Mike Parkin*, co-presenter of the Watford FC podcast ‘From the Rookery End’ and the club’s blogger at ESPN, readily agreed to answer questions ahead of Saturday’s game at the Stadium of Light … he fears our luck may finally have run out
Salut! Sunderland: Odd season for you: some great results and some awful ones. Do you need to look over your shoulders a little or is it not that bad?
Mike Parkin: We’re still under no illusions as to how difficult this division is. After defeat against Manchester City, we’ve now lost four of our last six games and have fewer points than we did at this stage last season. That said, the mood at Watford is largely very positive and whilst no-one will relax until we’ve hit the 40 point mark, I think it’s fair to say that, certainly in the long term, supporters are looking up rather than down.
That thumping defeat Anfield must have shaken you. These things can happen to nay club – why did it happen to Watford that day?
A combination of an on-song Liverpool and a changed Watford team did for us that afternoon. Sebastian Prodl was missing in the heart of defence and we missed his organisation and leadership. Watford played poorly and Liverpool were excellent – unfortunately it was just one of those days. The only concern is that Watford continually fail to test any of the “big” teams when away from home – that’s something supporters would like to see change.
Perhaps the right time to ask about Younes Kaboul. Terrific for us last season with Kone but run ragged at Liverpool. How has he been generally, not that we really forgive him?
He’s been in and out with injury, but largely speaking he’s proved to be a solid signing. His Premier League experience is vital, especially as he is playing alongside a few defenders with slightly questionable temperament and his all action displays have been entertaining. Unquestionably a good guy to have around, I think his capture was a shrewd bit of business.
Guess the Score and you could win a print like these. Last prize edition of the competition in 2016: https://safc.blog/2016/12/sunderland-v-watford-guess-the-score-last-prize-edition-of-2016/
Is Ighalo a mere “shadow of last season’s player”, as one post-Anfield ratings piece put it? Who is performing and who isn’t?
Odion Ighalo splits the supporters. Many think he should be given time to recapture the form he showed in the previous two seasons, whilst a faction believe he’s not up to Premier League standard and that he offers little to the side. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. He’s unlikely to recapture the form that shot him to prominence last season, but I think he’s earned the time to regain his confidence, form and goal scoring touch. There is no doubt he’s struggling though, and I’d be surprised if he was in the starting eleven at the Stadium of Light.
In terms of other key performers, we’re probably not getting the best out of Etienne Capoue, whilst Nordin Amrabat is going from strength to strength down the right flank. Central defender Sebastian Prodl is the standout performer though, he’s been consistently excellent this season and is vital to the balance of the side.
Was Walter Mazzarri a good choice of manager and was the change needed anyway?
Quique Sanchez Flores achieved his goal, which was to keep Watford in the division. However, after Christmas Watford’s form dipped alarmingly and there was very little sign that Flores was going to be able to turn it around. Instead of waiting for the poor form to continue into this season, the decision was made not to renew his contract.
So far Mazzarri has proved to be a good choice, tactically he is usually on the money and if things aren’t going well he isn’t afraid to make changes. Supporters are getting slightly frustrated that he isn’t yet able to converse in English but that’s a minor point. In the main, I don’t think you’ll find too many Hornets supporters that haven’t been quietly impressed by the Head Coach.
What is your assessment of Gino Pozzo’s ownership and is Sir Elton still a familiar face and/or influence at Vicarage Road?
When the Pozzo family bought Watford, Vicarage Road Stadium had three sides and were languishing in the Championship. The club is now in the Premier League with a four sided ground that boasts excellent facilities. That should tell you all you need to know. As for Sir Elton John, he has a stand named after him and remains a huge Watford supporter. He isn’t a regular visitor, but is in regular contact with key personnel at Vicarage Road and remains an important character
Bournemouth apart, your ground capacity seems like a Premier League joke. Happy with the cosiness or feel you really must find a way if expanding?
Describing the capacity as a “joke” is well wide of the mark [it wasn’t meant as an insult – Ed]. Watford are a club with a modest fan base and as it stands, the capacity suits the number of regular attendees. The stadium is being updated on a regular basis and now boasts superb facilities for players, supporters and the media. It also now hosts a large sensory room; the biggest at a Football Stadium and only the second in the Premier League. (As you’ll know the other is based at Sunderland)
The stadium works just fine for us, and as supporters we’re proud that we’ve developed our home instead of moving into a soulless identikit bowl. Planning permission has been granted, allowing for the redevelopment of the Sir Elton John Stand and this will ultimately see capacity raised to 30,000 in the coming years.
Top four this season?
Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool.
Bottom three (spare no feelings)?
Hull City, Swansea City, and Middlesbrough or Sunderland.
Talking of relegation battles, were you surprised at how badly we started the season yet again, or more surprised to see results picking up?
With what seems to be a constant lack of investment in the playing squad, it’s hard to be surprised by Sunderland’s continuing struggles. The warning signs have been loud and clear for the past few seasons and if you always do what you’ve always done – you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
I’m sorry to say that it’s difficult to see anything other than a very difficult remainder of the season for the Black Cats. It’s tight down there, so it isn’t impossible to get clear with a few good results, but after sailing so close to the wind for so long, one has to wonder when Sunderland’s luck will run out.
Sunderland more broadly: what do you make of the club, the fans, the city and region, David Moyes?
It’s no secret that the supporters in the North East are a loyal, passionate bunch and my visits to the area have done nothing to dispel that belief. Football is an intrinsic part of the region and it’s a joy to experience.
I like David Moyes. I was impressed that he went abroad and thought he was unlucky with the timing of his appointment at Manchester United. We’ve seen since that he inherited a bit of a mess at Old Trafford and his treatment wasn’t particularly impressive. He strikes me as a decent fit for Sunderland, but it feels like he’s hamstrung by a lack of budget so his motivational skills and man management are going to be seriously tested for the rest of the season.
Your best moments as a Watford supporter?
As a supporter of a relatively small club, I’ve got more fantastic memories than I have a reasonable right to expect. I was too young to see the ’84 Cup Final or the UEFA Cup campaign, but have seen my team win promotion at Wembley and the Millenium Stadium, reach a number of Semi-Finals and deliver a whole host of upsets. The best moment however simply has to be Troy Deeney’s goal against Leicester in the 2013 Play-Off Semi Final. It’s unlikely you aren’t aware of the story, but either way, treat yourself to a viewing of it on YouTube. Something like that happening to your team before your very eyes is something truly special and it’s a moment I will never, ever forget. Extraordinary. Astonishing. Magic!
The tenure of the previous owner nearly brought the club to its knees. There was a very, very real possibility that the club would go under and that prospect is heartbreaking. To see the club so badly mismanaged was upsetting in the extreme and for all the good times we’re experiencing now, I’ll never forget those dark days. Relegations and losing in Play-Off Finals are tough to take – we’ve had our fair share of both, but seeing the club you love being ruined from the inside out is just ghastly.
Diving: best forgotten about now that players at all clubs seem to be at it, along with other forms of cheating, or still worth trying to eradicate?
There doesn’t seem to be any appetite to tackle what remains an appalling epidemic. Players are cheating each other, but more importantly the supporters with their non-stop theatrics, and I’m firmly in favour of lengthy bans being given retrospectively. Heavy punishment is the only way it will be reduced, but sadly I can’t see anything being done. It is without question one of the worst aspects of the sport.
Follows on from that to some extent; best ref, worst ref?
I’m not going to name any names, but will say that referees have my sympathy. It’s a very, very difficult job, made harder by the players continually doing all they can to deceive the officials. Diving, feigning injury, arguing, waving imaginary cards – referees are subject to an appalling amount of nonsense and under the circumstances, most do a reasonable job. Put it this way – I wouldn’t want to be doing their job.
I know I said I wouldn’t mention names, but I still haven’t forgiven Stuart Atwell for giving the “ghost goal” for Reading at Vicarage Road. If you haven’t seen it, head over to YouTube and prepare to be amazed…
Will you be at the game? What will be the score?
I won’t be at the game, but think it will be tight. Watford will want to get something, whilst Sunderland will see it as a fantastic opportunity for three valuable points. I’m going with 1-1.
*Mike Parkin on himself:
I’ve been supporting Watford since the 80s and in that time have seen the highest highs and the lowest lows. And just like you, I wouldn’t swap it for the world!
For the past seven years I have co-presented the Watford podcast “From the Rookery End” which has given me an opportunity to interview managers, players and club staff, as well as meeting fellow supporters and opposition fans from around the globe.
In doing the podcast, I’ve been pleased to have it proven that football is so much more than just a game. It provides an outlet for people from every walk of life and I’m delighted to have met so many people that share my passion for what is a wonderful sport.
You can get the podcast via iTunes (search for From the Rookery End) or listen via our website at www.fromtherookeryend.com. Oh, and my Twitter handle is @rookerymike. The podcast Twitter is @watfordpodcast.
Interview: Colin Randall