As we get the new English Premier League season underway, Everton once again face newly-promoted opposition on the first matchday. This time though the game is at home as the Blues host Watford FC.
We had the pleasure of speaking with The Watford Blog about the Hornets, their hopes and their aspirations ahead of Saturday's game. The site is run by the very knowledgeable Bradley Hayden, and we appreciate his taking the time to chat with us.
RBM - Tell us a bit about Watford FC and how the club was founded. Are we going to see Elton John coming to some games?
TWB - There is a chance that you may see Elton at some games this season! We've recently named our new East Stand after our former owner and he came to our home game against Wigan last season, to open the stand. Watford were founded in 1881 and we are based in Hertfordshire. The club is owned by the Pozzo family, who also own Granada and Udinese, and they are arguably one of best owners that we have ever had. The club has a European structure, with a head coach ( Quique Flores) who coaches the players and picks the team and then you have a Sporting Director, Chief Scout, CEO and Owner (Gino Pozzo) who all work together to recruit the players that the head coach wants. Before the Pozzos came along, we were a mid-table Championship side, who were owned by Laurence Bassini, a business who had already been made bankrupt previously and nearly sent the club into administration. The Pozzos took over in 2012 and have been absolutely superb, supplying us with the necessary players to push for promotion, which we achieved last season at the third attempt. This will be our first time back in the Premier League for eight seasons and hopefully we can do a lot better then last time! If you'd have told us five seasons ago that we would be in the Premier League in 2015, have a new fourth stand and have the calibre of players we currently have on the books, I think most Watford fans would have laughed and said you were mad!
RBM - What would you say was the most glorious period for the Hornets?
TWB - That would have to be the period between 1977 and 1984 when Graham Taylor was our manager and Elton John our owner. We rose from the fourth division to the first division in five seasons, something largely unheard of in this day and age. Then we went on to finish second in the first division in 82-83. We also reached the FA Cup final in 84 as well which coincidently, we lost to Everton. A great time to be a Watford fan and the period we are going through under the Pozzos at the moment is also fantastic. But I would have to say the period between 77 and 84 for those reasons.
RBM - Owner Gino Pozzo also owns Italian club Udinese and Spanish side Granada. - do fans feel like his loyalties are equally divided among the three clubs? What are the benefits for Watford?
TWB - Most definitely. Gino's father Giampaulo owns Udinese so he looks after them, whilst Gino looks after Granada and Watford. He now lives in London and mainly looks after us and is always at the training ground. But his loyalties are most definitely split. Where do you start with the benefits? We get access to some quality players. Players like Almen Abdi who couldn't make the grade at Udinese, are so important for us. He is like our midfield maestro, keeping play moving and providing the link between our defence and attack. Also we get to use the Pozzo's world class scouting network, which has been touted as one of the best in the world. Players like Alexis Sanchez, Juan Cuadardo and Mehdi Benatia have all been scouted and signed by the Pozzo's and then be sold on for a huge fee. Since taking over in 2012, Gino Pozzo has also re-built a new East Stand, which stood derelict for a number of years and owners came in and said that they were going to renovate and never did. Gino Pozzo is the only one who stuck to his word and has also improved the training facilities as well. He's been nothing short of fantastic.
RBM - Watford's home ground is one of the smallest in the Premier League. What is the game day atmosphere like? What can travelling fans expect when they visit?
TWB - The atmosphere at Vicarage Road has vastly improved over the past two seasons thanks to the 1881 singing section. Stand Displays, new songs, flags etc at games has really improved the atmosphere at Vicarage Road and the ground was buzzing at times during last season. They have really generated and improved the atmosphere and you can expect to hear us signing and chanting all game. When travelling fans visit they can expect to see our mascot Harry The Hornet dancing and generally fooling around and having some light hearted banter with the fans. They can also expect to see Hornets fans bouncing if we score a goal as well! You may hear a Spandeau Ballet rendition as well if Odion Ighalo scores!
RBM - Manager Quique Flores has made a mark in the summer transfer market, adding ten new faces. Will he have enough time to build chemistry, or will he stick with the fire that gained the club promotion?
TWB - I think you an expect a mixture of both. Looking at our team line-ups from pre-season, Heurelho Gomes, Craig Cathcart, Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney all look set to be regular starters, whilst new signings Allan Nyom, Sebastian Prodl, Jose Holebas, Ettiene Capoue, Valon Behrami all look set to join them in the starting eleven. Other members of last seasons team such as Ben Watson, Ikechi Anya, Matej Vydra, Gabriele Angella, will all be key members of the squad as well. We've done the majority of our business early this summer, with Flores having a good month to work with them, so I do think he has had enough time to build some chemistry.