THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Saturday 26 April ~

These are strange times for Watford. They are likely to make the play-offs in the Championship which could be assured today with a win over relegated Scunthorpe. If they were to go up, it would be their second promotion in three seasons under Aidy Boothroyd, who took over two-thirds of the way through 2004-05 when the team was in danger of relegation to League One. But the team's playing style is dividing opinion among supporters. Vicarage Road regulars have witnessed a series of poor performances this season, more in keeping with a relegation struggle.

Aidy Boothroyd's name will often crop up in football press discussions about young English managerial talent. He has a pile of coaching qualifications and became known for his thorough and rather eccentric preparations – which even included having the team practise their pre-match handshakes before their play-off final with Leeds. His ultra-positive post match comments, meanwhile, suggested that he read plenty of self-help books.

Boothroyd's promotion side of 2005-06, which beat Leeds 3-0 at Wembley, were fit and well organised and played fast attacking football centred around Marlon King and Ashley Young. They weren't able to replicate this approach against a higher standard of opposition in the Premier League but nor were they humiliated. Despite having lost some of the better players from the last promotion campaign, Watford seemed set for a top-two finish after a fine start to this season. But, while they have remained within the top six, things have turned rather sour. Between October and February the team went on a run of eight home League games without a win, which ended with a victory over Wolves.

Visiting teams, it seemed, had worked out how to cope with Watford's direct style which, it is said, has become more basic over the past year, with centre-back Danny Shittu's efforts at set pieces often being the main attacking threat. While acknowledging that there have been "unacceptable" performances, Boothroyd's motivational powers appear to be waning. The present squad looks distinctly weaker than the one that went up two years ago. To avoid the same fate, the Watford manager will want significant transfer funds should he find himself back in the Premier League at the end of May. So he and the supporters may be heartened by an impending takeover bid. Interested investors are said to come Ukraine and Thailand, both known to be Hornets hotbeds, of course.

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