17 September ~ It has been a difficult summer at Vicarage Road, following the loss of key figures both on and off the pitch. The transfer of Danny Graham to Swansea was inevitable given his division-leading haul of 24 league goals last season and the striker's desire to play Premier League football. Other key players also departed but, given Watford's level of indebtedness, player sales were an accepted certainty this summer. More damaging was the loss of manager Malky Mackay and CEO Julian Winter. When Mackay left for Cardiff he took with him key members of his backroom staff and Scotland international Don Cowie, resulting in further upheaval.

Winter had earned a good deal of respect having steered the club through some difficult times and for placing an emphasis on investment in youth.  He was also praised for his openness with supporters, even at times when the future of the club was unclear. His departure, more than that of any player or member of the coaching staff, will be most keenly felt. Watford's future direction is still not clear under new owner Laurence Bassini, and Winter represented a trusted link between the boardroom and supporters.

However, there are causes for optimism at the Vic. Early season performances, even in home defeats to West Ham and Derby, offered hope that the club will be able to defy the predictions of many pundits and secure their Championship status for another season.

By appointing Sean Dyche, the Hornets continued their recent tradition of giving talented young coaches opportunities in management. Despite the loss of key players, he has assembled a more balanced squad and summer signings have added some much-needed depth. Carl Dickinson offers a solid, and most importantly left-footed, option at full-back while Mark Yeates has shown a promise since his move from Sheffield United. Returning Aston Villa loanee Andi Weimann and recent signing Jonathan Hogg, also from Villa Park, both impressed in the victory over 2010-11 play-off finalists Reading last weekend.

Today Watford travel to face a Barnsley side who have struggled at home this season, but the Tykes will have been buoyed by a draw against big-spending Leicester City in their last fixture. Hornets striker Marvin Sordell will hope he can emulate the success he enjoyed in his last game at Oakwell, scoring with a spectacular strike and winning the Man of the Match plaudits in a 4-1 victory for the England Under-21s. Watford fans would relish a repeat, but further steady progress and another positive result would be equally welcome. Pete Ellender

Comments (3)
Comment by madmickyf 2011-09-20 05:38:10

"Other key players also departed but, given Watford's level of indebtedness, player sales were an accepted certainty this summer". Does this mean you've accepted that you won't be bailed out by Sir Elton or Britain's No.1 Tory Tax-dodger Lord Ashcroft anymore?

Comment by GloryHorn 2011-09-20 10:55:22

Hopefully, Madmick, as it was never a position any WFC fan wanted us to be in. Every club aims to be self sufficient but it is difficult to achieve nowadays certainly when you are also trying to enjoy some on field success as well.

WSC - Whilst talking about Julian Winter you wrote "His departure, more than that of any player or member of the coaching staff, will be most keenly felt."

JW was certainly held in high regard by Hornets but with new ownership comes new direction so it was no surprise to see him leave and was the least keenly felt of the departures.

Comment by sbloxham 2011-09-21 14:09:00

@madmickyf TBF SEJ has maintained that he's not a bottomless well of money and this has been built into all of the business models, and accepted by all supporters, of the club - although there are always rumours of an "anonymous millionaire from Hertfordshire" paying the wages/signing on fees of new signings.

I (we) fully accept your description of M'Lord Ashcroft but to his credit he was a very silent partner and didn't pull the plug on us. Many supporters were very uneasy with his involvement but he did appear to be OK and didn't involve himself with the day-to-day goings on at the club.

A lot of 'Ornets think we're going to become a factory - with our *highly admired* academy producing youngsters for the "big boys" to buy. But does this mean we become permanent fixtures in the Championship or a Permiershyte yo-yo side? Although is this going to be another season where the argument is: "what's more important points or pounds?".

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