Harry Kewell acknowledges the scrutiny is on his him after a sixth defeat in seven matches, appreciating that despite the club rhetoric about academy football being about player development, it is results that count in the eyes of those outside of the UCL training ground in London Colney.
Watford were sunk this afternoon by a Barnsley side who spent more than four hours in traffic yet plundered a goal in each half to beat a Watford side featuring Joel Ekstrand and Sean Murray. It leaves Watford without a win in the Professional Development League since December 7 when they beat Ipswich Town 2-0.
Watford’s last seven league results:
Millwall: L 2-1
Bristol City: L 2-1
Brentford: D 3-3
Ipswich Town: L 2-1
Crystal Palace: L 5-0
QPR: L 2-1
Barnsley: L 2-0
“I can now understand the pressure of managers as with the way results have gone for me, wow, I’d be gone,” said Kewell who takes his job so seriously he is in at 7.30am every morning and trains and works out with the players. “Let’s be realistic, everyone looks at results. We could say we played excellent, but we lost the game. We could say we had more chances than them, but we lost the game. It’s disappointing. As much as I want to worry about the result it’s all about player performance. Some of the performances, in moments, have been fantastic. But the manager [Quique Sanchez Flores] is going to look at the results and see lost, lost, lost and start thinking, ‘What’s Harry doing?’ Or two, what are they [the players] doing? We can’t go crazy as it’s their first year [as an under-21 side]. It’s a great place to be as you can build something and we can’t get no worse.”
It hardly helps matters that Watford’s former academy chief, Nick Cox, is overseeing a boom period at Sheffield United.
Very little went right for Watford this afternoon. An alarming number of crosses shots sailed high over; Alex Jakubiak, who has 18 league goals this season, missed the sort of chance he would gobble up while the closest the home side came to scoring was when Lewin Nyatanga, the Wales international defender captaining the visitors, deflected a George Byers corner onto his own bar. The defeat could have been by a wider margin as Jack Cowgill and Otis Khan both struck Luke Simpson’s crossbar in the second half.
“We look to pass the buck but we need to take responsibility,” said Kewell. “You’ve got to be mentally tough to adapt to any situation. It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating because we are creating chances but we are just not scoring them. That’s fine but sooner or later we need some of them to go in, not only for myself but for the team. They need that confidence. We seem to be dominating a lot of games. I know that first half was terrible and although Barnsley won 2-0, I don’t think they dominated the game.
“We need to bring more intensity to the game. You watched that first half and it was boring. What I asked from them in the second half was to bring something to the game, bring some spunk. ‘Get out there and create’, I said, and they did that. We just had one too many touches in certain areas. I can’t fault them for their energy and their enthusiasm in the second half but they need a win to get their confidence back up. We’ve wiped the slate clean and we are going to go for these last seven games.”
Watford: Simpson; Young, Johnson, Ekstrand (Stevens 75), Mason (Byers 31); Lewis, Murray (Pereira), Stewart, Martin; Mensah, Jakubiak. Subs not used: Charles, Gartside (GK).
Barnsley: Townsend, Wardle, Smith, Cowgill, Nyatanga, Abbott, Khan, Scowen, Ash, Hasrris, Templeton. Subs: Kay, Jeffs, Alton, Carvel, Murphy