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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 February, 2005, 12:07 GMT
Q&A: Ray Lewington
Golden boy Ray Lewington
Ray Lewington has done wonders for Watford on a limited budget

Watford manager Ray Lewington took time out to tackle your questions.

Having held management and coaching positions at a number of London clubs, Ray moved to Watford to link up with then manager Ginaluca Vialli in 2001.

Following the Italian's exit from Vicarage Road in 2002, Ray took over the family-friendly club's reigns.

In his first season in charge he guided the Hornets to an FA Cup semi-final appearance and is widely praised for having done wonders at Watford given the financial constraints.

Making an appearance on the 606 message boards, Ray spilt the beans on football, the future and much more besides...

Thank you to all those who posted questions. A selection of Ray's answers appears below.


How do you feel your side has coped with the loss of Terry Burton and are you surprised at the success he is having with Cardiff City?

I think we have coped quite well. We have continued a good cup run and had some good victories in the league. However there is no getting away from it the fact that obviously Terry Burton is one of the best coaches in the country. I have always maintained that and certainly what is Watford's loss is Cardiff's gain.

But it was an opportunity for Terry and I couldn't stand in his way. I had promised Terry from day one that if an offer came along that he wanted to accept, then I would let him go and he wanted to go basically. He's a very good coach and I wasn't going to break my word.

The real bonus is that Nigel Gibbs has really blossomed since Terry left. Nigel now does quite a lot of the coaching and has proven to be a very good coach.

With Cardiff, at first there was no real immediate impact but slowly - very slowly - they are moving out of the bottom six.

They should do - with the team they've got they shouldn't be anywhere near the bottom six. They have underachieved and perhaps Terry is bringing out some of the talent they have got.


Do Watford still train at London Colney?

Yes, Arsenal's old training ground - it's a terrific place. We used to have quite a few training grounds but since I have been at Watford it's always been London Colney.

It's a great place and Arsenal literally moved in next door and built a training ground from a blank sheet of paper. Arsenal's training ground is marvellous - possibly the best in the country.

However, ours is as good as anything in our division. I wouldn't have thought that too mnay teams have the facilities we have.


What are your hopes for the rest of the season?

There are plenty of points to play for and I would hate just to drift into the end of the season. We still have to be aware that we are not safe and nor are the four or five teams above us...

We have to keep one eye below us but at the same time, we are also not too far away from a play-off position and with a good run anything is possible.

We want to gain as many points as possible out of the 45 that I think there are to play for.


What is the situation with contracts at the end of the season?

There are a number of contracts coming to an end. I've got a board meeting this month and we will discuss budgets for the following season. Then we will decide who we can keep and who we would like to keep and what scope we have...


Hello Ray. I'd just like to say well done for what you've achieved at Watford. After playing all the teams in the league, in your opinion which teams do you feel will win promotion?

Thanks a lot.Talking of the automatic places, I think it will be Ipswich and Sunderland.


Ray - what happened on Saturday!? (Watford lost 4-2 away at Sunderland.)

Like last season, our performance against Sunderland was the worst of the season...at least I hope it was the worst! I wouldn't like to see Watford play like that again.

Hopefully we can right it for the next game. Although Bruce's goals were good goals. He's a really decent lad.

He comes and sees you and politely asks why he is not playing. And if he is satisfied with the answer, he goes..


Ray, did you have a drink with Sunderland manager Mick McCarthy after the game and if so what does he drink!?

I didn't have enough time as I got caught up doing some interviews after the game. My two coaches went and saw Mick but I don't know what he drinks!


Sheffield United fan here. What's your relationship like with Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock? It's well publicised that not many managers like him.

I think that's true - he's known to be volatile. But I have always been okay with Neil. I accept that he can be volatile but I recently went to a tribunal to back him.

I have to say that after our first leg game against Liverpool, Neil Warnock was one of the first people to leave a message on my phone to wish me good luck in the second leg.

He said that he was pleased we were representing the Championship so well, which was lovely. So you mustn't read into all you hear about these people.


Ray, Watford appear to be having an inconsistent year. Are you still fearful of being sucked into the relegation battle? Or are you hopeful you could put together a run and snatch a playoff place?

This is football so anything is possible...although naturally I'd prefer to be contending for that play-off place.


Ray, first of all keep up the good work! It's fantastic what you've done for the club considering all the financial constraints. My question is regarding Andy Ferrell. Why isn't he getting more chances in the first team?

We all feel Andy has got potential but has not improved as much as we'd hoped. But he has character - he is a great little character, and maybe... we're just looking for some signs of improvement.


Ray, thank you for the season so far. Although our league form had been consistently inconsistent since Danny's shoulder injury, we have all enjoyed to season and will continue to support the boys and sing your name. I am wondering if, when you first arrived, you set a plan for the future?

Thanks for the kind words - good to hear. When I first I arrived I didn't set a plan as the future was so uncertain..and still is to a certain extent.

Though I feel that the club rather than the team has turned a corner in buying back the ground. As long as we didn't have the ground, the situation was impossible.

But we really can't plan ahead - we are still in a pretty serious situation though things are getting better. But it's hard to plan even half a season ahead yet alone looking beyond this...


Do you think that the rise in child ticket prices has led to a drop in a attendance?

I think that the club would obviously like to keep prices low, as we all would. However the directors feel that they are now trying to run a business.

At the same time it's a balancing act trying to get people through the gate as well as keeping the club alive.

It's well documented the money troubles that we have had and I'm sure that given any other circumstances the board would keep child ticket prices at the same price. After all they are the future fans...


Ray - well done! I think you are doing a fantastic job! My question is, do you look at the message boards on the Watford web site? I was also wondering if you saw a big future for us?

I don't. I really am hopeless with computers so I don't get to see them. Although people often do tell me what has been said so bits and pieces get relayed back.

Looking to the future, we have to get through this period. There is no reason why we can't have a good future but at the moment we are still in the aftermath of what happened a few years ago when we gambled and loss.

We have to be prepared to tighten our belts for at least the next couple of seasons. We have to roll our sleeves up but after we get through that hopefully we will see some light at the end of the tunnel and start progressing as we all want to do.


Ray, thanks for the job you've done so far. When I went to Millwall and Liverpool, Anthony McNamee played spectacularly! Do you think he will start some games this season?

I hope so. His problems are well documented. His asthma makes 90 minutes difficult to be honest, but he is getting stronger. As a boy he is starting to come out of himself now.

We hope that his asthma will start to diminish but the most important thing from my point of view is that his attitude to training and playing is better and I have been very pleased with him - particularly over the past three-four months.


Do you anticipate Watford bringing in any players from outside the English leagues over the summer given the current financial situation and the need to bring players in for nothing?

Undoubtedly anyone we bring in will be on a free transfer. I don't necessarily feel that doesn't include English players - there are plenty of players in this country that we will be free at the end of their contracts.

I don't really care if they are English, Scottish or Icelandic as long as they improve the team. Whoever is out there that I feel can improve the team and that we can afford, I will try to bring to the club.


Has the standard of officials, in your opinion, really got worse? Or is it they are more scrutinised than before?

More scrutinised. I feel really sorry for officials nowadays. It's a harsh job - absolutely. Every angle is covered. They are supposed to be able to see every angle which is almost impossible.

I feel that television doesn't help - it turns the fans against officials. It doesn't help that we are seeing teams now getting round the officials in five or sixes not just one or two players.

It's a tough job - very tough.


Did you get any Valentine's cards?

No - not even from the wife! To be fair though, I didn't send one either!


What are your opinions on football agents? Do they frustrate you or do they help you?

Good and bad. There are some good agents who will try and be helpful to do a deal, but there are some that quite clearly make it very difficult which can be very annoying.

But there are some good agents - we musn't label them all the same.


Reading fan here. What do you think of my team?

I think that they have one of the best managers in Steve Coppell. I think the team mirror their manager - very hard-working and they have a very small squad.

I thought they were racing certs for the play-offs but obviously they have missed Kitson more than anyone probably thought they would do. Until Kitson returns it's fingers crossed for them.


Is it true that Jay Demerit used to play American football?

No, though he played his soccer in America. Jay was playing for Northwood against us in a pre-season friendly and we liked him so much that we signed him.

He has done very well for us. Northwood have been absolutely brilliant for us - in the cases of both Jay and Scott Fitzgerald they didn't charge us a penny.

Their attitude was, if it can further the boys' football career then they are quite willing to let them go. The only thing they have ever asked us to do is to play them in a pre-season friendly.


What's Elton John's involvement like nowadays?

Well we have this concert coming in June and that's a fantastic gesture because we are hoping that it will make quite a lot of money for us.

Elton has been very supoortive to me although he hasn't got any real connections and hasn't been to a game for three seasons now.

He does phone me on average once a fortnight. Elton's very well-informed and knows what is going on, who is injured and so and so on. I keep him up to date with what is going on behind the scenes.

So although Elton's not offically involved, he makes it quite clear that his thoughts are with us.


Ray's final words:

I'd like to say a big thank you to all the Watford fans. I've been unbelievably surprised by their reaction this year - they have given us fantastic support.

The understanding of the situation has been brilliant. A big thanks, and that's from the players as well. We all understand that we are not the easiest club to follow by any stretch of the imagination.

It's been an up and down season but we've really enjoyed the part the fans have played, so a big thank you to all of them.




SEE ALSO
Sunderland 4-2 Watford
12 Feb 05 |  Championship


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