Tag Archives: Watford

The Clubs: Watford

All statistics correct upto 20th March 2019

All-Time Premier League Record

Played Won Drew Lost Scored Conceded Goal Difference Points No of Seasons
220 57 50 113 230 362 -132 221 6

 

Most Premier League Appearances

Player Appearances Total
Troy Deeney 131
Etienne Capoue 119
Heurelho Gomes 100
Jose Holebas 96
Craig Cathcart 86
Abdoulaye Doucoure 84
Sebastian Prodl 76
Adrian Mariappa 75
Roberto Pereyra 72
Miguel Britos 65

 

Most Premier League Goals

Player Goals Total
Troy Deeney 36
Odion Ighalo 17
Roberto Pereyra 13
Abdoulaye Doucoure 11
Andre Gray 10
Etienne Capoue 9
Gerard Deulofeu 8
Heidar Helguson 6
Jose Holebas 6
Hameur Bouazza 5

 

Biggest Premier League Victories

Match Date Season
Cardiff City 1-5 Watford 22nd February 2019 2018-2019
Watford 4-1 Chelsea 5th February 2018 2017-2018
Watford 3-0 Liverpool FC 20th December 2015 2015-2016
Newcastle United 0-3 Watford 25th November 2017 2017-2018
Watford 3-0 Huddersfield Town 27th October 2018 2018-2019
Watford 4-2 Portsmouth 9th April 2007 2006-2007
West Ham United 2-4 Watford 10th September 2016 2016-2017
Watford 3-1 Manchester United 18th September 2016 2016-2017
Burnley 1-3 Watford 19th August 2018 2018-2019
Watford 2-0 Middlesbrough 4th November 2006 2006-2007

Worst Premier League Defeats

Match Date Season
Watford 0-6 Manchester City 16th September 2017 2017-2018
Liverpool FC 6-1 Watford 6th November 2016 2016-2017
Wimbledon 5-0 Watford 4th December 1999 1999-2000
Watford 0-5 Manchester City 21st May 2017 2016-2017
Liverpool FC 5-0 Watford 17th March 2018 2017-2018
Liverpool FC 5-0 Watford 27th February 2019 2018-2019
Coventry City 4-0 Watford 31st October 1999 1999-2000
Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 Watford 26th December 1999 1999-2000
Aston Villa 4-0 Watford 5th February 2000 1999-2000
Chelsea 4-0 Watford 11th November 2006 2006-2007

 

Managers

Manager No of Seasons managed Left the Club
Graham Taylor 1 30th June 2001
Aidy Boothroyd 1 3rd November 2008
Quique Sanchez Flores 1 30th June 2016
Walter Mazzarri 1 22nd May 2017
Marco Silva 1 21st January 2018
Javi Gracia 2  

 

Highest Home Attendances

Match Date Attendance Figure Season
Watford 2-3 Sunderland 27th November 1999 21,590 1999-2000
Watford 2-3 Liverpool FC 15th January 2000 21,367 1999-2000
Watford 1-0 Chelsea 18th September 1999 21,244 1999-2000
Watford 3-1 Manchester United 18th September 2016 21,118 2016-2017
Watford 2-2 Sunderland 15th May 2016 21,012 2015-2016
Watford 0-1 Liverpool FC 1st May 2017 20,959 2016-2017
Watford 0-0 Chelsea 3rd February 2016 20,910 2015-2016
Watford 0-1 Leicester City 5th March 2016 20,884 2015-2016
Watford 1-4 Tottenham Hotspur 1st January 2017 20,882 2016-2017
Watford 0-0 AFC Bournemouth 27th February 2016 20,831 2015-2016

 

Intro

Watford are currently in their sixth Premier League season and although they’ve done it slightly unconventionally regarding regular managerial appointments, the Pozzo family have done a lot to make the club a stable member of the top-flight. After relegation in their first two Premier League campaigns, the Hornets have been an ever-present since 2015 and look set to record their first top 10 finish with less than 10 games to go in the 2018-2019 season under the shrewd management of Javi Gracia.

 

1999-2000

Watford’s Premier League debut campaign came in 1999-2000 with club legend and former England manager Graham Taylor guiding them into the elite after two successive promotions. They lost their opening fixture 3-2 to Wimbledon but competed well in the early months and pulled off two surprising victories. Tommy Mooney scored the only goal of the game against Liverpool FC at Anfield, whilst it was Allan Smart who turned out to be the matchwinner at home to Chelsea in September. However, Watford won only three more matches and their relegation was confirmed after a 3-2 home defeat to Arsenal in April. They wouldn’t return for six years to the Premier League.

 

2006-2007

Watford returned to the Premier League in 2006-2007 but once again found the top-flight to be a real struggle. Aidy Boothroyd’s side tasted victory just five times in 38 games and relegation was confirmed by a 1-1 home draw with Manchester City in April. Highs of the season were home wins over Middlesbrough (2-0 in November) and Portsmouth (4-2 in April). When he came on as a substitute on the final day of the season, back-up goalkeeper Alec Chamberlain became the oldest player to ever figure in the Premier League, aged 42.

 

2015-2016

Although it was Slavisa Jokanovic who got Watford promoted, he wasn’t given a new contract and the Pozzo family turned to the former Valencia coach Quique Sanchez Flores to steer Watford through the 2015-2016 season. An FA Cup semi-final appearance and 13th place finish in the Premier League was very respectable but Flores still left at the end of the campaign. The plus points were the partnership between skipper Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo which contributed 28 goals whilst among the victories was a 3-0 success over Liverpool FC at Vicarage Road in December and fine away wins at Newcastle United, Stoke City and Crystal Palace.

 

2016-2017

Italian Walter Mazzarri was Flores’ successor and like his previous incumbent, he would last just one season in the Watford hotseat. Although they were 9th in the table by early April, the Hornets lost their last six games to finish 17th in the table and only six points above the drop zone. Ighalo left the club in the January transfer window for the Chinese Super League whilst Manchester United were beaten 3-1 in September. The season will always be tinged with sadness though for Watford supporters. In January, Graham Taylor died aged 72 after suffering a heart attack. A statue was unveiled outside the ground in his honour in August 2018.

 

2017-2018

Watford’s 120th season as a football club looked very promising in the season’s early months. Marco Silva had succeeded Walter Mazzarri in the summer and his side were playing some excellent football, beating Arsenal 2-1, drawing 3-3 with Liverpool FC and losing 4-2 to Chelsea when they dominated for much of the game at Stamford Bridge. However, Silva was then subject to an approach from Everton in mid-November and a sudden downturn in form followed. On 21st January, Watford sacked the Portuguese boss and blamed Everton in a strong statement for the decision, feeling the approach had been ill-timed and distracted Silva’s concentration. Javi Gracia was appointed his successor and despite failing to win a match away from home in the second half of the season, Watford stayed up comfortably in 14th position.

 

2018-2019

It was tipped to be a season of struggle for Watford but they have impressed many with their bustling, energetic displays. Their campaign began with four successive victories which included a 2-1 success over Tottenham Hotspur in early September. The Hornets have figured regularly in the top 10 this season and in February, Gerard Deulofeu became the first Watford player to score a hat-trick in the Premier League when his treble helped defeat Cardiff City 5-1. This is Watford’s biggest-ever Premier League victory. Watford sit in eighth position going into the March international break.

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Premier League Files: Andre Gray

Premier League Career: Burnley (2016-2017), Watford (2017-PRESENT)

Andre Gray is one of Watford’s most expensive signings. He is playing a role in their best-ever Premier League campaign to-date, helped by scoring a couple of recent matchwinners in the 2018-2019 season. Gray starred in his career previously as a proven goalscorer for Luton Town and Brentford and helped Burnley achieve promotion to the top-flight in 2015-2016.

A product of the youth system at Shrewsbury Town, he signed his first professional contract at the start of the 2009-2010 season. He made five appearances in their first-team but was released at the end of the campaign. He dropped into the non-league in a bid to revive his career and joined Hinckley United in June 2010, having previously experienced a one-month loan with them in the previous campaign. He scored 14 goals in 35 appearances in 2010-2011, including four goals in a 7-2 thumping of Solihull Moors in late April 2011. Hinckley were a part-time club at the time but Gray stayed with them until the summer of 2012 when he joined Luton Town who had plunged into the non-league themselves after years of financial mismanagement.

He became the first player in Hatters history to score in each of his first four matches for the club and scored 47 league goals in 88 appearances, helping Luton to the fifth round of the FA Cup in 2013 which included a giant-killing victory over Premier League outfit Norwich City in round four. At the third time of asking, he helped Luton earn promotion back to the Football League as Conference champions in 2014 and he ended that season as top goalscorer in the division too.

Local rivals Milton Keynes Dons expressed an interest in his signature in the summer of 2014 but in the end, he made the leap up to the Championship, signing a three-year deal with Brentford. He won the Championship Player of the Month in November 2014, scored five goals in five matches and ended with 18 goals in all competitions as the Bees made the Championship play-offs before bowing out to Middlesbrough in the semi-finals.

His season in London attracted interest from Hull City who had three transfer bids rejected. Eventually, it was Burnley who won the race to sign him with the Clarets paying Brentford a club-record fee for his services in August 2015. He was an immediate hit with the Burnley supporters, shooting them back to the Premier League at the first attempt. He scored 25 times to win the Championship Golden Boot and was named Championship Player of the Season by his peers. Sean Dyche’s decision to pay Brentford approximately £6 million was a shrewd piece of business.

In August 2016, he made his Premier League debut in a home defeat to Swansea City and scored in his next match as the Clarets defeated Liverpool FC 2-0. A few days later, he was charged with misconduct by the FA after a series of homophobic tweets he posted on Twitter in 2012 came out in the public spectrum. Despite a strong public defence from the player and his club, the FA suspended him for four matches, fined him £25,000 and reminded him about his future conduct.

Gray put aside this misdemeanour and rediscovered his goalscoring touch after his ban. He scored a New Years’ Eve hat-trick in 2016 to sink Sunderland 4-1, becoming the first Burnley player to score a top-flight treble since Peter Noble in 1975. He finished with decent figures of nine goals in 32 appearances but with his contract entering its final 12 months and no sign of an agreement between player and club representatives, he left Burnley for Watford in August 2017 for a club-record fee at the time.

He has shown glimpses of his previous form at Vicarage Road, scoring on his second return to Turf Moor earlier this season and also, scoring recent winning goals at home to Everton and Leicester City. As of early March 2019, a return of 10 goals in 50 appearances is not what anyone was hoping for. However, still just 27, there’s more to come from Andre Gray. It will be interesting to see how long though he can play second-fiddle to the likes of Troy Deeney, Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra in Hertfordshire.

Shock Results: Watford 1-4 Huddersfield Town (December 2017)

Goalscorers: Elias Kachunga 6, Aaron Mooy 23, 89 PEN, Laurent Depoitre 50, Abdoulaye Doucoure 68

Teams:

Watford: Heurelho Gomes, Jose Holebas (Stefano Okaka 82), Daryl Janmaat, Christian Kabasele, Adrian Mariappa (Roberto Pereyra 29), Sebastian Prodl, Etienne Capoue (Andre Gray 64), Abdoulaye Doucoure, Andre Carrillo, Troy Deeney (SENT OFF), Richarlison

Huddersfield Town: Jonas Lossl, Florent Hadergjonaj, Chris Lowe (Scott Malone 45), Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen, Christopher Schindler, Jonathan Hogg (SENT OFF), Aaron Mooy, Rajiv van La Parra (Danny Williams 64), Laurent Depoitre, Elias Kachunga (Tom Ince 19), Collin Quaner

Referee: Michael Oliver, Attendance: 20,026

The first top-flight meeting between Watford and Huddersfield Town in December 2017 was eventful to say the least. The Terriers left with another crucial three points in their bid to avoid an instant relegation in a game that saw five goals, a penalty and two red cards.

Watford were winless in their last four matches but still were favourites coming into the match. Huddersfield had failed to score on their travels since their 3-0 opening day victory over Crystal Palace. That drought ended after just six minutes. After the home side failed to clear a corner, Collin Quaner’s effort was tapped into the back of the net by Elias Kachunga. It was Kachunga’s 17th top-flight game and his first Premier League goal. Unfortunately for the former Paderborn and Ingolstadt forward, his day ended on a stretcher after just 19 minutes. He sustained a serious knee injury that would keep him on the sidelines for three months.

David Wagner’s side recovered from that setback to double their lead in fortunate circumstances. Quaner collected his second assist of the afternoon when his cross hit Aaron Mooy and trickled into the back of the net. Mooy didn’t know anything about it but they all count and this put the visitors in a fantastic position. Two goals up, they would be a man up also before half-time.

12 minutes before the break, Watford captain Troy Deeney was given a straight red card for a reckless challenge on Quaner who was going nowhere on the touchline. It was Watford’s fourth red card of the season and their disciplinary record was becoming a real cause for concern for manager Marco Silva. The game was virtually put beyond the Hornets when Jose Holebas lost his footing in the penalty area five minutes into the second half. This allowed Laurent Depoitre to fully punish this slip, driving the ball beyond Heurelho Gomes.

Watford were given a glimmer of hope midway through the second half when Huddersfield’s skipper Jonathan Hogg joined Deeney in an early departure in the match. Referee Michael Oliver dismissed Hogg for two bookable offences; the second in a tough challenge on Richarlison. The deficit was reduced to 3-1 on 68 minutes by a brilliant half-volley strike from distance by Abdoulaye Doucoure but in truth, Huddersfield’s advantage was simply too big for Watford to cause many problems. The scoreline got its added gloss just before injury-time. Doucoure tripped Depoitre in the penalty area and Mooy made no mistake from the spot to score his second of the afternoon.

This was the Terriers’ first victory in eight away league matches and they would complete the double over Watford, beating them 1-0 in April through a dramatic late winner by Tom Ince. By then, Watford had a new manager. Silva was sacked by the club in January. He won just one more match after this hefty loss to the Terriers.

Premier League Rewind: 20th-22nd January 2018

Results: Brighton & Hove Albion 0-4 Chelsea, Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace, Burnley 0-1 Manchester United, Everton 1-1 West Bromwich Albion, Leicester City 2-0 Watford, Stoke City 2-0 Huddersfield Town, West Ham United 1-1 AFC Bournemouth, Manchester City 3-1 Newcastle United, Southampton 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur, Swansea City 1-0 Liverpool FC

With Christmas well and truly over and the January transfer window in full swing, a question had been asked of runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City. A week earlier, the Citizens lost 4-3 to Liverpool FC, losing their first league match of the campaign. Could Pep Guardiola’s side return to winning ways?

They made no mistake against Newcastle United, beating the Magpies 3-1. Sergio Aguero was in peak form against Newcastle again, scoring his seventh hat-trick in the competition and his second against the Toon Army after his five-goal haul against them in October 2015. It was a perfect way to mark his 200th appearance in the competition.

Manchester City remained 12 points clear at the top of the table after Manchester United extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to eight matches. Anthony Martial’s strike after 54 minutes saw Jose Mourinho’s men record a narrow 1-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor. By contrast, Burnley’s bright start to the season had been checked. They were still eighth in the table but winless now in seven games and had lost their last three matches. The Red Devils were yet to concede a goal in 2018.

Liverpool FC should have been on a real high after the victory over Manchester City. However, Jurgen Klopp’s side inexplicably lost their next match, going down 1-0 at The Liberty Stadium to struggling Swansea City. Virgil van Dijk made his league debut for the Reds after his £75 million move from Southampton making him the most expensive defender in world football. However, he was partially responsible for the only goal of the game, scored by Swansea centre-back, Alfie Mawson. Swansea remained bottom but were now just three points adrift of safety.

Following a humiliating exit at the hands of Coventry City in the FA Cup earlier in the month, Stoke City had parted company with Mark Hughes after nearly five years in-charge. After missing out on their prime target, the Derby boss Gary Rowett, it was Paul Lambert who stepped in to fill the breach. He made the perfect start as the Potters beat Huddersfield Town 2-0 to lift themselves outside the drop zone. They were replaced in the bottom three by Southampton, who hadn’t won a game now in nearly two months. That was despite the Saints earning a decent point against Tottenham Hotspur. Harry Kane scored the equaliser for Tottenham. It was his 99th Premier League goal.

The match at Goodison Park between Everton and West Bromwich Albion was completely overshadowed by a horrific injury to Everton midfielder, James McCarthy. An unfortunate collision with West Brom forward Salomon Rondon saw him suffer a double leg fracture and leaving the field on a stretcher. Rondon was seen in tears after the incident which meant the final 1-1 scoreline was made completely irrelevant by these events.

Sam Allardyce was the man in-charge of Everton but their prime target to succeed Ronald Koeman had been Marco Silva. The Watford boss had been the subject of an approach by Everton in mid-November. The Hornets turned the approach down but their form completely nosedived after this. A 2-0 defeat away at Leicester City spelt the end for Silva. He was sacked by Watford less than 24 hours after the loss at The King Power Stadium.

What else happened in January 2018?

  • Cyrille Regis dies after suffering a heart attack, aged 59. He won five England caps and represented the likes of West Bromwich Albion, Coventry City and Aston Villa during a 19-year professional career.
  • The UK’s second-largest construction company, Carillion goes into liquidation with debts of £1.5 million. Over 19,000 jobs in the UK disappear with the collapse.
  • A huge fire at the Liverpool Echo Arena car park destroys 1,400 cars.
  • The United States government enters a federal government shutdown as a result of a dispute over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
  • A total lunar eclipse takes place. It is the first blue moon eclipse since 1983.
  • After touring for nearly 50 years, Sir Elton John announces his retirement.
  • Professional dancer Brendan Cole announces he is leaving Strictly Come Dancing after being with the series since its inception in 2004.

Memorable Matches: Chelsea 4-2 Watford (October 2017)

Goalscorers: Pedro 12, Abdoulaye Doucoure 45, Roberto Pereyra 49, Michy Batshuayi 71, 90, Cesar Azpilicueta 87

Teams:

Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso (Willian 68), Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, Pedro (Davide Zappacosta 86), Alvaro Morata (Michy Batshuayi 61)

Watford: Heurelho Gomes, Miguel Britos, Christian Kabasele, Adrian Mariappa (Andre Gray 90), Kiko Femenia, Jose Holebas, Tom Cleverley, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Roberto Pereyra (Andre Carrillo 65), Richarlison, Troy Deeney (Ben Watson 80)

Referee: Jon Moss, Attendance: 41,467

By mid-October 2017, defending champions Chelsea were already off the pace being set by league leaders Manchester City. Antonio Conte’s men were nine points adrift and went into this match against Watford below their opponents in the table. Marco Silva’s side had just beaten Arsenal a week earlier and arrived at Stamford Bridge in confident mood. They were unbeaten on their travels, with 10 points collected from four away games. If it hadn’t been for a couple of vital substitutions and wasteful finishing, they could well have added to their total in an end-to-end contest.

Having lost their last two league matches to Manchester City and Crystal Palace, the pressure was on Chelsea to revive their fortunes and they made a brilliant start. Pedro opened the scoring after just 12 minutes, bending in a magnificent strike from 25-yards out that struck the post on its way past the helpless Heurelho Gomes. However, the defensive backline which had been so strong in their title-winning season was being opened up much easier in this campaign.

Right on the stroke of half-time, Watford equalised. Abdoulaye Doucoure smashed a shot into the back of the net after David Luiz failed to get enough distance on his clearing header from a long throw-in. It kept Doucoure’s impressive record up of 100% accuracy from shots on-target. His four shots on-target had registered four goals so far in the season for the impressive midfielder.

Another of Watford’s early season stars had been the Brazilian, Richarlison. However, he was guilty of two costly misses in the early moments of the second half. First, he inexplicably missed an open goal from six-yards out after Kiko Femenia had provided the perfect delivery into the box. Richarlison did make amends just over a minute later, when he picked out an unmarked Roberto Pereyra who guided the ball past Thibaut Courtois to give the Hertfordshire-based side a richly deserved lead. However, they should have put the game beyond the home side and again, it was Richarlison who missed another golden chance. He headed wide unmarked after a fine ball from Miguel Britos.

Conte sensed the momentum was with Watford, so threw on Michy Batshuayi and it was a substitution that paid off. With 19 minutes left, Watford’s centre-backs left him completely unmarked to place a looping header into the net from Eden Hazard’s delivery on the right-hand side. Silva then elected to take off his skipper Troy Deeney with 10 minutes remaining and brought on another central midfielder in Ben Watson in an attempt to shut down Chelsea’s threat. This gamble backfired.

With three minutes left, Cesar Azpilicueta arrived unmarked at the back post to nod a header past Gomes. With almost the last kick of the game, Britos was caught in possession by Tiemoue Bakayoko. His interception found Batshuayi who held off the attentions of Christian Kabasele and scored again to close down the match. Chelsea had shown the resilience of champions but Watford did get their revenge, recording a brilliant 4-1 home victory over the Blues in February 2018.

Shock Results: Liverpool FC 0-1 Watford (August 1999)

Goalscorers: Tommy Mooney 14

Teams:

Liverpool FC: Sander Westerveld, Jamie Carragher, Vegard Heggem (Rigobert Song 81), Sami Hyypia, Dominic Matteo, Steven Gerrard (David Thompson 57), Jamie Redknapp, Vladimir Smicer (Karl-Heinz Riedle 62), Patrik Berger, Titi Camara, Robbie Fowler

Watford: Chris Day, Des Lyttle, Robert Page, Steve Palmer, Paul Robinson, Mark Williams, Peter Kennedy, Micah Hyde, Richard Johnson (Clint Easton 52), Tommy Mooney, Michel Ngonge (Dominic Foley 69)

Referee: Alan Wilkie, Attendance: 44,174

Watford were in their debut Premier League season and Graham Taylor’s side were given little chance of surviving by many punters in pre-season. The Hornets arrived at Anfield in August 1999 for their third match at this level without a point recorded so far. However, they stunned Merseyside with a fabulous performance and a remarkable victory which was one of the high points of their campaign.

Watford had lost their first two matches to Wimbledon and Sunderland. In both games, they’d competed well but lacked the cutting instinct to hurt their opponents. However, they made the better start with their players handling the occasion of playing at Anfield very well. Richard Johnson was the first to come close inside the first 10 minutes, with his shot stinging the palms of Liverpool’s new goalkeeper recruit, Sander Westerveld.

Four minutes later, the visitors were infront. It was a scrappy goal and a very bad one for Liverpool to concede but no-one connected with Watford was complaining. A free-kick by Peter Kennedy was played into the Liverpool penalty area towards Tommy Mooney who didn’t connect properly. However, the chance wasn’t over. Jamie Carragher slipped and two Watford attackers slid in successfully at the same time to rob Dominic Matteo. The ball fell perfectly to Mooney and he simply couldn’t miss from six-yards out. The Kop had been stunned. However, with still 76 minutes left to play, surely Gerard Houllier’s side would find a way back into the match.

There was a swift response from the Reds. Titi Camara’s driving run down the left-hand side created an opportunity for Steven Gerrard. However, the youngster fired over the crossbar. Patrik Berger came closer with his swerving free-kick, ensuring fine reactions from goalkeeper Chris Day.

However in the second half, Liverpool’s attack looked very blunt and in fact, it was the Hornets who looked more likely to add to their total. As torrential rain gave way to bright sunshine, Mooney escaped some slack marking again but was denied by the feet of Westerveld. His block fell straight to Micah Hyde, whose ambitious lob was cleared off his own goal-line by Rigobert Song. Mooney and Mark Williams squandered further opportunities to increase the lead but the one goal was enough for Taylor to claim his first victory at Liverpool FC’s home in his 22nd year as a professional manager.

Liverpool did improve and finished fourth, whilst Watford beat Chelsea a month later but were relegated well before the season’s end. However, the travelling supporters back to Hertfordshire will always remember the club’s first Premier League visit to Merseyside.

Memorable Matches: West Ham United 2-4 Watford (September 2016)

Goalscorers: Michail Antonio 5, 33, Odion Ighalo 41, Troy Deeney 45, Etienne Capoue 53, Jose Holebas 63

Teams:

West Ham United: Adrian, Sam Byram (Gokhan Tore 85), James Collins, Artur Masuaku, Winston Reid, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble (Jonathan Calleri 69), Michail Antonio, Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini, Simone Zaza (Ashley Fletcher 77)

Watford: Heurelho Gomes, Miguel Britos, Craig Cathcart, Younes Kaboul (Sebastian Prodl 82), Jose Holebas, Daryl Janmaat, Valon Behrami, Etienne Capoue, Roberto Pereyra, Troy Deeney (Stefano Okaka 78), Odion Ighalo (Isaac Success 69)

Referee: Martin Atkinson, Attendance: 56,974

This was West Ham United’s second home match at The London Stadium since moving into the ground from Upton Park at the start of the 2016-2017 season. The following 90 minutes would be an indication of how hard settling into their new surroundings would be.

The Hammers had beaten AFC Bournemouth unconvincingly on their debut in the ground a fortnight earlier but made an excellent start against a Watford side who had mustered just one point from their first three matches in the campaign. Heurelho Gomes was forced into two quick saves to deny Michail Antonio but it was third time lucky for Antonio after only five minutes. He headed home from Dimitri Payet’s corner. Antonio had scored the winner in the Bournemouth match too, so he was fast developing a liking for the new ground.

Watford were rocking. Daryl Janmaat hit his own post on his full Hornets debut and 12 minutes before the interval, they were 2-0 down. Payet and Antonio combined again to cause the damage. A skilful cross from the Frenchman and Antonio headed home from close-range. Watford needed a goal before half-time but they got even more than they could have bargained for. Four minutes before the interval, Odion Ighalo’s deflected effort deceived Adrian to score only his second league goal in his last 18 matches. Then, a complete misunderstanding between James Collins and Adrian allowed Watford their equaliser. Skipper Troy Deeney produced a delightful lob over Adrian to ensure full punishment for defensive incompetence.

The turnaround was complete on 53 minutes. On the chest, Etienne Capoue struck his third of the season, beating Adrian at his near post. The Spanish goalkeeper was having a shambolic afternoon and he was at fault for Watford’s fourth too, allowing a Jose Holebas shot to somehow defeat him when he should have saved his effort.

It was Watford’s first win of the season and the first time they’d ever recovered from a two-goal deficit to win a Premier League match. The sight of fans leaving The London Stadium early in 2016-2017 would become a familiar one for West Ham who completely crumbled in this encounter. They would still finish six places above Watford though in the final table.

Shock Results: Watford 1-0 Chelsea (September 1999)

Goalscorers: Allan Smart 57

Teams:

Watford: Alec Chamberlain, Nigel Gibbs, Paul Robinson, Steve Palmer, Robert Page, Mark Williams, Peter Kennedy, Clint Easton, Micah Hyde, Nordin Wooter (Nick Wright 65), Allan Smart (Tommy Mooney 80, Michael Ngonge 86)

Chelsea: Ed de Goey, Graeme Le Saux, Albert Ferrer, Jes Hogh, Marcel Desailly, Gabriele Ambrosetti, Bjarne Goldbaek (Dan Petrescu 61), Didier Deschamps, Jody Morris, Tore Andre Flo (Gianfranco Zola 61), Chris Sutton

Referee: Mike Reed, Attendance: 21,444

Premier League newcomers Watford had already enjoyed a surprise victory at Anfield in the opening weeks of the 1999-2000 campaign. Now, they were looking to stun another top side as Chelsea visited Vicarage Road in September 1999.

Gianluca Vialli’s side were unbeaten in 14 matches and had recorded a goalless draw on their UEFA Champions League debut against AC Milan in midweek. Vialli decided to shuffle his pack, bringing in Jody Morris, Chris Sutton and Graeme Le Saux into the starting XI. Dennis Wise was rested and Gianfranco Zola rotated to the bench.

Despite Vialli’s efforts to add fresh legs, Chelsea looked tired and jaded throughout. Watford goalkeeper Alec Chamberlain wasn’t tested as extensively as he might have feared before the game. In a goalless opening 45 minutes of few chances, it was the Hornets who created the better openings. Their best chance fell to Allan Smart who didn’t make the required contact on Micah Hyde’s cross to trouble the Chelsea goalkeeper Ed de Goey.

11 minutes into the second half, the decisive moment came in a tight encounter. Graham Taylor gave a debut to Nordin Wooter who earlier in the week had become the club-record signing from Spanish side Real Zaragoza. He played a crucial part in the goal. Chelsea newcomer Gabriele Ambrosetti gave away possession cheaply. Wooter ran at backtracking defenders and was supported ably by Paul Robinson, who had won the ball off Ambrosetti to start the move. The full-back found Smart, who produced a clinical finish past De Goey. It was nothing less than what Watford deserved.

It was Smart’s first goal since the play-off final victory over Bolton Wanderers four months earlier. A bout of tendinitis had restricted his impact in the top-flight upto this point. Vialli threw Zola on in an attempt to rescue the situation. He did flash a header just wide of the post but this was a day where Chelsea’s creative players simply didn’t gel. Sutton and Flo didn’t combine enough to cause problems for the home defenders and Ambrosetti had a nightmare debut.

The Hornets made the most of an off-day for one of the pre-season title favourites and it was the perfect way to celebrate Taylor’s birthday. He had turned 55 earlier in the week. It was already their third win of the season and saw them climb up to 14th in the table. It wouldn’t get any better for them either. Watford would collect just two points from their next 11 matches and were ultimately relegated with just 24 points achieved from their 38 games.

Chelsea did beat Manchester United 5-0 in their next Premier League encounter but never launched a serious title challenge and finished a disappointing fifth. Vialli at least had the consolation of victory in the FA Cup final over Aston Villa.

Premier League Files: Damien Francis

Premier League Career: Wimbledon (1998-2000), Norwich City (2004-2005), Wigan Athletic (2005-2006), Watford (2006-2007)

Jamaican midfielder Damien Francis might have only figured prominently in five Premier League campaigns but he shone at several of his clubs, especially Norwich City and Watford.

Francis’ first Premier League experience came at Wimbledon. He was a supporter of the club as a boy and even operated as a ball boy at Selhurst Park. He began in the Dons’ youth teams as a defender before eventually moving into midfield. One of Francis’ best traits was his versatility. He was a genuine box-to-box midfielder and could cause damage at both ends of the penalty box.

Damien made his Premier League debut with the ‘Crazy Gang’ in 1998 and experienced the Premier League life 11 times before Wimbledon’s demise from the top-flight in 2000. Having continued to shine at First Division level, Francis moved to Norwich City in the summer of 2003. It gave him the chance to escape the clouds that were gathering around his former side. By now, Wimbledon were in administration and in the midst of an unpopular move from south London to Milton Keynes where they would eventually reform as MK Dons.

The £260,000 fee Norwich would pay was a fabulous piece of business. Francis was an integral part of Nigel Worthington’s side that won the Division One title in 2004 and ensured the East Anglian side would return to the Premier League after a 10-year absence.

Even though the Canaries’ struggled and were eventually relegated on the final day of the 2004-2005 campaign, Francis sparkled. He was the club’s top league scorer that season with seven goals. They included a double in the club’s first win of the season at home to Southampton and a winning strike in a 3-2 victory over relegation rivals West Bromwich Albion.

Interest in Francis after Norwich’s relegation was strong. Charlton Athletic, Middlesbrough and Portsmouth were all rumoured to be interested in the player’s services. Only Pompey put in a reported offer but when they couldn’t agree a deal, newly-promoted Wigan Athletic swooped in to sign the midfielder.

His time at Wigan was ultimately a disappointment. He scored just one goal which was a winning strike to defeat Everton at Goodison Park. As the 2005-2006 season progressed, Damien was struggling to even make the bench at the JJB Stadium. Despite Wigan’s top-half finish and run to the League Cup final, he knew he needed to get away and he moved to Watford for a fee of £1.5 million at the start of the 2006-2007 season.

Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd was delighted to be reunited with Francis, who he had worked with at Norwich, saying on his arrival: “I knew Damien from my time at Norwich and he’s a professional right to the end. Things have not happened for him at Wigan and that sometimes happens at some clubs, but I think we’re right for him and he’s right for us.”

He thought he’d scored on his debut at Everton but the Dubious Goals Panel eventually chalked it off and gave it as an Alan Stubbs own goal. Francis was one of Watford’s best performers, scoring four goals and helping the club to the FA Cup semi-finals. However, they always looked like fighting a losing battle against relegation and a 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City in April 2007 sealed the club’s fate. It turned out to be a shattering day in Francis’ professional career. He injured cruciate knee ligaments which would keep him out for six months. Several setbacks followed and after further medical advice, Francis was forced to retire professionally in October 2008, aged just 28.

He stayed in football, beginning a different journey as a football agent and consultant. He has worked with several talented prospects especially in Belgium such as Julien Ngoy who is now on the books at Stoke City and just recently joined Walsall on-loan for the rest of the season.

His career ended far too soon but Damien Francis has shown great character to go down a different path and we might be hearing his name again in the future helping conduct transfer business rather than being the subject of a player transfer.

Premier League Files: Odion Ighalo

Premier League Career: Watford (2015-2017)

Still only 27, Odion Ighalo still has plenty of promise to fulfil and he has already shown this on the Premier League stage with Watford.

The Nigerian began his career in his native country before making his European breakthrough in 2007 with Lyn Oslo in Norway. After spells with Udinese and Granada, Ighalo made the move to Watford in 2014, initially on-loan before becoming a permanent signing after just eight appearances with the Hornets.

Ighalo played a significant part in the club’s promotion to the Premier League, scoring 20 times including four in a 7-2 thumping of Blackpool. He continued where he left off in the Premier League with a goal on his top-flight debut as a substitute in Watford’s 2-2 draw with Everton.

A devout Christian, Ighalo’s partnership with Troy Deeney in the club’s attack was scaring defenders up and down the country. Deeney’s physical prowess and Ighalo’s pace and own power meant they were a difficult combination to defend against. He won the December Player of the Month award in 2015, scoring in four successive matches including twice in a 3-0 triumph over Liverpool FC.

Ighalo ended with 15 goals for the season but his form tailed off in the closing weeks of the 2015-2016 campaign and although he signed a new contract in the summer, his confidence was hurt by personal issues and a change in Watford’s formation.

He netted just once in 2016-2017 against West Ham United before being sold in the January transfer window for £20 million to Changchun Yatai F.C. in the Chinese Super League.

For now, Odion Ighalo’s Premier League career is on-hold but I’ve got a feeling that we haven’t seen the last of him in this country just yet.

Shock Results: Arsenal 1-2 Watford (January 2017)

Goalscorers: Younes Kaboul 10, Troy Deeney 13, Alex Iwobi 58

Teams:

Arsenal: Petr Cech, Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Gabriel, Francis Coquelin (Lucas Perez 67), Aaron Ramsey (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 20), Alex Iwobi, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud (Theo Walcott 45), Alexis Sanchez

Watford: Heurelho Gomes, Daryl Janmaat, Craig Cathcart, Miguel Britos, Younes Kaboul, Sebastian Prodl, Tom Cleverley, Valon Behrami (Abdoulaye Doucoure 63), Etienne Capoue, Troy Deeney (Stefano Okaka 85), M’Baye Niang (Isaac Success 70)

Referee: Andre Marriner, Attendance: 60,035

At the end of January 2017, Arsenal were still holding onto faint title hopes when Watford came calling to the Emirates Stadium. Nine days earlier, the Gunners’ had beaten Burnley in dramatic circumstances due to a late penalty from the inspirational Alexis Sanchez. They were second in the table and looked to be the only side who might give Chelsea a few headaches in the closing months.

By contrast, Watford’s form was wretched ahead of this London derby. Walter Mazzarri’s side had just been dumped out of the FA Cup by League One outfit Millwall and were on a seven-game winless streak in the Premier League that stretched back to a 3-2 win over Everton in mid-December. As far as home bankers went before kick-off, you would have got long odds on a Hornets’ win in this midweek match.

However, they made a stunning start, catching Arsenal completely cold. The home side put in a shambolic first half display and were brutally punished for their slack opening. Only 10 minutes had elapsed when they went a goal behind. Former Tottenham Hotspur defender Younes Kaboul tried his luck from distance. The centre-back’s strike took a deflection off Aaron Ramsey and the ball flew past a stranded Petr Cech.

Three minutes later and Watford incredibly doubled their lead. Frenchman Etienne Capoue ghosted through an Arsenal backline that seemed happily content to allow him to try his luck. Cech denied him but the ball fell perfectly to the Watford skipper Troy Deeney. He couldn’t miss from just a few yards out and the scoreline was 2-0 to the visitors. It could have got worse. Only Cech’s acrobatics stopped Sebastian Prodl from making it 3-0. Arsenal failed to have a single shot on target in the first half. Manager Arsene Wenger, who was serving a touchline ban and watching in the stands, seemed absolutely powerless.

As expected, Arsenal improved in the second half. They had to and hard work from Sanchez in the 57th minute allowed Nigerian Alex Iwobi to halve the deficit. Arsenal went onto half four more shots on target but none of them burst Heurelho Gomes’ net. The closest they came was through substitute Lucas Perez, who struck the woodwork in the closing moments. It was a frustrating evening for the home faithful.

Watford’s first win in the top-flight at Arsenal’s home since 1988 was a special night in a tricky season which would end with another change in management come the season’s conclusion. This result saw Arsenal drop nine points off the pace and began a calamitous run of form that not only buried any outside title hopes but would ultimately cost them a place in the top-four finishing positions for the first time in Wenger’s reign. Wenger told the BBC afterwards: “It was obvious we lost duels and were not sharp enough. It looked more mentally that we were not ready for the challenges.”

This however was a night that belonged to Watford for their ruthless finishing in one of the biggest shocks of the 2016-2017 season.

Great Goals: Emre Can – Watford vs. LIVERPOOL FC (May 2017)

Liverpool FC travelled to Watford needing three points to keep themselves in control of their own destiny in the fight to qualify for the UEFA Champions League.

Things didn’t go to plan early on for the visitors. Jurgen Klopp’s side lost Philippe Coutinho to a knock early in the first half. With the game petering out to a goalless conclusion at half-time, something special happens at Vicarage Road.

Lucas Leiva chips the ball into the box. It is slightly behind German midfielder Emre Can. He decides to attempt the spectacular from the 18-yard box and it comes off; a beautifully-judged overhead kick that flies into the top corner. Heurelho Gomes could only stand and watch; beaten by undoubtedly the best goal Can has ever scored.

Liverpool FC won the game 1-0 and it needed something of world-class ability to take the three points. Can delivered the goods and it was a crucial goal ultimately in the club’s quest to return to the forefront of European club football.