Watford are another club where change was easy to find. After finishing 11th last time out with Sean Dyche at the helm, new owners the Pozzo family opted to replace the former player with Italian Gianfranco Zola. The Pozzo family also own Spanish outfit Grenada and Italian side Udinese. The Hornets are currently the only club that the family own that exists outside of their nation’s top division.
It’s Round and It’s White hooked up with Hornets fan Tom Bodell (@TBBodell) to get the buzz on the team’s chances this season.
How did last season measure up, compared to your expectations?
Last season was an excellent season for us in the end, but it certainly didn’t look like it would be until after Christmas. It’s a yearly thing for us to have a chaotic summer nowadays and last year was no different. Malky Mackay departed for Cardiff City of course, whilst Don Cowie followed, Will Buckley went to Brighton and Swansea snapped up top-scorer Danny Graham.
It was always going to be a hell of a task for the new boss Sean Dyche to replace those guys & build a team in his own mould, but credit where credit is due, he certainly managed it. The summer signings didn’t all necessarily meet the expectations of them – David Mirfin has left, Craig Forsyth is still one for the future, whilst Mark Yeates & Joe Garner both continue to frustrate beyond belief. However the later signings – Jonathan Hogg, Nyron Nosworthy to name two, plus the loan additions of Michael Kightly & Tomasz Kuszczak were inspired.
The fact that we had an outside hope of a Play-Off place if everything went our way around Easter was testament to the job Dyche did against a backdrop of off-field chaos and key departures, Marvin Sordell of course leaving on transfer deadline day in January.
What do you think of your club’s summer transfer activity, are there more arrivals/exits on the horizon?
So far, so good. I would love to see us adding players permanently but failing that, we have added genuine quality thanks to our newly-established ties with Granada of La Liga and Udinese of Serie ‘A’. The tie-ups come courtesy of the new owners, the Pozzo family, and have seen the likes of Swiss international playmaker Almen Abdi, Czech international left-back Daniel Pudil and hot striking prospects Matej Vydra and Steve Leo Beleck sign on season-long loans. Former Wycombe Wanderers prospects Ikechi Anya has also signed on-loan after spells with Celta Vigo and Sevilla whilst Alex Geijo has recently signed on-loan too having enjoyed a one-in-two strike rate with Granada over the course of two seasons.
Permanent additions have come in the shape of experienced former Arsenal ‘keeper Manuel Almunia and ex-Hoop, Fitz Hall. Hall is as yet not fit enough to feature, but Almunia has excelled in his two appearances for the first-team.
In terms of departures, Adrian Mariappa has joined Reading which is a real blow, but with Nosworthy, Hall and Martin Taylor at centre-back we’re well covered. Troy Deeney is of course serving a 10-month jail sentence for affray, his future as yet undecided. Gianfranco Zola has said that a first-team squad of 30 is too many and he will be trying to move some of those on sooner rather than later. Up front from example we are particularly heavy with Chris Iwelumo, Garner, Vydra, Beleck, Geijo, Sean Murray, Mark Yeates, Britt Assombalonga and Gavin Massey!
What would be a dream new season for you?
The new signings and management gel and race into the Premier League at the first time of asking, playing beautiful football and barely breaking sweat. There are no off-field dramas and the Pozzo family continue to prove their stellar pedigree as football club owners.
What would be your worst nightmare?
The team & management fail to gel altogether and the club, like so many before, falter spectacularly under the weight of expectation, crashing and burning on their way to League One.
Who will be your most important player/s this season?
Young attacker Murray burst onto the scene last season amongst a blaze of goals and superb displays down the right-hand side of midfield. With Zola switching to 4-3-3 this season it looks like the local lad will be utilised as one of the two wide forwards flanking the main central striker. A slight injury prevented him playing against Wycombe Wanderers last Saturday but he should well be fit to face Crystal Palace this weekend.
Although he’s not blessed with searing pace, he’s no slouch either and he lends a certain burst of unknown to proceedings. He chips in with goals and can take a mean free-kick to boot.
Any players you would happily see the back of?
Garner and Yeates.
Although Yeates was the club’s highest assist-maker last season he was abysmal for long chunks of the season. The assists came from the set-pieces which he presided over, very few actually coming from open play. It’s often the case that he does far too much on the ball when an easier option to offload the ball would have been the better option, he ignores it.
Garner has failed to do ‘it’ since leaving Carlisle United. Nottingham Forest fans seemed to be glad to see the back of him and after a season of him, it’s not hard to see why. He spends most his time on the floor or squaring up to opposition players and just one goal for the club in 30 appearances for the club says it all. With so many strikers on the books, he should be amongst the first to move on.
Do you have the best manager for the job?
On the basis he’s just been appointed, it’s hard to say but certainly he has started well enough. The players that have been added look good and he is keen to preach the ‘keep the ball on the deck’ ideology which will keep the fans onside who were opposed to the mix-and-match style of Dyche. Whether or not those same fans are patient enough to sit through the teething process that will inevitably usher in the Zola reign remains to be seen!
Opposition players that you respect?
Peter Whittingham and Jordon Mutch at Cardiff City are both excellent playmakers. Heidar Helguson is obviously a bit of a modern-day hero for us, even though he’s plying his trade over there now! Wolves’ duo Adam Hammill and Matt Jarvis are both dangerous, dangerous wingers there and with the former on the transfer list, I’d love to see us a make a move for him.
Opposition players that you despise?
Now El-Hadji Diouf has signed for Leeds United I think the whole league has a hate-figure to get behind! For a man that Neil Warnock had such harsh words for after his taunting of a prone Jamie Mackie, I’m amazed he’s signed for them. A nasty, nasty piece of work, there’s no two-ways about it.
Best away fans/ground in your league?
It has to be said, Leeds fans are always excellent. Very vocal and get behind their team well, always bringing a lot of fans down to the Vic’. Best away ground? Probably Barnsley, no-one ever seems to go which means you’ll get a good seat and queues are minimal for the toilet/bar etc!
Which teams do you really want to beat this season?
I’m not a Watford fan who’s really wound-up about Mackay joining Cardiff City, I fully understand why he left, but probably them. He’s proven to be a bit of an unscrupulous man since and that is the opinion of an awful lot of Watford fans. Advising Owen Coyle not to buy Sordell before slapping a bid of his own in stands out as a particularly morally bankrupt way to go about your business.
Finally, where do you honestly think you will finish?
Between 9th & 11th. I think it’s too early to be looking at promotion, but I see no reason why we can’t improve on last season and really cement our place in the top-half before kicking-on next season and putting together a serious stab at promotion.
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