"During the January transfer window Watford had to bow to pressure and sell their other midfield starlet Ashley Young. Over £9 million was an excellent fee though and can only help with rebuilding."
2006/07 proved to be a season of struggle for Watford and ultimately the predictions were confirmed. The Hornets had been favourites to go straight back to the Championship and they ended bottom of the pile- however, they never lost their pride and won a lot of admirers for their attitude.
Arguably, Watford’s slim chances of surviving in the top flight were gone before the campaign had barely started. The loss of striker Marlon King to injury after only 8 League games took away Adi Boothroyd’s main attacking weapon. King didn’t reappear until April when Watford’s fate had been settled.
In his absence, the Hornets didn’t have a goalscorer who could convert a decent proportion chances or unsettle defences consistently at this level. Hameur Bouazza ended the season as top scorer in the League with just 5 goals.
Defensively Watford performed creditably, not least because they all took responsibility as a team- midfield and forwards grafted manfully to protect the back four. Watford only shipped 4 goals in a game to three teams, two of which were Manchester United and Chelsea.
Behind the back four Watford had Ben Foster on loan from Old Trafford and throughout the season he proved why good judges count him an England international keeper for the future.
The likes of Jay Demerit, Danny Shittu and Jordan Stewart never gave up the fight and made top sides work for the points. This application allowed Watford and their fans to enjoy a decent run in the FA Cup which dispersed some of the inevitable gloom. Only Manchester United could end their progress at the semi-final stage and even then Watford made a fight of it.
Though the team were never outclassed, a first win in the Premiership didn’t arrive until the 11th attempt against Middlesbrough. By New Year that was still the only 3 pointer despite some brave draws with teams like Newcastle, Reading and Fulham.
Late January/early February brought some hope as West Ham were beaten in both League and Cup and three points also came courtesy of Blackburn. It proved illusory unfortunately, as the team slipped back to a run of draws and narrow defeats. Just to prove their fighting spirit though, on 31st March Chelsea only escaped from Vicarage Road with a 1-0 win pinched by a last minute goal.
Bouazza was one of the players who enhanced their reputation in the campaign with his vigorous attacking play. During the January transfer window Watford had to bow to pressure and sell their other midfield starlet Ashley Young. Over £9 million was an excellent fee though and can only help with rebuilding.
During 2006/07 Watford had a host of virtues- organisation, commitment, team spirit- but ultimately it couldn’t make up a for a lack of real Premiership quality in the squad, particularly in the forward positions.
Like Crystal Palace under Iain Dowie, Watford paid the price for over performing under a charismatic manager to win promotion with a relatively modest bunch of players. Survival was always a tough ask but without King it became impossible.
Adi Boothroyd had little money to spend when he brought his team up but there has been some useful recruitment since relegation and more new arrivals should be on the way. Watford came out of the Premiership beaten but with morale still high.
There seems every chance that the Hornets could be challenging to come back over the next couple of seasons and with a lot more experience of what it takes to stay in the top flight. With Boothroyd at the helm Watford will remain a squad able to produce the maximum from their resources.