Weakest Link or Just a Scapegoat? The Trial of Gavin Mahon.

Gavin Mahon. Mention his name in any pub or bar in and around Watford Football Club and you are guaranteed to get a passionate reaction, either positive or negative. The current club captain can be described by his fans as a heroic leader, marshalling his troops towards victory, displaying excellent vision in breaking down oppositions play and winning the midfield battle. However, his critics argue that here is a player that can only pass sideways, hasn’t a clue when it comes to tactics and shoots once every blue moon. His substitution against West Brom brought the loudest cheer of the game.

 

To really look into whether or not Gavin Mahon us excelling as captain of our football club, we need to compare his abilities to the definition of what a true team captain is.

“The team captain of a football team, sometimes known as the skipper, is a team member chosen to be the on-pitch leader of the team” 

So far, so good.

“It is often one of the older or more experienced members of the squad, or a player that can heavily influence a game” 

Before Gav signed for the Hornets, he had spent 4 years toiling away at Brentford and Hereford, after being released as a trainee at Wolves. Not exactly a world beater.

And, does he influence games? Although he does make heavy challenges, many of them at key times, can anyone remember a defence splitting Gav Mahon pass?

Is it just because he’s a senior player then? Why would Gav get the nod ahead of both Malky Mackay, Matt Jackson (who was Wigan’s skipper before signing for us this summer) and the impressive Jay DeMerit, who has progressed so much since Ben Foster moved back to Man Utd? Even when the other candidates seemed to be the better option, Mahon was handed the armband.

“Selection of a captain is an important choice for the manager of a football club – he will be the manager’s correspondent on the pitch and the relationship between a manager and a captain is a crucial one” 

This can and should be Gavin Mahon’s defining moment. Ever since Aidy Boothroyd was appointed Watford boss, Mahon has been his leader. Vocal on the pitch, his organisational skills are effective, if a little slow to be put in place. Many games in our recent promotion season, 2005/2006, were won in midfield, which is Gav’s playground. But, a season in the Premiership showed the fans something we weren’t prepared for; his frailties as a player. Aidy has always been an avid supporter of him though, defending him at every turn, especially after games where the key area we lost out on was midfield.

“Crucial qualities of a club captain include determination and stamina, being able to get on with everybody, and being an intelligent, tactically minded player” 

Out of these noted qualities, Mahon’s determination is his shining light. Although he not the most gifted player in the Watford squad, his drive to succeed has been a notable asset in his career. His progress from lower tier footballer to Premiership captain is nothing short of remarkable, and is all down to his will to win as a professional. This, in essence, has had a positive effect on the rest of the team, galvanising them to perform week-in, week-out. But, last season tested his characteristics as a performer, not a leader, which drew him into the eyes of our supporters when games weren’t going our way.

 

In conclusion, it seems Gav Mahon is nothing more than a victim of his own success. One good season brings a player into the public eye, maybe not on a national level when talking about the Championship, but definitely in the Premiership (Ashley Young being a good example). The expectations of a player are raised when he performs solidly every week, and even more when the player wears the captain’s armband. Gavin Mahon is a spirited leader and a solid player, but when the team underperforms or loses on a regular basis (like last season), the captain is the first port of call when the dissection begins. With the squad growing over the past 12 months to accommodate Mahon into a midfield alongside the likes of Williamson, Rinaldi, Francis, Williams and Bangura, it will take more high calibre performances to keep his place, let alone the armband.