Get the lowdown on the Eagles ahead of Saturday’s season opener
With the new n.Power Championship season just two days away, VitalWatford got the expert insight of Vital Palace editor, Eddy the Eagles…
Hopes, fears & expectations for the season?
Hopes and expectations would obviously be that we can push on from the improvement we did show last season, and gain that touch more consistency for a higher placed finish. It was nice to not be in a genuine relegation battle, and from that perspective, to just enjoy the season for what it was, but everybody I think – with the new faces in and some reliable old heads out – has a slight worry that with those changes we might see a blip for the first few weeks as the team gels better again and nobody wants us to slip on what we achieved last term.
There are outside talks of a promotion play off push, and whilst farfetched, I think everybody would again take a few more wins and a higher league finish as a good benchmark for another successful campaign as we re-grow.
How did pre-season go for you guys?
A bit up and down result wise, but obviously there’s the next crop of youngsters getting more game time, and also a fair few trialists being given a run out in games – where most have then left as they weren’t quite what Dougie was looking for. So the pre season for us really has been more about ‘trying’ new things as in many ways, with the squad as it stands, the first team does kind of pick it itself. Freedman’s talked about a couple of exciting loans that he hopes will come off before the season starts, and you’d presume those would be first team picks to give us more options.
Will Darren Ambrose be a big loss?
Yes. No other way to answer that really. He’s was a key player, especially in terms of picking up goals, for us, and we haven’t replaced him yet in my eyes. I can only assume Dougie has his eye on somebody already and the deal hasn’t yet come through, otherwise I can’t see the logic in letting him go at the moment. In Dougie we trust though.
The signings of Aaron Wilbraham, Aaron Martin & Joel Ward – pleased?
Overall pleased, Ward is highly rated as everyone knows and should be a good replacement for Clyne, and Wilbraham brings with him a lot of experience and a reasonable eye for goals – and converting our chances was an issue last season. Aaron Martin is the odd one out, and whilst he’s highly rated by Southampton, he is a relative youngster so whilst we all hope (given he will I imagine play a key role in defence this season) that it works out well for all concerned, there is the obvious worry that his lack of experience may leave us exposed at points.
On the plus side though, Dougie isn’t afraid of blooding youngsters as everybody saw last season with the likes of Johnny Williams etc, so again the main trust would be that Dougie will know when and how to use Martin to our benefit, removing him from the team as and when needed.
Knowing how highly rated his is by Nigel Adkins though, most of me hopes he has a stormer and then realises he’ll get more football by staying with us!
Who will be the key man for you on Saturday?The obvious pick would be Wilfried Zaha who will be wanting to keep the headlines he earned last season, but this is going to be a big year I feel for Murray so he’ll be looking to make an immediate impression, as I’m sure goalscoring wise, even Murray would admit he didn’t live up to his own standards last season.
If you could drive one player to his next club – who?
Nobody really, there are the more fringe senior players, who could save us a couple of bob if they moved on, but I get the feeling we need to actually add more before we look at anymore departures.
If you could sign one Watford player – who?
I would’ve said Hodson again because of how I think he might develop, but we are sorted now with Joel, and I am still impressed with how Jonathan Hogg seems to be developing, so I think for a bit of a more tough tackling minded midfielder I’d have to go for him at this moment in time.
I’m more confident that nervous as this time, so I’ll go 3-1 us. By Friday that could have turned into a 1-1 though!