“But Watford are already an established Premier League club”, I hear you say. You’re not wrong either. Three consecutive seasons in the Premier League certainly warrants a club being branded as ‘established’ when it comes to their status in the division. However, I believe Watford may be an exception to that general rule. After all, can you really call yourselves an established Premier League club when you’re touted for relegation at the start of every season?
One of the more intriguing definitions of ‘established’ I’ve found says, “having taken root”. For Watford, coming through on the right side of this remarkable relegation scrap would be the final sewing of the seeds for the club, allowing the roots to grow over the summer, and granting the club strong foundations to build upon going forward.
I realise that metaphor may have stretched rather far, so let me explain.
Firstly, I should mention that this season had the potential to be something special for Watford — the Pozzos invested well in the summer, and their efforts showed real colours in the early stages of the season. But, in truth, it’s ended up practically identical to our previous two campaigns in the top flight. We started well and began tailing off around Christmas time; we beat a couple of the bigger sides but lost the games we needed to win; and the squad has been exhausted by a curse of injuries, causing numerous first-team players to have lengthy spells on the sidelines. The only difference I can see between this season and the last two is that this time around we happen to find ourselves in more trouble than ever before.
One way of looking at all this is that Watford have once again failed to live up to the expectations they set for themselves after another promising start to a season. Or, we could take the more dynamic view, and recognise that the main factor in Watford’s characteristic downturn in form has been their never-ending list of players lost to injury. If the threadbare squad currently at Javi Gracia’s disposal can produce enough results in the coming months to survive the drop, the loyal Hornets fans will be able to look upon the future of the club with optimism and enthusiasm. A season where the majority of first-team players stay fit could be the special season Watford have led us fans to expect from them.
If we stay in the league, the summer will be a crucial period for Watford. Long-term absentees will return to full fitness, deadwood players will be offloaded, and fresh talent will be brought in to carry the club to a more respectable league finish in the following season. The pundits and fans that truly understand the football club won’t be touting Watford for relegation come early August.
And there’s a literal translation of the metaphor I provided earlier.
I honestly believe these final eleven games of the season are Watford’s final hurdle in their bid to becoming an established Premier League club. Make no mistake about it, we find ourselves in the depths of what will be the tightest battle for survival England's top flight has seen for a while — it wouldn’t surprise me if the majority of the teams occupying the bottom half of the table are still in danger of relegation by the final few matches of the season. But if we evade this final obstacle, I can see the club prospering in the years that follow.