After sliding to a 17th-placed finish in the Premier League, Watford fans probably wish they could call upon a young John Barnes right now.
The England ace broke onto the scene at Vicarage Road, spending six years with the Hornets before a headline move to Liverpool in 1987.
And while attending England training at St. George’s Park, Barnes spoke exclusively to Ladbrokes News to give his views on the latest goings on in Hertfordshire, plus his thoughts on Newcaslte United’s return to the Premier League.
Be warned though, it may not make pleasant reading for Hornets fans!
Ladbrokes News: John, you began your career with Watford at a time which was arguably the club’s heyday. But what do you make of the club’s situation today?
Watford are the most unusual club in the country. They really are.
Their philosophy and what they’ve done in the last few years should be an example in what you shouldn’t do to survive. But somehow they have.
They have players on loan, they’ve had a lot of managers, none of the players are committed to the club.
That’s not a recipe for stability, it’s an unstable club.
I don’t know how they’ve stayed up and I have to say I don’t think they can continue to be run like they are and be successful.
They are going to have to get some stability.
Watford’s other problem in the last couple of years has been that they’ve started seasons well, and then they’ve been poor in the final months.
But at the start of the year, if you offered Watford fans that finishing position, they may well have taken it.
So it’s about perspective too. It’s always better to finish the season strongly, but they’ve been ending seasons very negatively.
Watford’s situation for me is inexplicable, I don’t know how they do it.
LN: So things look pretty bleak for Watford, but there’s a happier vibe at Newcastle. What do you expect from the Toon Army upon their Premier League return?
JB: The key thing for Newcastle is that this is Newcastle with Rafa Benitez.
So this side will be pragmatic. I have no fears about them not being in the top-half. I’m not saying top five, six etc, but that lower top-half. I don’t think they’ll be anywhere near the bottom.
They will get results with Rafa but next season will be about managing expectations. Liverpool and Manchester United have had that problem in the past, after Kenny Dalglish and Alex Ferguson.
Newcastle must get results first, and maybe that means sacrificing a more attractive style of football, in order to build for the future.
Perhaps the scare of relegation may have made the club think long-term. They’re sticking with Rafa which is a good sign.
They played an open game in the Championship but they will need to change that and be more pragmatic back in the Premier League.
But hopefully the club and the fans will be willing to accept that in order to become a stable Premier League club once again.
And then in a few years time make a bid for the top five – and bring that open style of football back.
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