I asked the question yesterday whether City had been the busiest team in the country during the transfer window which closed at eleven o clock last night. I don’t know the answer to that question, but I strongly suspect it was us. Whether this is a good thing or not given the reputation the January transfer window has as a difficult time to conduct a rebuilding of a team, is a moot point, but I would say something had to be done, because, although the table might not have been reflecting it, we’ve been playing like a relegation side in some of our recent matches.
Most of the movement was in an outward direction and I couldn’t list all of those who left the club, mostly on loan, in the last few weeks – Alex Runnarsson (released by Arsenal after his loan deal here was cut short), Ebou Adams (to Derby on loan), Andy Rinomhota (to Rotherham on loan), Jonathan Panzo (back to Forest) and Ike Ugbo (to Sheffield Wednesday on loan) are the players who have been involved with the first team (apologies if I’ve missed anyone else).
However, there have been a host of younger players who have left on loan and so the under 21 team is going to be featuring a lot of Academy players in the next three months and with this week’s 2-0 home loss to QPR proving to be a good example of how things have been going for them this season, a side that was struggling anyway look set to do so even more until the end of the season.
Interestingly though, three players Erol Bulut identified before Christmas as needing a move out on loan are staying put and look set to be playing out the rest of the season at age group level – it’s hard to see how they could benefit from this.
Maybe Joel Colwill, Cian Ashford and Cameron Antwi stayed here because they will feature in the first team squad, but with all cup interest gone now, you have to wonder to what end, given our manager’s reluctance to use any of them when they were on the bench for Championship fixtures in which no one was playing well.
As for as incoming moves go, we’ve got five newcomers and I would expect all of them to be in the squad for tomorrow’s game at Watford. Runnarsson’s departure enabled the permanent signing of USA international Ethan Horvarth from Nottingham Forest to go through. Horvarth is chasing an unusual hat trick as he came on as a sub goalkeeper for the dying minutes of Forest’s Play Off Final win over Huddersfield in 2022 and was in the Luton team which beat Coventry in the Final last year. Hovarth’s chances of completing that hat trick have to be remote in the extreme, but his time on loan at Luton where he played forty four times in their promotion campaign strongly suggests that, first he’ll replace Jak Alnwick as first choice keeper and, second, he should offer an improvement on Runnarsson.
Nat Phillips signed for Liverpool a few years ago at a time when they had a lot of injuries to centrebacks and did pretty well for them in the short term, but, hardly surprisingly, he dropped out of contention as the injured players returned and he spent the first past of this season on loan at Celtic. That arrangement was terminated by Liverpool because Phillips was not playing enough in Celtic’s first team and so you have to think that they only agreed to Phillips coming here on loan on the basis that he will be starting most weeks for us. As the likely casualty in such a situation is Mark McGuinness, the sort of young player we should be looking to build the team around in future years, I have my misgivings about this deal, I suppose it’s a case of wait and see.
The same applies to another loan signing Joshua Wilson-Esbrand who I must admit I know nothing about. The encouraging things are that he plays for Manchester City, he is versatile (he can play all along the left hand side and, according to our manager, can operate in central midfield as well), he did pretty well with Coventry last season (he was an unused sub in their Play Off Final defeat) and he has won caps for England at under 21 level.
I would have thought if we did pay a fee for Hovarth, it was a modest one, but the deal to bring Scottish midfielder David Turnbull in from Celtic could, reportedly, run to £2 million. Turnbull is an attacking midfielder who I can remember being very impressive for Motherwell as a teenager. There were rumours that we were after him, but they came to nothing and, after early interest from Norwich, he signed for Celtic only for the deal to collapse because of a failed medical. The reason for this was that one of his knees needed operating on and, once that was done, the move to Celtic eventually went through.
On the face of it, Turnbull did well at Celtic with a scoring rate of one in four over a hundred games and he won all of his five Scottish full international caps while with them, but he fails the what do his old club’s fans think of him test, because the verdict from Celtic fans tends to be along the lines of talented, but slow and lazy. I used to think that this was an infallible method of judging new signings, but after the West Brom fans have been proved so wrong about Karlan Grant (he has his faults, but, being lazy, as many Albion fans labelled him, is not one of them), I remain hopeful that this could be a pretty shrewd, if expensive by our recent standards, signing.
Finally, there’s another loan signing in ex Bristol City striker Famara Diedhiou. My misgivings about this one are based almost entirely on the fact that Diedhiou is thirty one, which is a bit unfair really when you consider that’s the same age as Kieffer Moore who I was hoping we would be bringing here (despite the assurances of some in the know merchants on social media that Moore back to Cardiff was a “done deal”, he ended up signing for Ipswich yesterday). It turns out as well that Diedhiou’s scoring record while at Ashton Gate was virtually identical to Moore’s in the games he has played at this level, but it should be noted that the twenty seven times capped Senegalese international was between the ages of twenty four and twenty eight when he was with the wurzels and they are reckoned by many to be the sort of ages when a player is at his peak.
What seems obvious is that Diedhiou will be our number one striking choice for the rest of the season and I’d say he is one of a group who have helped lift the mood around Cardiff City in recent days. Of course, it’s what happens out on the pitch which really matters and that will be the final arbiter of how good or bad our window has been, but the five newcomers do look like an improvement on the five I listed at the start who have left the first team squad.
It’s no great surprise that there were plenty of City fans who were saying that the best bit of news to emerge yesterday was that Aaron Ramsey would be back in the squad tomorrow after nearly five months out with injury.
Anyway, we finally get to the main purpose of this piece, the quiz! Here’s seven Watford related questions with the answers to be posted on here on Sunday.
60s. Despite being born south of the river in Streatham, this striker was, due to his father’s connection with the club, a fan of non league insects very much to the north of the Thames as a boy and he signed for them as his first club where his captain described him as;-
“A very gifted centre forward, lean and so quick but unusually with a sharp brain to go with it! He would take a row with a centre half in his stride and yet out-think his opponent, and he was incredibly fit too”
During his time with his first club he also worked as a fishmonger in Billingsgate market, but his goal a game scoring exploits always made it likely bigger clubs would come calling and, when they did, he moved a fairly short distance to the First Division. Although that may have been a step too far for him at that stage in his career, he did manage a goal every other game for a while at his new club and this persuaded Watford to sign him, but he didn’t stay too long – his goal scoring record, while perfectly acceptable by today’s standards, was the worst it got during his career and so he moved out of London for the first time to sign for a club very much on the rise at the time and helped them reach the top flight before a move west for a couple of seasons before a Christmas time retirement.
His goalscoring record at club level could be described as prolific, but he was even more so in international football as seventeen appearances produced sixteen goals, who am I describing?
70s. Although his name may have suggested it, there was nothing corny about this Scot’s career as a solid goalscorer who just came up short when it came to top flight quality. He never played a first team game while wearing hoops, but then established himself at Watford over five years, before a move to red birds where his exploits persuaded a club that had fallen on hard times to give him a chance. He did okay at what was undoubtedly the biggest club he played for, but, once they started to climb again, he was off back where he came from again for what was the best spell of his career in goalscoring terms. His next two moves took him close to a couple of different borders, but he was in decline now and his final move involved a trip to the seaside not too far from the Football League’s headquarters, can you name the player being described?
80s. Did Watford attract trolls in this decade? Aye! (3,6)
90s. Can you name the former England international with an odd surname when you consider that he’s barely been outside of London during his long playing and managerial career, who had a spell with Watford in the first half of this decade?
00s. His first game in senior professional football came nineteen years ago for Watford against a side that included Gavin Gordon on the substitute’s bench and he greeted 2024 by receiving the fifth red card of his career, name him.
10s. Which Watford player of this decade has called for footballers to earn less and pay more taxes, urged young people to vote in the 2019 General Election while using a hash tag #F*ckBoris and is the second biggest share holder in Forest Green Rovers?
20s. Which Watford player, who was still with them during this decade, was a one time club record signing who made his international debut in a game at the Hive, Barnet which also saw new City signing Famara Diedhiou featuring for the opposition?
60s. Bobby Brown started his career with Barnet before a move to Fulham in 1960. Brown had been an amateur until his move to Watford a year later was the signal to join the paid ranks. Brown was next transferred to Northampton, who were climbing from Fourth Division to First and then back down again. Brown stayed long enough to help hem into the First Division, but then moved to City for £15,000 before he suffered an injury in a Boxing Day win over Aston Villa in 1967 at Ninian Park which ended his career. Brown won fourteen caps for England’s amateur team, scoring twelve times in the process, while his three appearances for Great Britain in the 1960 Olympics produced another four.
70s. Alan Mayes moved to Watford from QPR and then to Swindon before he spent here years with Chelsea in the early eighties. Returning to Swindon, Mayes enjoyed his best spell as a goalscorer, before a short spell (which included a loan move to Newport) with Carlisle and then a season at Blackpool.
80s. Les Taylor.
90s. Alan Devonshire.
00s. Adrian Mariappa’s first appearance in senior football was in Watford’s 3-1 win over Notts County in the League Cup in August 2005. Mariappa’s last game was for Salford against Forest Green Rovers on 6 January when he was dismissed for being shown two yellow cards.
10s. Hector Bellerin.
20s. Isaac Success.