Rudyard Kipling went to Chicago and considered it an abomination: ‘I urgently desire never to see it again. It is inhabited by savages.’ It serves Geoff Hiron* OK all the same. Born near Vicarage Road, he has made his home in the Windy City while remaining loyal to his roots and his football club. Salut! Sunderland spotted his nom-de-guerre – Harry Hornet – in Comments posted after mentions of his team and asked him to handle the last Who are You? of the season. Here are his responses. I like Geoff’s replies, and that is not just because he likes us. What Kipling made of Watford may or may not be recorded …
Salut! Sunderland: All in all a satisfactory return to the Premier, looking safe for almost all the season., What is your assessment of how you’ve done?
Geoff Hiron: I think the team has achieved as much as could have possibly been expected going into the season. We were touted as favourites for the drop, which anyone who had seen us play last season would have to agree was a little harsh. However, I was expecting more of a relegation scrap. That never materialized and I think every Watford must be delighted, despite recent poor form.
What about us? Safe now but did you see our troubles coming?
I can’t say that I saw you having such a tough season. Sunderland were just one of a handful of clubs that were always going to be scrapping it out at some point or another but your lack of goals last season was certainly a concern and you did only just avoid relegation. I thought you’d be okay when you signed Jermain Defoe, but he struggled too. Without a doubt, Big Sam made the difference. And Defoe started scoring again too!
There were recent rumblings about Quique Sanchez Flores? Is his job secure and is he the man to establish you in the Premier?
That is a really tough question. We have obviously tailed-off since Feburary and Ighalo has barely scored in the time since. It’s been relegation form. Nobody can say that our season hasn’t been a complete success, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pozzo Family made a change. Every appointment they have made has brought the desired outcomes and, while we all want to see a manager consolidate himself and the team, I could see why they would want to bring in a different face. Having said that, I believe that Flores deserves a transfer window and a second season to build on what he has achieved.
Do you reckon the club is generally in safe and ambitious hands with Gino Pozzo as owner?
Definitely. I totally trust his decision-making in terms of doing what is best for the club. I know people talk about the manager turn-over but none of these changes were knee-jerk. And they all paid off. There has been a great deal of investment in the club too.
Gomes, Deeney and Ighalo gets lots of mention but who do you think has done the business most for you this season?
Without a doubt, Craig Cathcart. He has been instrumental in the organised strength we have shown at the back.
And where do weaknesses remain? Have you seen much of Pantilimon?
I think across our midfield we have been left wanting this season. I thought players like Abdi and Jurado would thrive in the Premier League, but they have been a little off the pace.
Guess the Score in Watford v SAFC and you may win a prize: https://safc.blog/2016/05/watford-v-sunderland-guess-the-score-that-no-longer-matters-too-much/
Your highlights and lowest points as a Watford fan?
Lowest point for me was the playoff Final against Crystal Palace in 2013. We never looked like winning the game, it was a painful 120 minutes, but to lose to a penalty was tough. The highlight? The game that got us to that final: The last minute goal against Leicester City. Still brings a smile to my face.
And the greatest players you’ve seen in your colours?
Barnes and Blissett. Don’t really need to explain that one.
Be bold and tell us who should never have been allowed inside Vicarage Road?
When you consider that he was a supposedly high profile signing, cost us an absolute fortune in wages, and was mostly very very average, Ramon Vega has to top the list.
Talking of Vicarage Road, do you need bigger capacity to have a hope of sustaining Premier status?
I don’t think it’s vital. Being savvy in the transfer market and holding on to our best players is more important. We should only expand the stadium if we consolidate our Premier League status.
Assess the contributions of Sir Elton and Graham Taylor to the club
Well, both are legends at the club. Elton was instrumental in funding the club to get it out of the lower leagues way back when. Before my time. He didn’t just want to own a club, he genuinely loves the club. I think he’s from Pinner? (just outside Watford) I only know that because I spent the summers in Pinner with my grandparents. Anyway, he did a lot for the club. Raised awareness too, which was pivotal in attracting better players. He got Graham Taylor in and the rest is history. But needless to say, we may still be down in the lower leagues if it weren’t for the two if them.
Any thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city and region, Big Sam?
Love the club! I remember as a kid watching Niall Quinn galloping up the pitch. Scoring tons of goals. There is definitely something in the water up there. The fans are so passionate. I’m glad you’re still in the Prem. You need to hold on to Big Sam. Maybe the most underrated manager around.
And on Leicester’s achievement: hope for all or a flash in the pan?
Nope. This is a one-off, never to be repeated. That sounds depressing, doesn’t it? But the money the biggest clubs have is very depressing. If they start that European super league thing, I think our game would be better off for it.
Diving and other forms of cheating: so prevalent we may as will give up bothering or still worth stamping out?
Still worth stamping out. Some days, it’s almost enough to make me want to stop watching the game in protest. That obviously isn’t going to happen but it’s infuriating seeing someone cheat. I think to myself, ‘don’t you have any shame? Is that making your mum proud?’ I really just don’t get it.
Best ref, worst ref?
Ah, mine are pretty obvious. The best has to be Pierluigi Collina for the eyes and just scaring the sh*t out of the players. The worst has to be Paul Alcock for “simulation” when pushed by Paulo DiCanio.
Looking forward to the Euros or just cannot wait for the Premier League to resume?
Looking forward. Definitely. I am more excited about this England team than I think I ever have been. Still scared from the failure of the “Golden Generation” so I love seeing the vibrancy of this young team.
Will you be at our game and what will be the score?
I won’t be at the game. I moved to Chicago last year. But I’ll be getting up early and heading to the pub to watch it. It’ll finish 1-1. 0-0 at half time, naturally.
Geoff Hiron on himself: I teach history in a high school on the west side of Chicago. I was born in Watford, in that hospital on Vicarage Road. I like to think the first thing I heard when I was born was the roar of the crowd a couple of hundred yards away, but it was 4am on a Thursday and I don’t think there was a game on.
Interview: Colin Randall