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Our Opponents: Watford

Bolton Wanderers visit Watford on Saturday as they look to add to their recent good form and make up lost ground on the teams at the top of the division. Let us take a closer look at the Hornets, whose Vicarage Road ground is situated just above North London and was a lovely base camp for my recent Wembley trip to see England wilt against Germany.

Jamie McDonald

Founded as Watford Rovers in 1881, the club competed in local amateur leagues until becoming professional in 1897 and following a subsequent merger with another local club, became Watford Football Club. Like many others, the club joined The Football League in 1921 to form the Third Division. The club remained at this level for some time but had general support to maintain it's league status via re-election from its counterparts.

The club remained at this level until the 1958 season, where a league restructure saw the club placed in the Fourth Division, they did not remain there long however and new manager Ron Burgess guided Watford to its first ever league promotion aided by league top scorer, Cliff Holton who netted 42 league goals for The Hornets. The club continued to progress and in 1970 secured promotion to the Second Tier following a hefty unbeaten run. The Club struggled to compete financially however and were subsequently relegated down to the fourth division by the end of the 1974-75 season.

Just when all seemed lost for The Hornets, in steps a knight in shining armour, lifelong fan Elton John arrived as chairman with ambitions of taking the club to the top of the English Football pyramid. One year later, the club appointed Graham Taylor as manager and the clubs poor fortunes soon changed. Taylor achieved successive promotions and two years later, Taylor guided the club to the First Division for the first time in the clubs history. The success did not stop there, with The Hornets truly making a mark at the top level with a Second place finish and UEFA Cup qualification in their inaugural season of top flight football, this was helped in no small measure by the goals of Luther Blissett, who would finish the season as First Division Top Scorer. The club also made an FA Cup final appearance in 1984, losing out to Everton.

As the modern day Bolton Wanderers fan knows all too well, all good things must come to an end and after seemingly achieving all he could with the club, Taylor left The Hornets to join Aston Villa. Subsequent managers could not replicate Taylor's success and Watford were relegated. The club failed to immediately return and in 1995, despite a return of legendary manager Graham Taylor, Watford FC was relegated to the Third Tier of English football.

With current Wolves boss Kenny Jackett at his side, Taylor once again transformed Watford's fortunes and after Promotion to the second tier, led his side to a painful play-off win over Bolton Wanderers, to return The Hornets to the top flight and also my first, bitter experience of our national stadium. Taylor's success was not prolonged in his second spell and the club were immediately relegated and the legendary manager left the club and retired from the game.

It would not be until 2005 that the club would return to the top flight, under the stewardship of young manager, Aidy Boothroyd, the club returned to the Premier League after another Play-Off win, this time over Leeds United. Despite spending heavily, Boothroyd also failed in keeping Watford in the top flight and the club returned to Championship, where they have remained until today.

The Watford of today looks very different, under the management of charismatic Italian Gianfranco Zola who is backed heavily by the owners, the Pozzo family, the club has real ambition to return to the top flight and were unlucky to lose in the Play-Off last season to Ian Holloway's (Dougie Freedman's) Crystal Palace side and are tipped by many to be fighting at the top end come the end of the season.

Form: WLDLD - Top Scorer: Troy Deeney 7

Assists: Almen Abdi 4 - Discipline: Iriney 20 Fouls 4 Yellows

Shots: Lewis McGugan 24 23 On Target


Watford enjoy a rivalry with Luton Town and have finished above them every season since the 1996-1997 season