David Harrison endeavours to find out exactly who Haig Oundjian is, and discovers more than just a football man
Distinguishing features Extraordinarily well-preserved and unquestionably handsome, but in possession of distressingly big hair. Generally, every bit as smooth as a chocolate sandwich. Better looking – hell, younger looking – than the entire back four. And that can’t be right, can it?
Habitat Runs a faintly mysterious company called Penguin, but simply being Nigel Wray’s cousin will presumably not have damaged his financial standing. Strictly speaking his role at Watford is vice-chairman (corporate).
What use is he? His first public appearances at The Vic was as a member of a group known as The Milkmen. Not a Seventies revival band, but a splinter group of club directors who took to strolling round the pitch prior to kick-off during the 1997-98 season. The name was earned by their cringe-making habit of wringing every last drop of applause from the crowd – a crowd who at that time would have rapturously applauded the groundsman’s greyhound, simply for not being Jack Petchey (see below).
Who remembers his birthday? He’s popular with the fans, but more for who he isn’t than who he is. And that’s Jack Petchey. For the foreseeable future, whoever runs the club (and whether that’s Oundjian or cousin Nigel is a moot point) can rely on a basic groundswell of support, provided that they’re not an ageing, West Ham-supporting, Timeshare-flogging, Ilford-based squillionnaire who took over Watford from Elton, believing that all clubs were basically the same as his beloved ’Ammers.
Quote unquote He speaks a superficially compelling mixture of marketing cliche and well-meaning gibberish. At the press conference to announce Vialli’s appointment, he delivered tantalising snippets of this homespun philosophy to a bemused national press, such as: “The only limitation is the one we impose on ourselves.” Announcing a deal with Phones4U at the start of the 1999-2000 season: “Football mirrors life – the peaks and troughs, the good times and bad – and as such this sponsorship unites us in a journey through the challenges and pitfalls that life always offers us.”
Other offences to be taken into consideration He competed in the 1968 and 1972 winter Olympics and won the bronze medal at the 1971 European figure skating championships. As a result, he has even appeared with Sue Barker on Olympic Grandstand. Unfortunately, this leads him to believe that Watford fans value his “speaking as an Olympian” reminiscences, delivered in the belief that they bear even passing relevance to escaping from the Nationwide. He sat with the fans at Leeds and, on leaving, announced that “we sang well tonight”. A nice man then. But just not a football man. In fact more of a “Hey guys, why don’t we build a multi-purpose community sports complex, based around franchised operations covering soccer, rugger and, er, ice skating?”man
From WSC 173 July 2001. What was happening this month