I’ve visited Vicarage Road once in my lifetime, January 2 years ago. That day I was stood at the top of the away end and actually watched Reading win on the road, which is quite a big deal in itself. Fast forward to now, and Watford seemingly have established themselves in the top tier and narrowly fell to Crystal Palace at Wembley in the FA Cup Semis. What I find remarkable is that despite a season most newly promoted clubs would consider a big success – Quique Flores is under a lot of pressure. Okay, the last few months in the league hasn’t been the most successful – it’s clear that the side believed their safety in the top tier was secured back in February to be fair. The club as a whole does deserve a lot of credit, for a range of reasons.
The first thing I did notice when I visited the ground was the apparent lack of atmosphere and life around the ground. I don’t mean this as a criticism of Watford supporters, but the state of the stadium was interesting considering the size of the club. Nowadays however, the new stand is impressive, the atmosphere in the ground (especially the ‘home end’, apologies for not knowing its official name) is a pleasant sight and sound, with choreographed displays frequently put on before games. When I went, I was stood about as far as was humanly possible from the home supporters, with a semi-demolished stand next to me – and you really did struggle to see how the club could continue plying its trade in that situation. Everything has changed, and the facilities at the ground really do suit an established Premier League side, which is what Watford supporters will be hoping for in the forthcoming season(s).
The investment in the squad hasn’t been the most eye catching for the casual observer, but the frugal approach to signing players has worked wonders for the club. Players like Prodl, Holebas, Capoue, Behrami and Ake hardly ignited the footballing world – but the investments have all been clever and more importantly they’ve worked. A few eyebrows were raised for example when Watford missed out on Juan Iturbe – but the decision not to pursue the Argentinian has been fully justified considering he’s currently struggling to get into the Bournemouth starting XI. Watford are proof that sometimes simply throwing money into a side isn’t always the best thing to do. Efficient man-management and finding a correct balance on the pitch sometimes does more than simply investing and hoping. They’ll have to follow up with another good window this summer, but you wouldn’t bet against that based on last year.
To be fair, the ultimate credit that can be given to Watford is they managed to convince us to dish out £2.5m to sign Matej Vydra on loan.
Obviously, one of the main reasons that Watford haven’t received much attention is mainly due to the abnormal nature of this season. With the remarkable success of Leicester, Spurs and West Ham this year, clubs like Watford have gone under the radar. If you’d have offered any Watford fan safety with a number of games remaining, they’d inevitably of snatched your hand off for it. Understandably the season has somewhat fizzled out, but with teams they’re playing fighting for points for different reasons, it’s somewhat acceptable to see a difference in motivation levels. The second season often proves to be more difficult than the first, and Hornets fans will be hoping the form in the past couple of months isn’t a sign of things to come.