Ahead of the visit of Watford to Selhurst Park this weekend, TEB had a chat with Andy Lewers from The Hornet’s Nest and the Stairway To Seventh podcast to find out about their season so far, view of the match and much more.
Q. What did you make of the game at Vicarage Road earlier in the season?
It was a pretty dull affair whilst Watford were in between head coaches with Isaac Hayden and Graham Stack taking charge of the squad. There was a lot of heart and effort from Watford as we looked for our first home win of the season, but the quality wasn’t there. A draw was a fair result for one of the less memorable fixtures between the sides!
Q. How has the season been for you so far and what are you expecting from the run in?
It’s been pretty miserable bar the fantastic run we went on soon after Nigel Pearson came in. We wasted 85 days of our season with bringing Sanchez Flores back in and we’ve been playing catch up ever since. I’m expecting a lot more twists and turns and honestly I think the relegation battle will go down to the wire, I just hope we’re not having to rely on getting something away at Arsenal on the final day.
Q. What have the fans made of Nigel Pearson since he arrived?
He’s been a breath of fresh air. Says it how it is, doesn’t try to hide the fact we’re in a bit of a predicament and doesn’t make excuses. He’s also embraced the club’s values and has met with supporters and seems to have time for everyone. We can see it in the players as well that they want to play for him. Even when we’ve lost under him, we’ve not been playing particularly poorly. It’s so difficult to regain your confidence when you’re in the relegation zone and the fact we’re just one point off safety when before he came in we were cut well adrift I think speaks volumes for the job he’s done and I think the fans recognise that.
Q. Has there been noticeable change in way the side are playing now compared with earlier in the season?
I think there’s been an obvious shift in confidence and work rate. Results help confidence, of course, but it’s amazing what a little bit of momentum can do to a side. With regards to work rate under Gracia and Flores too many players would be getting away with not tracking back and doing the cliched dirty work. Gracia and Flores, whilst nice guys and good head coaches, aren’t the kind of guys to put players in their place. It’s already been documented how Pearson unleashed a rocket in the changing room at half time away to Liverpool in his first game in charge when we were just 1-0 down. The players who would be strolling back in the first half of the season have been more defensively aware since Pearson came in and there seems to be a bit more of a collective desire to help each other out. I think as well it’s clear the players respect him and are enjoying playing for him.
Q. The introduction of VAR this season has not gone to plan so far – what is your view of the system and how it is being used?
I have always been pro-VAR, however I have become sick of the way it’s being utilised. I often go and watch a few Championship games and it’s so refreshing to watch a game without the possibility of a VAR review hanging over your head.
I think the problems are with the laws of the game and not necessarily with VAR. For example, if Watford are attacking, we handball it and score, the goal is disallowed, but then if Watford are attacking, a Palace defender unintentionally handballs it but no penalty is given, how can that be fair? The weighting isn’t the same. Offsides being decided by someone’s armpit or big toe is ridiculous, but at least the law is objective and not subjective, though often the frames used are blurry and far too pixelated to determine whether something is offside or not. I don’t mind technology being used in football, but PGMOL need to go back to the drawing board and paying fans in the stadiums need to hear what the officials are saying to one another and be given access to the replays people at home are able to see.
Q. Who will finish top four and bottom three this season?
Top four: Liverpool, Man City, Leicester, Man United.
Bottom three: Aston Villa, West Ham, Norwich
Q. What have you made of Palace this season?
It feels like you’ve done a bit of a Watford; start well and then fade away in the second half of the season. Palace always seem to be able to play brilliantly against the bigger sides but then drop silly points against the clubs they should be beating. The lack of goals would concern me as a fan but I think you’ll avoid relegation with ease.
Q. Where do you see Palace and Watford finishing?
Palace in mid-table obscurity in 13th. Watford 16th.
Q. Name one player from each side that will be the ones to watch in this fixture?
This game centres around two African wizards, of course it has to be the Ivorian Zaha for Palace, he can change the game in a flash. For Watford the one to watch is Senegalese international Ismaila Sarr, who was on the bench against Manchester United after recovering from injury. I’d expect him to start this game and his pace can cause any side in this league some serious problems.
Q. Your prediction?
A very tense 1-0 win to the ‘Orns!