New Boys – Matej Vydra
We have for some years now greeted most new signings at Derby with an intro piece knocked together by a fan of the club they have just left.
So with Derby’s recent double swoop on Watford for Vydra and Anya, who better to give us the lowdown than long term Ramspace supporter, regular DCFC Podcast panelist and regular Watford viewer Jon Rodgers.
Here Jon introduces Matej Vydra to the Rams faithful, part 2 on Ikeshi Anya will follow later this week.
“Both Vydra and Anya were important members of the Watford team that Gianfranco Zola melded together during the 2012/13 season, following the Pozzo family takeover of the club that summer. I went to the play off final at the end of that rollercoaster season and actually saw more Watford games than Rams ones, most of them involving these two guys. So I’m ecstatic that they’ve both now ended up at my club.
Vydra arrived at Watford as a more or less unknown 20 year old after a few seasons in the Czech league and then, after his transfer to Udinese, a year on the sidelines with a knee ligament injury. He made an instant impact though and was a bit like a peroxide early Michael Owen, with blistering pace and exceptional finishing. He scored some brilliant goals, most of which you can still find on YouTube and formed a great partnership with Troy Deeney.
Most of his goals relied on his pace but he also had a fair amount of guile and skill plus a ferocious shot. In total he scored 24 goals in 51 games. The “van Basten-esque” one he scored against Pearson’s Leicester in the play off semi-final was significant, partly because it was such an exceptional strike but also because it came after a particularly barren run. In fact, despite scoring 19 goals in his first 26 games, he had a 13 game scoreless run after the January transfer window closed. Many Watford fans, at that stage, had begun to question his commitment and application and thought that he’d had his head turned by the thought of a transfer to a bigger club. It could just have been that defences had learnt to deal with him I suppose. However, he always seemed to me to be a bit of a sulky presence on the pitch, frequently expressing dissatisfaction if a colleague (even Deeney!) didn’t thread a perfect ball through to him. Sound like anyone we know? Maybe he was just confident in his own abilities and thought he should be playing at a higher level.
Vydra went on loan to West Brom the following season, as he was still a Udinese player and they wanted to test him in the Premier League. Unfortunately, this move didn’t quite work out and he only started 7 games, scoring 3 goals. He obviously wasn’t quite able to put in the consistent performances required to become a fixture in the side. In fairness, I think he suffered a few niggling injuries during this period which didn’t help.
He was back at Watford for the 2013/14 season and redeemed himself, again in partnership with Deeney, scoring 16 goals, including the one against Brighton that clinched promotion to the Premier League. I actually watched that on the concourse of the New Den, prior to Derby’s 3-3 draw with Millwall. It’s a funny old game.
However, the Pozzos clearly didn’t think he was good enough to be in their Premier League squad and loaned him out to Reading for 2015/16. Given his performances and excellent goal scoring record in the season just finished, you have to think that there was something about his attitude or approach that caused the Pozzo regime to have doubts. The season at Reading was a clear failure as he only scored 3 goals over a reasonable number of games. Perhaps he was put off by moving teams regularly and not having a permanent home? He seems to have suggested this in recent interviews. Is he that fragile?
I think most Watford fans were quite sad to see him go after the contribution he’d made to the club but he is seen by many as an unfulfilled talent. The rumours of an attitude problem also never really went away. Sources close to the club suggest we paid £12.5 million for him (not the £8 million quoted by us) and I’m sure many think that’s excellent business given his failure at Reading and failure to challenge the pairing of Deeney and Ighalo.
Vydra, therefore, comes to us with a few question marks against his name. Can he rediscover the form of his two seasons with Watford or are we going to see the player who struggled at Reading and, to a lesser extent at West Brom? Is he only suited to counter attacking football? Might he struggle against packed defences? Is he more stroppy than Chris Martin?
I’m pretty confident he’ll be a success, especially under Pearson’s robust tutelage. If Pearson can’t keep him focussed and committed I don’t know who can. If he gets the right service from Hughes/Thorne and perhaps Weimann and Anya on the wings, I can see him scoring a lot for us and it will be a breath of fresh air to see some power and pace up front at last.”