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Aug 14, 2006

The exuberance of youth

Watford were not good enough to make the play-offs, certainly not good enough to win the play-offs and are definitely not good enough to stay in the Premiership.

Well both Crystal Palace and Leeds United can confirm that the Hornets were good enough to achieve the former two in that list as they look on enviously from the Championship but it remains to be seen if they can hang around in the top flight for longer than this season.

the last time Watford graced the Premiership they failed to spend any significant money on new talent and went straight back down, finishing bottom of league with on meagre 24 points, under Graham Taylor during the 1999/2000 season.

And while some critics may say that Adrian Boothroyd's current team have not moved on from the direct, long-ball tactics Taylor introduced in his first spell at the Hornets from 1977 to 1987 nobody can deny that it has been effective.

The direct game plays to the power and pace the Hornets have in attack, which has proved too much for their Championship rivals and has been working very well for Bolton for a number of years in the Premiership.

Since promotion Boothroyd has bolstered his squad with the capture of Damien Francis from Wigan Athletic, who moved to the Latics after impressing in Norwich's relegation season, QPR defender Dani Shittu from the Championship and Charlton Athletic's former England international Chris Powell - who, it can be politely said, brings a wealth of experience.

At 36-years-old Powell has plenty of Premiership playing time under his belt and more years in football than his manager, who at a mere 35 years of age becomes the Premiership's youngest boss.

But despite his tender years Boothroyd has forged himself something of a reputation during his fledgling 60 games in management - of which he has won 28, lost 15 and drawn 17.

He was appointed boss of the Hornets in March 2005, taking over from Ray Lewington, after an underwhelming playing career that included spells at Huddersfield Town, Bristol Rovers, Hearts, Mansfield and Peterborough.

After injury forced him into an early retirement in 1998 Peterborough retained his services as Under-17, Under-19 and Reserve Team coach, before he moved onto the youth set-up at Norwich City in 2001.

2003 saw him head to the Midlands to take over as Youth Development Officer and Technical Director at West Brom, before he became a First Team coach at Leeds in the summer of 2004.

Now his time in the limelight has arrived and Boothroyd will be hoping his intelligent approach and use of cutting edge of modern sports sciences is enough to complement his motivation skills and keep the Hornets in the top flight.

His bullish approach has lead to comparisons with Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho but it is the ability to get the best out of his players, as does the Portuguese, which will be Boothroyd's most valuable asset.

In December 2005 Boothroyd rescued Marlon King from a doomed spell at Nottingham Forest and revitalised the striekr as Watford stormed into the Premiership and the former Gillingham forward ended the 2005/06 season as the Championship's top scorer.

Dulwich-born King will lead the line this term hoping to emulate Andy Johnson of Crystal Palace, who came up and took the Premiership by storm during the 2004/05 season - eventually earning himself in England call - but King will have too go one better if Watford are to retain their top-flight status. Despite his 21 goals Johnson's Palace eventually went down and to expect King to save his club is a huge ask.

The 26-year-old began his career at Barnet and enjoyed a successful spell at Gillingham, scoring 47 goals in 93 starts, before being snapped up by Forest where his career stuttered and he was sent on loan to Leeds United during the 2004/05 season.

Despite earning an international debut for Jamaica in April 2004 his first foray into the Premiership marks his biggest test to date. The arrival of Hungarian striker Tamas Priskin and the goals of Darius Henderson and Ashley Young may help share some of the workload but the pressure will well and truly be on King.

Both King and Boothroyd will have to be on top form to pull off the major upsets needed stay in the Premiership this term but pre-season went well and a 1-1 draw with Inter Milan, in which King scored a stunning equaliser, will have confidence high in the Watford camp.

Hornets fans will be hoping for more of the same as the club looks to beat the bookies, who make Watford 3.00 favourites to finish bottom.


  • Any thoughts on this article? Feel free to email Dominic Raynor