Some things borrowed leave some fans blue

by Vincent Ralph

Last weekend, the stand-out result in the Championship was Watford’s 6-1 demolition of Leeds United.

The score doesn’t tell the whole story, because Leeds finished the game with nine men, after Jason Pearce was sent off and Rodolph Austin broke his leg with Neil Warnock having already used all three substitutes.

But it’s the not the result I want to talk about.  It’s the Watford team.

Of their 18-man match day squad, eight were loan players, six of whom are from Udinese.

For those who don’t know, Watford are now owned by the Pozzo family, who also own both the Italian club and Spanish team Granada.

Soon after taking over at Watford and installing Gianfranco Zola as manager, the new owners started bringing in players from their broadening stable, all on a loan basis  (although many with the option of a permanent deal next summer).

In total 10 players moved from Udinese to Vicarage Road along with two from Granada; plus one from Standard Liege and one from Chelsea.

So Watford began this season with 14 players who weren’t their own.  And three months later, they are playing matches with nearly half a squad who could disappear come May.

I’m intrigued to know how the fans feel about this.  After all, Watford have often played the loan system extremely well.  Most notably in bringing in Ben Foster and Tom Cleverley from Manchester United and Henri Lansbury from Arsenal, all of whom excelled and added to, rather than became, the team.

But I fear that when so many of your players are actually someone else’s, there is no future.  Existing through the loan system means existing without foundations.

The same can be said of the players.  Not all of them, of course.  Both Cleverley and Foster have gone on to succeed in the Premier League.  And many others have used the loan system to great effect.

But there are also the perennial loanees, who jump from club to club with an employer but no home.  They are the sofa-surfers of football.  And they rarely excel.

In recent years – with decreasing funds to bring in permanent players, and Premier League clubs with young ones miles away from the first team – teams in the Football League have used the loan system more than ever.

At times, it works.  And one or two brought in to consolidate the team makes perfect sense.

But when your squad becomes a pick-and-mix of other clubs’ cast-offs and those not quite ready yet, it can’t be much fun supporting a team like that.

Of all the players who go on loan every year, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that fewer than 20 will go on to be a success at the team who owns them.  And possibly that’s too high an estimate.

And for the clubs offering temporary homes, maybe they’ll survive another year and maybe that will be enough.

But there won’t be much badge-kissing going on.

15 Responses

  1. Vic Road says:

    Not much fun!!!!
    With the quality at the club and the football they are playing, you are joking? And we are ecstatic that Zola gets to sign any of these loans on a permanent basis in June. BTW, that 18 man squad on Saturday also included 6 academy graduates (4 of whom played), how many other teams can boast that?
    The league is a lie, we were looking the most likely before Vydra’s joke sending off against M’boro and we were 1-0 up and cruising at Cardiff before being reduced to only 9 players. Survival? Us fans know which end of the table we’ll be fighting at.
    Fact of the day … 7 of our players have CL experience not to mention numerous caps, the depth is incredible.

  2. W.Tyler says:

    Due to the takeover of the club and installation of the new management team there was very little time for the club to make permanent signings.
    Recently Watford announced that Daniel Pudil, Almen Abdi, Matej Vydra and Fernando Forestieri will sign in January. Stating that as far as they are concerned they only have one loan signing – Nathaniel Chalobah and that all other players have an option to buy and as it stands will sign for the club as soon as possible.
    Add to this the best of Watford’s academy signing 5 year deals and you can see a long term plan of stability and competitiveness that the club hasn’t had since the 80’s.

  3. Vic Road says:

    2nd “Fact of the day” …. The new owners have saved us from certain administration, if you did any kind of research (not looking good is it?), you’d know as much.

  4. Mike Hornet says:

    Keeping in mind that 12 of the 14 loanees were bought by and have their wages paid by our owner therefore not your conventional loan….

    Either way we have the option to make all of the players (with the exception of Chalobah) permanent either in the summer or even in january.

    Expect to see a number of permanent signings in January.

    There’s a massive desire by these players to make Watford their permanent home, that is clearly evident in their behaviour on & off the pitch.

    There’s plenty of badge kissing going on…

    it would be wrong to say that there were not sceptics when there was such an influx of loans, but in my opinion the work ethic of the players and man management of Zola has created something that works.

    Onwards and Upwards…

  5. nick says:

    As a Watford season ticket holder of many years I am incredibly excited about the future under the Pozzos.

    I was concerned about the complete overhaul of the team until the Charlton away match in which we played for just over 45 minutes with 10 men and won 2-1. Had you seen the courage and fight the players showed that night your opinion of these loanees may be different.

    The 4 players most accepted as the best players to be on loan from Udinese and Granada have stated their desire to stay with Watford in the long term and will sign permanently in January. These players include 2 czech internationals and 1 swiss international.

    For most Watford fans one of the most relieving things to come out of the recent purchase of the club is that we’re no longer waking up everyday to see whaether the owner has paid the tax bill or whether we’re going to be the next Portsmouth.

    So all good here.

  6. Paul says:

    You said it yourself, many players have the option to sign permanently. Therefore this is surely a stabler way to run a squad rather than depending on a youngster making the grade or a premier league loan to bolster the squad.

    Also Watford’s financial position in the last few years ment half our squad may be sold in the summer anyway! Now we aren’t in that position and working towards being a sustainable club.

    Would you rather we have a super rich owner who buys players without proper scouting, inflating prices and wages? The reason why there has been such an influx of loan players is due to lack of time to evaluate the squad. Come January, a couple loan players will be sent back and the squad trimmed.

  7. Peter says:

    A misunderstanding of the situation. Watford have the option to sign any of the loan players from the Pozzo club’s and are already negotiating with Vydra, Abdi, Foriesteri and Pudil.

  8. Vic Road says:

    I bet there’s just thousands of Watford fans feeling blue …. NOT! and I bet you don’t publish any responses for fear of egg on your face.

    Even the most ardent of Dyche supporters are Zola men now, we could not have dreamed for better new owners and by that I mean you can stick your Sheiks and your Oil barons, the Pozzo family will never get bored of football.

    1. Neil Sherwin Neil Sherwin says:

      Well look at that, all responses posted.

      I hope you don’t bet for real…

  9. Scott says:

    A few facts for you.

    Watford have 1 player on loan (Nathanial Chalobah) from Chelsea. The other players you mention are on temporary international transfers, and all have end of season purchase clauses. This is a different classification to loans, which is why Watford have not fallen foul of the current loan limitation rules.

    Due to the lateness and the complete mess the clubs finances were in at the point of takeover, the decision was made to move the players on temporary contracts to allow the new manager time to assess who he wanted on a permanant basis.

    Four of the above are now in advanced negotiations to make their moves permanant in January, and a decision on the rest will be taken in due course.

    This is not the same situation as was found at Doncaster last year, Watford are not being used as a shop window. No one who has actually come down and watched the team play can doubt the desire and committment of the players to play for Watford.

    What is more disconcerting is the continual sniping of so called journalists who want to shoot down what is happening at Watford. It’s amazing to see that it is acceptable for ‘big’ teams to flex financial muscles to stockpile players they have no intention of playing, yet Watford taking advantage of a pool of players from teams owned by the same people is viewed as being wrong.

    Maybe its just that the so called experts don’t appear to like the idea of little ol Watford mixing it with the big boys with a chance of actually being competitive.

  10. owen says:

    I can see the view that people who do not support watford have that watford will be over by the end of the season, but as a ST holder at watford I can say that it does not bother us, 4 of the loanees have already agreed contracts to join watford (the best 4) plus at least 3 more will at the end of the season if they are a success. Watford’s future looks brighter not bleaker

  11. Watford fan says:

    As a long term watford fan I am absolutely delighted with how things are progressing this season. All of the loanees from Udinese and Granada have the opportunity to become permanent watford players on minimal fees. There is absolutely no lack of effort from any of the players, in fact they are as committed as long term fans favourite Lloyd Doyley. People make the mistake of looking at watford and thinking, ‘ouch, thats a lot of loanees,’ however it really does not tell the whole story. As part of the Pozzo trilogy we will certainly never be at a loss for talented footballers.

  12. Thank you all for your comments. As stated in the article, I was intrigued as to how Watford fans felt about the situation. The verdict – an emphatic one – suggests you are happy with things.

    I did state in the piece that many of the players have the option of signing permanent deals.

    While the comments about perennial loanees, in the latter part of the piece, were more a comment on the process as a whole.

    Thanks for all your thoughts. If you’d read one of my earlier articles – Twenty Ways to Annoy a Football Fan – you’d appreciate the irony in this little piece, that I assumed would be largely ignored, causing quite a stir.

  13. Vic Road says:

    Well you certainly hit the mark Vince, well done :-)

    Still early doors but you could do far worse than taking a real interest in what is unfolding, the Pozzo’s have provided enough quality and they have the experience of dragging Granada from 3rd tier Spanish football to establishing them in La Liga. If this can be replicated with Watford playing Zola’s continental brand it is bound to have a positive effect on the English game as Premiership teams will need to combat our system or risk being left red faced.

    Probably to accommodate those European giants with feeder clubs abroad and without suspecting it could be used in reverse, Fifa in their infinite wisdom ruled that overseas season long loans were to be treated as transfers. Now should Watford win promotion it may seem unfair on whoever misses out but all these players’ purchase and development costs have been paid for by our owner, they are not freebies and the club has every right to use them for this season at least. Maybe they will change the rules or maybe they see this as a good thing, we’ll just have to see.

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