one point outside the play-offs and six off the top two. Two months later, Edwards was given the Luton job, and got them promoted. Watford finished 11th, having sacked Edwards’ replacement Slaven Bilic, and Bilic’s replacement Chris Wilder. They’ve now turned to former Barnsley and West Brom manager Valerien Ismael, who has lasted on average less than a season at each of his previous jobs. As usual, they’re pretending they’ve changed. They’re already in talks about extending Ismael’s deal. Crucially, they never announced the length of his original contract, so perhaps they’re as shocked that he’s lasted this long as he is.
Their situation now
Appointing a nomadic head coach while known as a club that churns through managers feels reassuringly New Watford, but their squad is haunted by the ghosts of Leeds’ wilderness years in Jake Livermore and Tom Ince. As usual, there’s the dozen or so Football Manager regens, including the Colombian wonderkid Yasser Asprilla, who was brilliant for my Leeds team on the latest edition but has only actually scored once in 41 Championship appearances.
Jamal Lewis, who played left-back under Daniel Farke at Norwich, has joined on loan from Newcastle and always felt like too obvious a signing for Leeds to make. Not that he’s helping them much anyway, playing 78 minutes off the bench for a side that, because this is the Championship, is all the way down in 14th but only three points outside the play-offs.
Dom Poleon and Ross McCormack ruining separate goalkeeper’s lives, and Watford’s promotion party. If we can’t have fun, then nobody else can:
Naively hoping Brian McDermott might have everything under control, knowing Ross McCormack is the best striker in the league, staying up all night for Luke Murphy, and Marius Zaliukas saving the day:
Better to forget
Let’s just not talk about the play-off final, which managed to be worse than a 6-1 home defeat under Neil Warnock in October 2012. Jason Pearce got sent off, Colin used all his subs at half-time, and Rudy Austin was stretchered off with a suspected double leg break. He was back within a month. Sam Byram was there too. ⬢