The 2018/19 season may have fallen flat on its face for the Hornets following a crushing FA Cup Final defeat to Manchester City but that wasn’t to distract from what was a really productive campaign under Javi Gracia. With the summer to dust themselves down, the club carried through its cup final hangover to endure a completely miserable start to the season. 3 head coaches down the line and 29 Premier League games completed, Watford find themselves outside the relegation zone by just one goal. We talk to lifelong fan Alice Burgar about the goings on at Vicarage Road so far this season.
The cup final result perhaps overshadowed what a brilliant season Watford had under Gracia in 2018/19. What were your expectations going into this season from your club?
Expectations going into this season were quite high, probably unrealistically so, as we had done so comparatively well the previous season. I did not expect a re-run of the Cup campaign but I hoped that with the players at our disposal we would play good football and fairly easily keep our place in the Premier League.
Despite last season’s heroics, Javi Gracia was dismissed as head coach after just 4 league games with 1 point, what did you make of this decision?
I thought that Gracia, as nice as he was and given his success during the 2018/19 season, had lost the dressing room to some extent and was not able to inject any new ideas or impetus into the players. So far the Pozzo’s had made good decisions for Watford FC and I trust their judgement if they make changes.
Gracia’s replacement, Quique Sanchez Flores ultimately failed to give the team a lift and the Hornets managed 1 win in the opening 17 games. Where was it going wrong for the side in your opinion?
Flores was another likeable choice, but he also failed to inspire the players who were probably still reliving their previous seasons exploits and did not fully concentrate on the job in hand. I also wonder whether the limited spoken English by both these Coaches made it more difficult for the players to really understand and interpret what the coaches wanted them to do.
What has the key been to the revival under Nigel Pearson? What have you made of his management so far?
Nigel Pearson was an inspired choice for the situation Watford found themselves in. He was a breath of fresh air and has especially good man management skills, which I think is the key to a really good manager/head coach. He also has a reliable and sensible assistant coach in Shakespeare. (Graham Taylor had management skills in spades!) So far he has injected self-belief into players, other staff and fans which carries a lot of weight. He understands the current situation and has plenty of experience on how to deal with it. He has been unfortunate in that there have been a large number of injuries which has held the team back to some extent.
With enough matches to give a fair opinion, what have you made of the clubs summer business with the signings of Craig Dawson, Danny Welbeck and Ismaila Sarr?
What have been some of the real highs and lows of this season? Who has stood out both good and bad individually?
As stated, the highlight of the season is the acquisition of Sarr, rapidly followed by the win against Liverpool. Ben Foster in goal has been brilliant at times, Masina has turned out to be a really decent player, and Troy is one of the best Captains I can remember, not because of his ability as a player, but because of his leading ability. One of the lows was the insignificance of the reserve side being drummed out of the cup, when, having the opportunity, they failed to show their worth. Some of the early poor performances especially at The Vic had left fans downhearted.
What are your immediate emotions when reflecting on the journey as a whole?
As an optimist and having watched Watford for many years, I still think that this team can play some very watchable football and with the right leadership can show some true grit and character. That was what made the success of the truly great sides in the Graham Taylor Era and gave the fans a lot to be happy about. I feel sad that there have been some mistakes made this season and sorry that we have experienced so many injuries that have hampered progress.
Are you confident Watford will survive the drop when play resumes?
As stated, I am an optimist, I feel it is a bit touch and go, so I am not exactly confident but hopeful that Watford will survive the drop once play resumes. (I sometimes recollect times when eg. we stayed up on the last day of the season when playing away at Oxford United and the fans went crazy – unforgettable except I cannot remember the year!) So nothing is over until the fat lady sings…
What are your thoughts on this Watford fans? Let us know in the comments below!