wfc123, the editor of Vital Watford gives us his thoughts ahead of a crucial final game of the season against Leeds United at Vicarage Road on Saturday.
When Gianfranco Zola was appointed in the summer, what were your expectations for the season?
First of all it’s worth saying that to a supporter, we were all angry/disappointed about the way in which Sean Dyche had been treated. He might not have been everyone’s cup of tea at the beginning of last season, but he had certainly earned the right to have a crack at this season after delivering a very respectable 11th-place finish last term.
With that in mind, my own personal expectation was that we would finish in a position which justified the Dyche sacking under Gianfranco Zola – i.e. improve on 11th.
After a slow start that seemed unlikely, but credit where credit is undoubtedly due, Zola has absolutely smashed that expectation.
To find ourselves in this position is unbelievable. As recently as a few weeks ago, it looked highly improbable we would leapfrog Hull after a poor run of results but they’ve now hit the buffers and we’ve found our swagger again at just the right time.
You then signed so many players on loan from Italy. At the time, were you happy about this or thinking to yourself, this will not work in the English Championship?
I was highly sceptical of it, as most fans were.
We’d seen something not dissimilar in 2001 when Gianluca Vialli was appointed and added a number of highly-paid, over-the-hill, big names to the squad expecting them to play beautiful football and tear Division One a new one. It didn’t work of course and nearly killed the club in the process, but now we have exciting young foreign players supplementing the squad and having had the pleasure of interviewing them over the course of the season, it’s abundantly clear they genuinely want to be here.
Fernando Forestieri has signed a five-and-a-half-year deal with us – unheard of previously – whilst almost all of the others (or at least the ones we would like to keep) have expressed their desire to stay.
You only need to check out Daniel Pudil’s Twitter feed & you will see a man who is settled and happy in Hertfordshire and loves being here. He’s constantly posting pictures of his son in Watford shirts, on the pitch and always talks about the club and the town in glowing terms. The same goes for Almen Abdi who loves it here.
It’s fair to say a few haven’t worked out: Steve Leo Beleck (young & injured last season), Neuton (injured most the season & not built for English football), Jean-Alain Fanchone (gone) & Geoffrey Mujangi Bia (injured & rarely played) but the rest have all added something and in most cases, a lot.
Who has been your player of the year?
Striker Matej Vydra will inevitably win it after getting 20 goals in about two games during the winter, but the barren spell he’s been on since and his all-round play in general has let him down.
Personally, I voted for the aforementioned Abdi, our creative lynchpin. He is the epicentre of everything good in our side and brings the kind of awareness, vision and reading of the game to the team that other players could only dream of having. It`s a compliment to him that he makes the game look so easy and to be honest, it is farcical that he’s here. He’s played in the Champions League for crying out loud, he is far, far too good to be a Championship footballer.
Are you missing any key players on Saturday?
We’ve got some defensive injury woes with Tommie Hoban, Fitz Hall and Nyron Nosworthy all out. Captain John Eustace has been injured all season and could make a potential farewell appearance if things are going to plan.
Are you confident on Saturday or do you think Hull will beat Cardiff?
Watching the scores unfold on Saturday on Twitter I was extremely nervous and after full-time at Oakwell, I was even more nervous once the enormity of the situation sank in.
Thankfully I’ve calmed down now and I’m trying not to think about it. That’s all going to change when I down tools on Friday afternoon and start building up to the game!
I am confident we’ll hold up our end of the bargain, but I’m worried about the Hull v Cardiff match. Neither yourselves nor Cardiff have much to play for except proving a point to the manager ahead of the summer and that worries me. Hull have however been on a woeful run of no goals and one point in their last three. I’m clinging to that right now!
If you do go up, do you think this group of players could be competitive in the Premier League?
Absolutely yes. The loanees who have contributed this season are good enough to make the step-up and I think promotion would enhance our chances of keeping Vydra, who’s the only one I’d expect to lose if we stayed down.
We would need some new faces too ideally, because there are a number of players in the squad who are out of contract and unlikely to be retained if we do go up.
Finally, match prediction?
3-0 to Watford. (Fingers very much crossed!)
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