City Orns is a group of Watford fans living or working in London who meet for dinner once a month. The evenings are always good fun, but last month’s meeting was a bit different as it was an At Your Place type event. We’d had a dry run in February when Alan McTavish and Richard Walker joined us in a pub in East London for a few bevvies and to have their ears bent. Thankfully, this didn’t put them off and last month Richard had Beppe Sannino, Marco Cesarini, Scott Duxbury and Gian Luca Nani in tow. It was billed as an informal evening. The room was set up with the fans in attendance sitting around three tables which were visited in turn by each of the guests for a drink-fuelled natter. One of our number described it as akin to speed dating. As it was such an informal occasion, no subject was off-limits and the guests were remarkably open and honest. For that reason, and the fact that the Malbec was flowing, I did not take notes and this will not be a Q&A type report more an impression of the evening with a few insights thrown in.
First to visit our table were Scott Duxbury and Gian Luca Nani. Gian Luca has come in for a lot of criticism on WFC social media recently, so I was impressed that he was willing to attend for questioning, especially as we weren’t expecting him.
We talked about recruits good and bad and about his best friend, Zola. We also talked at length about John Eustace, who was clearly being missed by those at our table. Gian Luca and Scott really wanted Eustace to stay but saw him more in a coaching role than as a player due to his injury record. John wanted to continue playing, so chose to make the move to Derby. Scott said that the decision was made on medical advice and that we should ask
Marco about it. They said that John’s leadership was greatly missed at the training ground and that was a key reason why Lucas Neill had been brought in as, even if he didn’t get much playing time, it was felt that the players would benefit from his experience. “Most of the work is done at the training ground.”
Gian Luca also talked about the scouting network that they have and how, through their contacts, they hear about players who are unsettled at their clubs and that can give them a head start in getting players in. Tözsér was mentioned in this regard.
Scott was then treated, as was Alan last month, to my rant about the demise of the kit sponsorship scheme, which I feel very strongly about. When Scott came to the club, he talked about how impressed he was by the Open Day. I argued that the kit sponsors’ evening is like the open day for adults in the way that it generates good will and some revenue. Scott listened patiently to my arguments and it seemed to give him food for thought. I’ve done everything I can on that matter, so now it is over to the club.
Our next date was with Beppe Sannino, accompanied by fitness coach, Marco Cesarini, who was acting as his translator as well as being available for questions related to the fitness of the squad. Poor Marco was greeted by a fierce woman barking, “I’m told that it is your fault that John Eustace left.” His response was utterly charming as well as being logical. Since John only played a handful of times in the previous season and the medical assessment was that that scenario was unlikely to change, it was felt that they couldn’t risk signing John to a playing contract.
Regarding his translation role, having listened to interviews on Watford World I have found that the translation of questions and answers makes them very difficult to follow, which made me wonder how it would work in person. But Beppe’s charm and enthusiasm ensured that even if he didn’t understand my questions or I didn’t understand his answers I still felt as though I was having a conversation with him.
Important questions included whether Beppe was as fluent in English as I am in German when the drink flows. It seems not. Beppe rejected our offer of a glass of Argentinian wine, but that led us on to a discussion of which team Forestieri supported. Since neither Beppe nor Marco knew, the lovely Marco offered to call Fernando and find out. Sadly he didn’t answer his phone as he was out on a date with Beyonce. I blow hot and cold with Forestieri, but he was spoken of very fondly by all present who all said that he really is in love with Watford.
We found out that Beppe runs 10K as day and is much fitter now than he was when he played. When we asked what he was like as a player, he was quite scathing about his contributions, said he didn’t work hard enough and drove his team mates mad. He said that the player Sannino would not get into manager Sannino’s team.
He made a point of saying how impressed he is by the passion of the Watford fans at games. He said that he has searched YouTube to watch videos of Watford fans at games and has always been impressed by the noise <this came as a surprise to many of us who think we have rather quiet fans>.
Beppe was asked whether he would ever stay in his technical area. “No.” He was then asked about referees. He said that he likes English referees as they let the game flow much more than the referees in Italy do. At one of the other tables Beppe was asked how he could play Deeney, Ranegie and Forestieri in the same team and pint glasses were used to demonstrate the formation.
Our last guest was Richard Walker. Many of those in attendance have known Rich for longer than we care to remember and all know that he is a great bloke and a bone fide Watford fan. He was happy to answer questions, but also used the opportunity to do a bit of market research on season ticket pricing which impressed me.
At the end of the evening, there were a few photos and then our guests left. Even Marco smiled as we had a photo taken together, so I can’t have upset him too much. It was only as I was on the train home that it hit me what a privilege this evening had been and how special Watford FC is. When the Pozzos took over many, including myself, feared that, as a foreign owned club run by people with no history with Watford, the connection with the fans would no longer be there. But on that Thursday evening, Watford FC’s Head Coach, CEO, Technical Director, Head of Medical and Head of Communications came along to a pub in London in response to an invitation to meet with a group of 20-30 fans. Even better, they appeared to enjoy the evening as much as we did. Wow, just wow!