RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Friday, January 3

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: WATFORD FC

{pure Watfordness to put a smile on ya face} 

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football metaphysics methodology utilizing dork methodology of minutes played over the past 100 club competitive club matches to determine which 25 players constitute the strongest psychic force on a club’s current trajectory. Then intuitive analysis is conducted utilizing football metaphysics, performed from an un-American soccer fan’s perspective. We do this every 1st and 15th of the month, cycling through the 20 clubs currently in the English Premier League, because it is the top domestic league based in an English-speaking country, which as un-American miscreants, we were all born to be saddled with this limited, segmented tongue of the global colonizer, oppressor, and capitalizer. Also, it is what comes on TV here in the USA most prominently, where we live. And yet, it is really important we clarify we hate English, and also America. Maybe we hate ourselves. Our panel consists of chairman Raven Mack, director tecnico Paul Robertson, and director rudo Neil Bulson Our individual contributions to this 5000 words of gibberish will be noted by our name at the end of the blurb. If you enjoy this absolutely free internet content from an un-American soccer perspective, VENMO US FOR OUR METAPHYSICAL LABOR @ravenmack23.]

The footballing metaphysics of this Watford club is hard for me to address at first, because of fashion, which of course is part of their metaphysics being the sartorial heavyweight of Sir Elton John is probably their biggest celeb supporter. The Premier League is severely lacking in kit options. Like if you put all the home and away kits in a closet, all twenty clubs, it's a lot of boring ass blue and red and white in there, which is understandable because the British flag (and English one as well) are boring as fuck with those colors, which us Americans inherited for some godawful reason. What the fuck is up with those same goddamned colors everywhere? And I mean, it's cool, I get it, all the major clubs are a thousand years old, directly descended from King Charles' madness, and thus they have to be blue and red and white. But until you get to those barely worn third kits at the far left end of the closet, most of the Premier League fashion is boring as fuck. Not even a single rhinestone either. Fuck a poppy patch, put rhinestones on them bitches. So when I think about Watford, as well as Norwich, all I can think about is how the Premier League wardrobe is possibly gonna get even uglier if they both remain in this relegation zone they currently find themselves in. Watford's black, red, and yellow is perhaps the nicest combo in the PL for fashion choices (though I am a mark for Norwich kits). Thankfully, somewhere in the past few weeks, Watford found some passion, and have been scrapping their way, trying to get out of relegation spot. But fuck, what a scrum is waiting the second half of this season. Southampton was in one of those spots, got hot for two weeks, and now sit in 11th. Shit shifts quick in this holiday overload, but also there's a tremendous cluster of club who aren't the most premier Premier League ones. But Nigel Pearson's return to Premier League management, likely with a chip on his shoulder, has given them an injection of spirit. He had been in charge nearly five years back at Leicester City, for a number of seasons, and guiding them to the Premier League (in their current run), but got sacked after one season because shit got kinda wild. (It's never good when "alleged racist sex tape" shows up on your wikipedia page.) Of course, the following season, Claudio Ranieri took over and guided Leicester to that shock title run. So Pearson showed up at Watford likely with a cinderblock sized chip on his shoulder. He's a wildly volatile manager, but fuck it man, what do they got to lose? They were bound for the Championship, so roll the dice, put the wildman in charge, who hadn't even been managing for nearly nine months, and see if he can deliver a miracle. He'll be easily sackable next season if they're in a similar Premier League situation. I'm hoping they survive personally, because I like their whole fucked up aura, but it's gonna be a tough row to hoe. [RAVEN]

#1: ABDOULAYE DOUCOURE (same as last time Watford were metaphysically ranked, on 01-Feb-2019; thus also his SECOND METAPHYSICAL STAR) – As Paul and I have internally discussed key ingredients to solid football metaphysics over the years, a key piece that’s developed over time is the African defensive midfielder, who is able to balance philosophies and be a solid line of defense, but can shift into an attacking threat immediately. It’s a weird dichotomy, because you have to come off your heels fully to be an actual scoring threat. Doucoure is post-colonial French-born and bred, with a Senegalese heritage, which allows new Hornet Ismaila Sarr feel more at home. But Doucoure’s mostly been that type of balanced influence on Watford since they got this most recent Premier League promotion going. He did spend part of his first season on loan to Granada, but the past three seasons, Abdoulaye’s been the fulcrum in the middle. And though he’s only netted two goals himself this season, both were big. The first, earning Watford a draw against a shaky Spurs in October, and then another earlier this week to seal a big win over Wolves. Doucoure has expressed excitement working with Pearson, and the new manager combined with the club’s fulcrum and key piece being all-in on it has reinvigorated the squad. And to be honest, for a club that just this past holiday buffet of matches crawled out of last place in the table, they’re surprisingly exciting to watch right now. BUT IMAGINE IF WE HAD RHINESTONES TOO? [RAVEN]

#2: CRAIG CATHCART (up 5 from last time) – Northern Irish central defender that was horded by Manchester United in his youth. They, predictably, shuttled him about to Belgium and the English Championship before finally, when he was 21, deciding he wasn’t getting that first team regular season slot. He’s gone on to be a reliable player through lengthy spells at both Blackpool and Watford, as both teams pivoted around that lower Premier League-upper Championship zone, with his Watford tenure mostly falling in that very respectable very middle table establishment. Cathcart’s been a regular in that consistently punching-above-its-weight Northern Ireland international squad of the last five or so years. I don’t know what there is much to say else, except that I suppose he’s fairly representative of Watford itself—nothing dynamic, but keeps motoring along as a consistent professional. I don’t read any particularly notable career highlights, or off-pitch picadilloes. Nothing controversial on any Irish nationalist issues, despite obviously coming from the orangey-bluey side of Belfast. Only thing I can even think to comment on is his very pre-18th Century Cardinal Richelieu chin beard and moustache that makes him look 10-20 years older than he actually is. A few years ago, I was seeing players working the full, long-ass hipster trim-beard, particularly among goalkeepers. For some reason, it didn’t bother me as bad as actually seeing it on servers in farm-to-table restaurants. But I think it’s faded in fashion and I don’t know where we’re at now in terms of preferred facial hair. Still waiting on a modern European club player to work a full on unkempt wild-man beard and it’d be nice if it was/probable that it will be on some Irish central defender. [PAUL]

#3: BEN FOSTER (up 9 from last time; also ONE PREVIOUS METAPHYSICAL STAR, for West Brom on 15-May-2018) – Foster became Watford’s goalkeep of choice after transferring over after his previous club, West Brom, got relegated in May of 2018. The aging former Spur Heurelho Gomes is also on the squad, but once Foster arrived, Gomes has mostly been an insurance policy, used only during FA and League Cup matches. Foster’s no slouch, having once been at Man United, and he’s accumulated 85 clean sheets in the Premier League, including 13 since coming back to Watford. (He was once with them before, on loan from Manchester United, over a decade ago.) Oddly, Watford’s third GK right now is American primitive guitarist Daniel Bachmann. I always think I’m going to love primitive guitar, and I do for like four songs, but then it gets boring, like old white dudes playing blues music. Of course the one exception to this is Sir Richard Bishop, who is always amazing, which is likely why he was knighted, in a rare example of showing how that seemingly antiquated English tradition still has relevance. Tangier Sessions remains a top-notch soundtrack to clicking my dhikr beads to, chanting through my subhan allahs, alhamdulillahs, and allahu akbars. [RAVEN]

#4: ETIENNE CAPOUE (same as last time) – I like dudes like this, with the multiracial next evolution of man thing where we’re all brown and fuck our days away without having to worry about bosses or work or the whole Protestant Western Capitalist Fuck Show, which is just you getting fucked and fucked again until your personal show is cancelled. I like dudes who break that shit up just by their presence, which Etienne Capouea provides just by being alive, born in France, with a Guadeloupian father, and he brought that energy with him to Watford when they made the step up to the Premier League, which is something that they obviously valued since they broke the bank to get him, or at least the piggy bank that most struggling clubs have stashed away. He was Watford’s record signing, their first new toy upon making the jump to the Premier League, and that probably has to weigh heavy on a dude who was probably disappointed that Tottenham didn’t want him anymore, and he had already left France and going back would be something of a failure, but Etienne Capouea has not cracked under the weight of that pressure, at least not yet, and for now, he can be a positive energy for Watford, maybe their most positive energy to be honest and find a way to be indefinable and seed Watford with his essence. [NEIL]

#5: WILL HUGHES (up 6 from last time) – I remain loyal to my tattered digital file of Football Manager 2015, so as I have scooped up young talents in various unreal world project clubs over the course of many many lifetimes, I’ve often had to manage the unreal Will Hughes, as back when that game got issued, he was a promising young star for the English U21 national team. He’s not yet cracked the senior national team, and likely won’t, though he did graduate from Championship-level football with Derby County to the Premier League transferring to Watford three seasons back. He’s proven himself that classic competent but unexciting type, who – as a white-appearing Englishman – is always there to take up one of the seven plush seats on the sidelines and eat up some minutes when necessary. These types of players are called “technically sound” and don’t fuck up in any amazing way, but also are about as exciting as organizing toenail clippings. Being he’s struggled to keep on the line-up sheet at Watford, it does appear his shooting star has probably apexed, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see Will Hughes for the next nine seasons, bouncing between stints at Aston Villa, Newcastle, Derby County, and West Brom. Shit, watch this blonde-haired ghost-looking fucker end up on Swansea City next season, to torment me for writing these bland things about his bland play by trying to blind me with his blandness. [RAVEN]

#6: ROBERTO PEREYRA (down 1 from last time) – I wrote in an earlier Football Metaphysics installment (I think) about how Argentinian players in the EPL confuse me. I see that in the most recent Argentine international call-up, there were five English-based players in the squad, so I guess it’s not really that odd or “the thing” I make it out to be in my mind. One of, if not the, earliest memories of geo-political conflict that I have is of the Falklands War, sitting on the rug in front of my grandmother’s basement television set and watching occupying Argentine soldiers hand out Easter baskets sent from the colonial core to the English population of Stanley. I guess it made an impression on my mind that these dudes were apparently decent enough to not confiscate that sweet Easter Bunny candy. But it was still discordant, seeing these heavily armed, uniformed soldiers contrasted with all that translucent colored plastic wrap and pastel baskets. Probably some environmentally-osmotic racism was fucking with me as I watched these conquering brown dudes beneficently passing that stuff on to the lily-white Anglish or Anglish-adjacent population. [As an aside, I *might* have the vaguest of memories related to the failed Iranian Hostage mission that predates the Falklands, but at most that was “oh, broken junk in the desert—wonder what that means?”.] I sort of figure that so many English footballing supporters are nationalistic-racist such that an Argentinian player, particularly outwith the London or maybe Manchester cores, would have a hard time of it in some semi-hinterland like Hertfordshire. Now this has me thinking about if an English player could ever get sent to like Velez Sarsfield on loan and what his predicament would be. When does enough time elapse such that a representative of a not-so-old enemy can successfully navigate club football in a combatant’s club leagues? Regardless, Pereyra seems to be doing more than ok in the Watford setup, and I’m reading no indication that he wants out. [PAUL]

#7: KIKO FEMENIA (up 2 from last time) – As I strolled into this Kiko Femenia blurb, I was excited already, because “kiko femenia” sounds fun, like something vaguely sexual, but also perhaps drug-related. But then I went to his Wikipedia page, and therein is a description of his first top flight appearance in La Liga which says “After only a few minutes on the pitch, however, and a couple of poor decisions, he suffered an anxiety attack.” Not only is that quality football metaphysics, that’s also pure Neil, Raven, and Paul. Kiko Femenia went on to be a B-squad member of both Barcelona and Real Madrid, but never appeared for either of those highly prestigious senior clubs. Sometimes the greats are not known as great, and there’s not even promise, just bizarre talent that can’t be trained into the ways of prestigious success. That’s the entire spirit of the Football Metaphysics writing staff – we are the antithesis of shit like Men in Blazers. We’ll never get a podcast TV show deal from anybody who has actual money to pay for shit like that, yet we understand this shit at a different angle and better depth than fuckheads like that. We’re born losers, born doomed, and suffer from steady or intermittent poor choices which create existential anxiety attacks. But we always fully recover, and plough ahead. Shit man, just realizing all this, it makes me love this Watford club even more. It’s easy to want to write dumb shit about the Manchester Citys and Liverpools and crap like that. But Watford, or Bournemouth? As an American trying to get America’s exceptional attitude about itself, including with soccer, to become more un-American? That’s when you have to be a Kiko Femenia. In fact, fuck it, whenever you do amazing things about obscure shit and most of the world doesn’t notice or care, that is what “kiko femenia” means now. It is a state of doing shit, in way most everybody is incapable of doing, but to little or no accolades. And yet you have to do it, because if you don’t, you’ve compromised who the fuck you are as an entity trapped in a goddamned human body. [RAVEN]

#8: GERARD DEULOFEU (up 9 from last time) – The Spaniard has a face that I don’t like. He looks like the bad guy in one of those 80s ski school movies. That is probably unfair of me to say, but that was just my first impression. He came up through the Barca system so he’s probably definitely that dude, or like a Duke kind of guy, face you want to punch. I don’t have anything more for this guy, I just wanted to let you know that I had a visceral reaction to his face, made me feel full of bile and acid reflux, tastes like death. That’s all. That is his psychic energy for what it’s worth. [NEIL]

#9: TROY DEENEY (down 6 from last time; also previously ONE METAPHYSICAL STAR, for Watford on 01-May-2017) – Deeney's one of my favorites - a big bruiser of a striker. Traditional hooliganists romanticize the big surly anglo brutarians, but for my (lack of) money the future of enjoyable football is the post-racial post-colonial hybrid ethnicity bruiser striker. Kinda got me hoping Troy's trophy footballer wife is a Colombian and they got a kid named Diego Deeney coming up in like the Millwall Youth Academy. Deeney's not the star he was a few seasons back, but as that imposing physical presence, he still helps give Watford the identity they need to go with Pearson's arrival and refusing to die. [RAVEN]

#10: JOSE HOLEBAS (down 8 from last time) – One of those professional footballers whose national backgrounds and affiliations reach an almost transcendent level of complexity. Dude is Greek-Uruguayan, but born-raised and seemingly most personally invested in Germany. Yet choosing to rep his father’s Greece in international football, with time spent in German, Greek, Italian, and now English football and with persistent rumors of interest from clubs in France and Turkey. The Turkish possibilities dovetail with my ruminations about Argentine players in England—how do Greek players get along in the rump Ottoman Empire? My personal spirit warrior Georgios Samaras wound down his playing career in Turkey, despite his Cretan origins. I had always assumed that given the heady ethno-nationalist brew of Turkish football (and geopolitics more broadly) that a Greek (or a Bulgarian, or a Serb) might have a difficult time of it in Istanbul. And maybe they do. But not so much as to keep them from playing there. And much like the speculated Brit in Rosario, I’m not so sure how it would/could work for a Turk playing in the Greek league. Also of interest regarding Holebas is that he moved from an established top tier Italian club (Roma), at which he was performing well, to a middling EPL club like Watford, which is the same trajectory followed by Pereyra (from Juventus). Not sure whether this speaks to the financial power of English football, for both players and clubs (as Holebas was apparently sold out-from-under himself by Roma) or if it speaks to the waning power/prestige of Serie A, which seems to be suffering this year. Or both. But something is going on in the world’s football, such that I think the big European clubs (basically a Big Six that’s not exclusively confined to England—so maybe Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Barcelona, Real Madrid, and PSG) have hoarded money and talent to the extent that it’s levelled everyone else, the “lesser-bigs” included. Seriously, much as I want to attribute it to pervasive underdog spirit warrior-ness (at least for the green part), I’ve watched Celtic and Rangers go full toe-to-toe with Big Time clubs in European competition this season, hold their own, and even come out well on top. I don’t think this could’ve happened five, or even three seasons ago. Clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea, which for whatever reasons don’t seem to be on the full cash express train like some others, seem get-able. Arsenal sucks, but that’s way more of a momentary personnel-management issue that will probably get full cash-resolved here shortly. Back to Holebas and Watford—he seems to fit with the character of the team—a solid, consistent pro, with absolutely nothing flashy or outstanding or dramatic to really make a lasting impression, grinding out results and staying secure but not spectacular in the EPL. [PAUL]

#11: ADRIAN MARIAPPA (down 5 from last time) – Jamaican heritage dude born and raised in London, because both his mom’s folks are from the island. But get this – he also could’ve played for the Fiji national team because his pops is from Fiji. For nearly 15 seasons, Mariappa’s been a scrappy defender in that tweener land of low Premier/high Championship, mostly with Watford, but also at Reading and Crystal Palace. Once Watford survived their first season back in the Premier League, in the summer of 2016, they brought Mariappa back. This season, he didn’t feature much early on, but became a staple in their defense the past six weeks as they started to gel afresh under Pearson, although he took a straight red card in the relegation-relevant crushing of Aston Villa last week. Fuck it though… if you’re a 33-year-old back line bruiser of a club fighting for survival in need of an identity, a well-timed red card is solid metaphysics. [RAVEN]

#12: CHRISTIAN KABASELE (down 4 from last time) – The man from the Congo actually left the Congo when he was a toddler and ended up in Belgium who he reps internationally as is his right as that is his home as much as it is to any Belgian kid and I don’t even think that’s a thing, they are all Walloons or Flemish, not specifically Belgian, but anyway that sort of thing lends itself to the melting pot way of life, where no one is anything other than just a person, a human, or maybe we don’t even need to define ourselves that much. Can you be more human than human? I probably am, and if you are reading this, chances are you are too, we’re all just aspects, man. Anyway, this dude plays soccer for Watford and he does it reasonably well, but that’s just what he’s doing in this life. [NEIL]

#13: DARYL JANMAAT (down 3 from last time) – Couldn’t remember why I hated Janmaat, even though I don’t really know him, until I saw he was at Newcastle for a couple seasons, which was his entry to English football from a previously entirely Dutch existence. I have an unfounded and unnecessary irrational hatred of Newcastle United. Not even sure why. But I actually root for fucking Manchester United when they play Newcastle. Ultimately, that’s the true test of hatred, who you root for. The fucked up thing for me, as someone who has to be contrarian and hate the biggest clubs, was the other week when I was watching Arsenal/Man United, I actually found myself pulling for Man U. What the fuck? Granted, they were playing in their third darkest grey/black kits, and if they had been in that godawful red, I would’ve stayed with Arsenal. But you know how shitty a club has to feel to somebody like me for them to pull for one of the worst offenders in the Big Six over them? For comparison, I’m pulling for Watford against any of the Big Six, always. Fuck the Big Six. And yet somehow through all these irrational comparisons and hatreds, somewhere in my idiotic clan-ish brain was the memory of “must have Daryl Janmaat” even though the reasons had long been lost. I specifically chose the word “clan-ish” rather than “tribalistic” even though it’s two versions of the same thing, because my shoot surname is Scottish, and my paternal line goes back to the Highlands. But also, lolol, that’s only a tiny part of me, and utilizing patriarchal thinking to establish identity at the expense of all the other geographical metaphysics which composes my entire embodiment of fucked up existence. What the fuck is wrong with me? [RAVEN]

#14: ANDRE GRAY (up 2 from last time) – Blood feuds get lost in the glow of Premier League money sometimes. That can be bad metaphysics. In fact, I posit a big part of Watford’s poor play earlier this season can be partially attributed to the very presence of Andre Gray (who has only appeared in 10 clean-up minutes since Nigel Pearson took over). Gray made his name a number of seasons back lighting it up for Luton Town in the fifth-tier of English football. This got him transferred upward to the Brentford Bees in the Championship, and then Burnley where he was promoted to the Premier League, and actually got 9 goals for Burnley in 2016-17. But then he transferred to Watford, in a short-sighted move that overlooked the blood rivalry between the Hornets and Luton Town. And though the two clubs haven’t even faced each other since both were in the Championship in 2006, the rivalry has a long history of crowd violence, hooliganism, most prominently felt in 1969, when their Boxing Day 1968 showdown was abandoned due to fog with the game level at 1-1. After multiple postponements, it finally got played on April 30, 1969, and Watford had already earned promotion from the Third Division. The match was a brutal affair, with three players sent off, with a 9-man Luton winning over 10-man Watford 2-1. Afterwards, in St Albans, a town between Watford and Luton, opposing supporters of the two clubs clashed again. Somehow all this was forgotten though, and a guy who gained prominence at Luton Town was signed by Watford. This is why every club should have one of those grizzled old drunken fuckers in their office to be consulted on such matters, so that they could’ve went, “Hey, we’re gonna go after this Gray guy, who popped in 9 goals for Burnley last season. Looks pretty great, huh?” And the old drunk consultant can go, “Nah, fuck him, he’s a fuckin’ shite Hatter. It’s in his blood. Piss on him.” And then whatever dork in a suit who has to explain that shit can go back and say, “Well, our local scout had some negative remarks about Gray… I think we should look elsewhere.” [RAVEN]

#15: ADAM MASINA (up 10 from last time) – Adam Masina is an interesting story, because what we have here is a Moroccan-born guy who was moved to Italy as a youth, and played as a striker as a kid there. His hometown club of Bologna had pretty much given up on him though, and he was loaned out to a third-tier club who was only taking him on to get some sort of football bureaucratic credits for fielding under-21 players. That club’s manager, in order to actually put him on the field to obtain the credits, threw him in as left wingback, since that’s where they had an opening. Shockingly, Masina fell perfectly into this haphazard positioning, earning a spot back on Bologna’s second team, and then when the senior club got relegated to the second-tier, he became a prominent fixture in their defensive line-up, helping them regain promotion to Serie A. At one point he was even bandied about as potential left back of the future for the Italian national team. All this got him to Watford, and with Nigel Pearson opening everything up for everybody to prove themselves, Masina can again ride that fine line between first and second tier, in his second different domestic league – a true international tweener, not even born on the continent he’s plied his professional trade his whole life. The only thing that would’ve made all this more perfect if he was born in Algeria, because I cannot think of a more devastating metaphysical combination for defensive prowess than Algerian-Italian hybrid. [RAVEN]

#16: TOM CLEVERLEY (down 1 from last time) – lol I’m just gonna copy and paste his “Personal Life” from wiki:

Growing up, Cleverley suffered from a childhood speech impediment and was given a nickname, "Chunks". In October 2011, Cleverley accepted substantial undisclosed libel damages over a false claim made by The Sun newspaper the previous August that he had "badgered" a girl for sex in Blackpool. Cleverley was at home with his girlfriend in Manchester when the newspaper said the incident had occurred.In May 2012, Cleverley began dating ex-TOWIE star, Georgina Dorsett after they first met through a mutual friend. Dorsett announced her pregnancy in December 2012 and gave birth to their child, a daughter, Nevaeh Rose, on 7 June 2013. The couple announced their engagement in July 2014 and were married the following year. Cleverley and Dorsett had a second child when she gave birth to a boy, Alfie, on 3 May 2016. In October 2015, Cleverley was present in his house, with his wife and then baby daughter, when he was burgled by armed thieves and watches, designer handbags, jewellery and two Range Rovers were stolen. 

So that’s Tom Cleverly. [NEIL]

#17: NATHANIEL CHALOBAH (up 7 from last time) – It’s hard on those Sierra Leone streets, but young Nathaniel got out early, moving to England when he was 7, which I think was one of the episodes of that show Skins or maybe not. He hasn’t really made a name for himself, struggling to get regular time with Watford after languishing in the Chelsea storm cellars for years and years, getting loaned out again and again like the cheapest of hookers. It was nice that Watford finally got him off the streets and made an honest man of himself, but he hasn’t done much to earn his keep and it’s only a matter of time before Nathaniel here is making Poor Choices and then realizing that they weren’t really choices at all and sometimes you end up getting hurt or have to take a dick now and again. That is just the way of the world. It isn’t kind. It isn’t necessarily right. It just is. [NEIL]

#18: CRAIG DAWSON (down 16 from last time) – Dawson’s the grizzled veteran English defender who previously spent 7 seasons in the Premier League with West Brom, but got relegated with them a season back, so made his triumphant return to the Premier League when he signed with Watford this past August. West Brom’s looking good for promotion, so if Watford don’t survive relegation, I’d be willing to bet he’s a candidate for a transfer back, since he’s got over 200 caps for the Baggies. I don’t really give a fuck about West Brom, but I love the fact their home ground is called The Hawthorns because it was a site just out of West Brom proper that had been covered in hawthorn bushes. Hawthorns are fuckin’ dope, and grow into great hedges. One of the top projects I’d implement if I became a Powerball millionaire is to build a giant hawthorn hedge labyrinth on the side of a mountain somewhere, at an angle, to really take labyrinths to that next level, figuratively and literally. [RAVEN]

#19: ISMAILA SARR – Senegal’s national team got some summer showcasing action, making the finals of the African Cup of Nations. Of course, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane is the star of that national team, but the tournament perhaps put Ismaila Sarr on the radar of clubs outside of France, where the 21-year-old had plied his craft as a winger after moving there from Senegal. So he’s a true-born west African star, who played his youth years at a small club called Generation Foot. The first month or so of his time at Watford, Sarr was still getting his English Premier League footing, so to speak. But the past month, he’s gotten three goals, including one each in shutout victories over fellow relegation scrummer Aston Villa, and in that big 2-0 upset of Manchester United. Sarr is exactly the young golden winger with flair for tempo that Watford needed to show up and help pull them out of their misery. They’ll need him to remain healthy, and potent, to survive relegation. But also, so much of football is just a showcase for later football it seems, and just as AFCON maybe put Sarr on the minds of English clubs, whatever happens with Watford may be secondary to the larger transfer fees that come calling for the young winger, whether they survive relegation or not. Granted, his transfer this past August was the club’s record transfer fee they themselves paid; but that also means if they do get relegated, they’re not gonna want to take that £30 million fee into next season’s Championship books. Sarr has already made enough resume bullet points for himself to stay in the PL next season, whether his club does or not. [RAVEN]

#20: ISAAC SUCCESS (down 1 from last time) – Nigerian names are the best at times. The previous President was named Goodluck Jonathan, who also was the first incumbent President in that nation to lose a re-election, to former military general and former President decades back, Muhammadu Buhari, who might be the only dude I know of who took over as head of state in a military coup d'etat, but then was elected decades later. Anyways, obviously Nigeria's just a whole different breed of nation-state, and you don't see as many Nigerians in recent years in the big five European leagues, probably because Nigeria has had a functioning political system, albeit corrupt, so there hasn't been any major civil war sending refugees fleeing like you see with other black African places like the DR Congo. Success was Nigerian born, in Benin City, but made the move to Europe, signing with an Italian club at age 17, which led to time in La Liga and then finally making the move to Watford as a big signing for them in their promotion to the Premier League. It was the record transfer fee at the time for Watford, so the fact Success has had limited success, with only one appearance last season, mostly loaned back to La Liga, has got to be seen as the opposite of a success. [RAVEN]

#21: GOMES (down 8 from last time; also ONE PREVIOUS METAPHYSICAL STAR, for Watford on 01-Mar-2018) – OK, some bit of both personal and objective intrigue with one of these Watford Boys. I used Gomes as a goalkeeper during one of my deeper time investments with Football Manager. For some reason, he was one of those players that the algorithm decided was my best buddy (like I answered the question about how well we knew each other when I signed him and I chose the “we’ve known each other forever, I trust him to babysit my kids” option. But I don’t know, reading about his actual career performances and vaguely recalling what sentient Black Mirror episode Gomes did for me in Tron-world, he seems pretty erratic, to say the least. Maybe a lack of concentration at times? Maybe not feeling who he was playing for (his tenure at Spurs, specifically)? But he did alright for Watford up until getting replaced by Ben Foster’s boring ass (who I almost wrote about, but damn I’m tired of EPL English goalkeepers with generic names) and I watched that Bachmann dude play really damn well, despite seeming to be an absolute Asshole Goalkeeper Archetype, on loan in Scotland. So now it appears Gomes is hanging it up at the end of this season to become a pastor, which means he is almost certainly an Evangelical, and I can’t lie—Protestant Fundamentalist Latinos freak me out. This is going to certainly come across as problematic (because it is), but I hate seeing Protestantism gain a significant foothold in the global South. I view it as another creeping, insidious form of colonialism. As if American Whitey realized that the subalterns took on Catholicism and syncretically made it their own, repositioning it (often, but of course not always) as a powerful tool of redeployed resistance, and that Whitey needs to try again with American Protestantism (which I’m sure, given time, would be repurposed also, hopefully). Just last night, I watched the video for Wetbackmanny’s “Fuck ICE 2” (the first track of 2020 that met my ears, which is auspicious) and noticed that he gives a smiling-defiant Catholic-boi sign-of-the-cross before the video fades out. In other words, Brown Catholicism fucks with Whitey Protestant America and I am down for it. Yeah, I know Mike Pence is Catholic, but that’s the Catholic-Going-on-Baptist of Irish-Americans who willfully forgot where the fuck it is they came from. Sometime when we get deeper into this shit, I might go off on how (for a time at least) fringe Appalachian religious folks were flirting heavy with the aesthetics of a Catholic return, despite all their allegedly hyper-Calvinist rhetoric. Want to maybe try and pull together some academic paper on it someday, but that is a testament to my rank stupid-ness probably. [PAUL]

#22: KEN SEMA (up 1 from last time) – Born and raised in Sweden, Ken Sema has probably never seen the Congo his parents come from and I’m not being racist, they are Congolese, and its kind of a shame that I felt like I had to explain myself there, as if saying he was “from the Congo” was somehow a joke or insulting or racist or what not and not just a fact of his heritage but that is what this fucked up culture has done. The Congo should be a place of strength, of true Spirit Warrior ways and it is, that place is probably the most wild of all of earth’s places, like maybe dinosaurs still live there or some shit, that is how perfectly unfucked with the heart of that beautiful world is. Fuck people, just let the Congo be. Anyway, that is a monster Spirit Warrior place to come from and I hope Ken Sema has at least some attachment to it. Then again, he probably just grew up in Sweden like the rest of the Swedes, all safe and happyish. Probably has a thicker accent than Tomas Holmstrom. Or maybe he makes all those worlds work together, I don’t know. I am just wasting time here really, writing about a dude who isn’t even playing for Watford, out on loan. But there are no rules here and Raven knows that when I write I just write, it’s called New Writing, sometimes it works out, sometimes it don’t, but usually you get just what you fucking need. [NEIL]

#23: DOMINGOS QUINA – Guinea-Bisseau-born midfielder who decided to rep Portugal at international level (at least through the under-21 setup). I don’t know what to make of Portugal on the international stage, once one gets outside of Ronaldo’s stupid fucking shadow. Seems a fair number of Brazilian-born and former African colony-born footballers choose to try and kit out for Portugal—I’d argue even more than you see in the French setup. For such a small country, Portugal carried that massive Imperial footprint, with Brasil, Mozambique, and Angola springing to mind. I remember reading about Henry the Navigator in elementary school, but I don’t really recall what was so special about him, other than having that “cute” handle (“oh look, he’s interested in EXPLORING, not that other warring and fighting and oppressing king-shit”). And yet, when Portugal fell, they fell hard. If I recall correctly, for much of the 70s, 80s, and maybe into the 90s, Ireland and Portugal were running neck and neck (and both at that westernmost geographic fringe) for worst national shitholes in Europe. Almost to the point of the big boys like the UK, France, and Germany being all “are y’all SURE y’all are even EUROPEAN?” [guffaw, chortle, smack palms on tables]. Even this reminds me that a lot of racially suspect people in the eugenics-mad U.S. South of the 19th and early 20th century would claim that they were “Portuguese” to fold their suspect pigmentation under a “White Enough, I Guess” category. So, I don’t know, maybe I need to learn more about racial dynamics and Portuguese representation. Quina here is not really getting much manager-love from Watford at the moment, and there’s rumblings of sending him on loan into the Championship. [PAUL]

#24: SEBASTIAN PRODL (down 6 from last time) – Strapping Austrian lad who seems to have commendably come back from a host of injuries during his career. It looks like Sebastian is now riding the Watford bench in the waning seasons of his career, with probably one more starting eleven stint in a lesser league before he’s completely finished. He’s another one of those Euro-Aryan dudes that looks like a ready-made villain in some stupid American cop-loving late 1980s/early 1990s film, where his stiff robotic-ness in pursuit of either money or caricatured far-right/far-left ideals runs afoul of glib, testicle-jostling, Bugs Bunny American pragmatism. Jimmy Buffett, Kid Rock, and Blake Shelton versus Kraftwerk in a steel cage match, basically. [PAUL]

#25: DANNY WELBECK (previously ranked #22 for Arsenal on 01-Sep-2019) – Welbeck’s the former Manchester wonderkid who eventually left after not latching on with the senior team there. Last season saw his unimpressive Arsenal second chance come to an end, with a broken ankle against Sporting Lisbon in a Europa League group stage match. The career of a former superstar in the making, now trickled down to Watford, at age 29, and not really being able to land Premier League minutes on the pitch even here, for this club fighting for relegation survival. Welbeck has played every minute of Watford’s two League Cup victories, even netting a goal against my Swansea City boys. But with Ismaila Sarr and the 3D experience of Deeney, Doucoure, and Deulofeu keeping it rugged and raw up front, there’s not really room for the overrated finesse of Welbeck to try and find his way just yet. [RAVEN]

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