Q&A With Watford

  • August 08, 2014 | By Chris Mann
  • URL Short URL: http://b-ac.es/d912b

Ahead of the 32nd meeting between Watford and Bolton on Saturday afternoon, we have got the views of a Hornets supporter.

Wanderers begin their campaign with a difficult trip to Vicarage Road at the weekend, where they will face a side believing they have a realistic shout of achieving promotion to the Premier League next May.

In our first Q&A of the new season, we have spoken to Kieran Callanan - editor of the Vital Watford website. Ahead of Saturday's game, Kieran shares his views on the disappointment of last season's 13th-placed finish, why the Hornets could be genuine promotion candidates and his hopes for on-loan Wanderers midfielder Keith Andrews over the next nine months.

Q: From the outside looking in, after losing out in the play-off final in 2012/13, big things were expected from Watford last season, but a disappointing campaign resulted in a 13th-placed finish. Aside from the loans you had the previous year, what contributed towards that heavy drop?

A: The play-off final that you speak of was a dark, dark day. To lose was one thing, but to lose to an extra-time penalty after a dull match were neither team looked all that good - Watford more so than Palace, certainly - was devastating. Just how devastating, it was to the squad and management may have been underestimated in the build-up and start of last season. There's a lot to be said of the idea that last season was something of a classic play-off hangover.

As for the loans that you allude to, we retained every squad member that we wanted to keep, whether they were on loan or not, with two key exceptions. Matej Vydra simply could not be convinced to stay and he had his sights firmly set on the Premier League. We replaced him with someone that looked good on paper, but ultimately failed to establish himself. The other notable loss was Chelsea youngster Nathaniel Chalobah, who was a key part of our movement from defence to attack in 2012/13. His performances at Watford earned him a big contract at Chelsea and suddenly we didn't have the finances to be able to take him back. The player was keen, but the money wasn't forthcoming. He found himself at Middlesbrough instead of Watford and had a comparatively indifferent season last year.

Gianfranco Zola's loss of confidence following a poor run of form in late 2013 was the key factor in my book, though. Six straight home defeats and a lot of rotten luck contributed to Zola's departure. In the end, he resigned, stating that he didn't feel he was 'the right man for the job' - the job at that point being digging us out of a hole. If he'd stayed, he'd have learned a lot. It wouldn't have been long before our fortunes changed, of that I'm sure, and he'd have been a stronger manager for it. In the end, though, he left before Christmas with the reluctant blessing of the management, CEO and owners. He is welcome back any time and I hope the club crosses paths with the man again.

Beppe Sannino came in and immediately shored up the defence and, for quite some time, a play-off spot did not look out of the question. But, our tendency to let in late goals only worsened as the season went on and the crisis of confidence Zola found himself in the middle of at home was replicated away under Sannino. Just four away wins across the entire season tells an obvious story and that kind of form will never see you challenge for promotion.

Q: Giuseppe Sannino is about to enter his first full campaign at the club. Who has been his standout signing over the summer and what are your hopes for the season ahead?

A: First of all, a correction. You ask who 'his' standout signing has been, when really you should be asking who Gianluca Nani's standout signing has been. Beppe Sannino has some say in signings, but in his capacity as Head Coach, he does not dedicate too much time to this. Nani is the Director of Football and is the target of disappointed Watford fans' bile when signings don't live up to the type, and in theory is the man that should be praised for the top signings we have made over the last two seasons - but Watford fans are often cruel and forgetful folk...

It's hard to single out one signing as standout, as we have done good (and a fair amount of) business. Lloyd Dyer has been signed from recently-promoted Leicester City, in a move that nobody would have expected. Then there's the re-signing of a standout player of the second half of last season, loanee Daniel Tozser. He pulls the midfield strings and will be important for us this season. Then, of course, Matej Vydra returning on loan for a year will be the highest profile signing reported outside of Hertfordshire - and why not? He was top scorer in his first and only season with us, in 2012/13, and won Championship Player of the Season too - interestingly, our club Player of the Season was Almen Abdi...just saying).

As for my hopes for the season ahead, I have my sights set on the top-six. It's even not too mad to talk about automatic promotion as a realistic target. I don't feel all that comfortable talking about such lofty ambitions - my natural state of being as a Watford fan is one of a constant readiness for struggle and disappointment. But, yes, this could be our year. The squad is there, we just have to see how Beppe Sannino uses it and how the players cope than the going gets tough - because it will get tough and we need the right mentality to keep us from that rut that is so easy to get into in the Championship.

Q: Despite interest at Premier League level, the Hornets have managed to retain the services of Troy Deeney. Is he really worth the fee that is being thrown around in the media and do you see him staying beyond the current transfer window?

A: Troy Deeney has been the main man in our squad for at least a year now, possibly even a year-and-a-half. Vydra took the plaudits in 2012/13, but the ever-present Deeney kept up his form when Vydra's scoring slowed.

The money being badied about is outrageous, there's no doubt, but when you see the likes of Ross McCormack leaving for £10million and Leonardo Ulloa going for £8million-plus, you have to think Deeney is worth something like £12million or more. I honestly believe he is the best complete striker in this division and he is younger and better than both of the aforementioned players. Whether he stays or goes is up to the owners. I wouldn't begrudge them selling him for the figures mentioned above, but the key thing here is that it seems quite clear that Deeney is happy to stay. He understands that if the right bid is made, he will go, but he really does want to stay. I think he likes being a big fish in a small pond and while he's not exactly a youngster, he still has years ahead of him and doesn't need to kick up a fuss about a Premier League move.

If he goes, he'll be a big loss on and off the pitch. He is a leader, our captain now that Manuel Almunia has moved on, and it is the opinion of those who are closer to the squad that I that he is a character that ties the somewhat disparate group of players together. What I like about his apparent attitude is what it says about what he perceives to be our chances this year. If he didn't think there was a good chance of promotion this season, he surely wouldn't be so happy to stay. This bodes well.

Q: Bolton midfielder Keith Andrews will spend the final 12 months of his contract on loan at Vicarage Road. He never really settled up here, but had a good solid spell at Brighton & Hove Albion last season. Do you see him becoming a regular in your side?

A: I was very happy with this signing when it was announced. I like Keith Andrews and think he will provide very good competition for the holding midfield role, which is currently played (very well, I might add) by Daniel Tozser. This was a position where we didn't have quality cover for towards the end of last season, despite the huge amount of midfielders on our books. Andrews can play this position, which is a positive for his chances of playing a lot of games this season, especially if, God forbid, there's an injury to Tozser.

He could become a regular, but we have an abundance of central midfielders so it will be tough. I see him higher up the pecking order than some of the younger players, but only time will tell whether he plays a big part. He certainly could, but with the amount of options we have in the middle of the park, you just can't make a good prediction until a few weeks into the season.

Q: A number of last season's loan players have made permanent moves to Wanderers over the summer, while we have also added names such as Dean Moxey and Dorian Dervite to the squad. How do you think Bolton will do this season and who will be the star man?

A: I'm not in the best position to comment, of course, I'm sure you have a better idea than me about this one, but I see Bolton as a team that has the potential to do very well. Obviously, you did better overall in the 2012/13 season than you did last year, but I don't think you're far away from being a very good side. We saw last year what a small but well-motivated squad can do, in Burnley, and this is the type of side that can do well if the circumstances are right.

Bolton have Dougie Freedman, who has obviously seen his ups and downs now after being considered one of the relatively bright sparks in British management not very long ago. There were some heavy defeats for you last season and I don't think many would have been too surprised to see Freedman go, but I think the fact that he has stayed on could be a big strength of yours next season.

You finished last season quite well and as long as Freedman has learned from the experiences of last year, you are in a better position to do well this season. Most would say that you've not strengthened your squad all that much, but continuity is often key in this league and the brand new additions you've made are players with Championship experience. For this reason, I wouldn't be surprised to see you pushing for the play-offs. Equally though, it wouldn't be a massive surprise to see you struggle or do nothing in mid-table.

Total cop-out, I know!

Q: Finally, after a disappointing pre-season, do you see that ending with a win on Saturday? What is your score prediction?

A: I'm not in total agreement with you that we've had a particularly disappointing pre-season. It's been underwhelming, sure, but, personally speaking, I'm not too worried about the results. Ever an optimist...

First games of the season are always hard to call, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I think we have the edge. I hope we start the season off with a solid win. On paper, perhaps we should win, but we'll have to see.

Tentative prediction - 3-1 to Watford. We can score a lot of goals when we're in the mood, but I'm not convinced our defensive frailties have been remedied.

Burnden Aces would like to thank Kieran for taking the time to answer our questions. You can read more from him on Twitter - @VitalWatford.

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