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The 2000-2001 Review

By: Tony Butcher
Date: 09/07/2001

IT STARTED with a whimper and ended with a bang. In the middle we had a Zhang. 2000/2001 - the weirdest season for, ooooooh, at least four years. Well, since the last time Alan Buckley stopped being our manager. And we ended up in almost exactly the same position as the previous season.

The unsackable Buckley was sacked after 2 games, a loss and a draw - the best start to a season for over a decade! Pandemonium broke out in the not so massed ranks. The players seemed to spend a month wandering the green fields of the first division in a state of shock. Who would be the new manager? Lennie Lawrence, tired old, mad old Lennie. It certainly wasn't dull after his appointment. Perhaps the most inconsistent man in football he was known to contradict himself three times in the same sentence.

His mission, which he chose to accept, was to go boldy where no Town manager had gone before - the foreign transfer market. Out of obscurity he plucked a bonkers Dane - David Nielsen aka the Golden Dude; a Chinese centre half - Zhang Enhua aka the waving flan; a statuesque Dutchman who hates fish and chips and 1001 Argentinians, Germans, Belgians and every other "uns" under the sun as the reserves became a revolving door for jobbing pros in search of a contract.

If it's Tuesday we must have signed an Egyptian wing back with one leg.

"...Confusion reigned, as did the opposition goals....."

The team changed tactics, formations, personnel, perhaps even their hairstyles at least three times in every game. Confusion reigned, as did the opposition goals (or at least they would have done if it wasn't for Danny Coyne). Slowly, slowly the team drifted towards the bottom. Some of the performances were good, but the tactics were at times pathetic, designed to maximise the threat from the opposition. Got a good right winger? We'll play without a left sided midfielder and tell the full back to go on a bender the night before..

Around January something finally clicked in Lennie the Lion's head and he decided to go back to 4-4-2 and play some of the players he'd inherited. Cue the following quote after every game "I never realised how good x was until now". Oddly the supporters did and had been shouting it at him for months. Then the team started to drift again (which coincided with some more tactical tinkering).

"...On came Steve Livingstone, out came the elbows....."

The crunch came on a grey day at the end of March. A flukey win 2 weeks earlier at QPR had given some relief from the boredom and pain (oh Danny, you were wonderful that day). Tranmere at home. Halftime losing 1-0. The crowd despondent, relegation seemingly 45 minutes away. The team rotten and rotting. On came Steve Livingstone, out came the elbows.

45 minutes later Tranmere had been bullied into defeat, the 'keeper literally laid out by a Livvo "challenge" and the whole Town energised. One week later exactly the same thing happened. Losing at half time to a disinterested Watford, an all-or-nothing bravura performance in the second half which relied on anything but skill and 3 more points. Then an away win at West Brom, a solid, stoic and staunch Rorke's Drift. Safety was but a point away with 4 games left. Easy. No. Three defeats.

"...We got there in the end, but no-one knows how...."

Last game, down to the last game. Fulham at home. Another rousing, rabid performance where every tackle was a life saver and a fortunate goal from Golden Groves (if only his first name had been Gordon, eh). Safety at last. Done in a circular route with many diversions, like a Sunday outing as navigated by a batty old granny. We got there in the end, but no-one knows how.

Tony Butcher

This article and the 2001-2002 Preview were written for the Watford Fanzine Blind, Stupid and Desperate

Tomorrow Tony Butcher looks at the prospects for the Mariners for this season.

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