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  1. Another international break completely killing the momentum of the club season. International breaks are far too frequent these days, and the recent ones have the adding 'bonus' of scheduling combined with quarantine regulations seeing to it that many players will be missing. Not just for us, but for a number of clubs. In what way is it right that FIFA, UEFA, the Premier League and the national associations have a greater say than the clubs who pay players' wages, the coaches who are unable to prepare effectively, or the players who just don't get a breather? How stupid is it to schedule a lunchtime fixture on a Saturday after an international break? Anyway: Intelligence. Moxie. Skill. Tenacity. Ingenuity. Luck. Life. Superiority. Talent. Accuracy. Nous. Drive. Instinct. Nerve. Gumption. I don't ask for much (and even less than usual given the circumstances). Our last appearance in this fixture was just before the pandemic hit in early 2020. While we'd continued to rack up wins over the preceding week, we weren't looking anywhere near as assured and full of beans as earlier in the season. It came to a head in this fixture when a disastrous second half performance saw us on the end of a 3-0 hiding that was fully merited. Ismaila Sarr bagged a couple, and Troy Deeney with his bee-stung face got the other. We were uncharacteristically sloppy defensively and uncharacteristically impotent up front. It was the start of a mini-slump that led to us being knocked out of Europe and the FA Cup within the next fortnight. The lockdown, while frustrating and with the possibility of null and void being shouted loudly by voices that couldn't give a shit about public health and were more concerned about us running away with the league, at least gave the players a chance to recalibrate. That first lockdown gave everybody time to think. Well, at least those who remained personally unaffected by the pandemic. Back in the days when fixture congestion seemed to be less of an issue, and the only pandemic talk was by people scared that HIV and AIDS would become too prevalent to control, Liverpool's new-look attack of Aldo, Barnesy and Beardo travelled to Vicarage Road in mid-February 1988 to take on a team that had recently sacked their manager. Dave Bassett had been booted out with the club bottom of the league and heading for the drop. They'd fallen away significantly since the Graham Taylor era. Selling Barnes was undoubtedly a factor, but I doubt even they knew his game would go up several levels following his move to Merseyside. Digger was the best player in the country by a mile at the time, which is saying a lot since the players around him were no slouches. We were absolutely flying in the league and dismantled the Hornets 4-1 on an absolute quagmire of a pitch where all the available grass was between the touchline and the stands. Beardsley fired in the opener, Aldridge bundled in the second, Beardsley dribbled around the keeper for the third, and Barnes scored the 4th against his old club with a close range finish after the ball was nodded down to him just inside the six yard box. There was time for a consolation from Luther Blissett, but Watford had been well and truly outclassed by us. They weren't the first and they wouldn't be the last in 1987/88. Or the Eighties in general for that matter. The big draw at the box office in February 1988 was Good Morning, Vietnam, starring Robin Williams on top form and directed by Barry Levinson, who would go on to make Rain Man the following year. Williams had a gift for delivering funny and poignant in the same role, and this time he played a DJ for the Armed Forces Radio Service, trying to deliver news, comedy and music to entertain the troops in Saigon, going against the wishes of some of his superiors who didn't like his attitude and casual insubordination ("You are in more dire need of a blowjob than any white man in history"). For the audience (and the grunts on the front line) he was easy to warm to and side with as he balanced trying to do his job and see the humanity in the 'enemy'. It's part of a slew of 'Nam-set films released from the mid-80s onwards, a lot of which were of extremely high quality. War films in general, when the story is interesting, told well and with amazing cinematography, can still be utterly compelling. Anyway, back to Watford. New manager bounce incoming? It's generally hard to tell but the combination of new manager up against a Liverpool team missing a number of players, playing after an international break and in an early kick-off is what twats like Jake Humphrey would be only to happy to wank off to live on air. We just need to dig deep, do what we are well capable of, and get the result. Dilly Ding Dilly Dong should just be the advertising slogan for a Saigon bank, not a manager the English media have a real love-in for.
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