Behind Enemy Lines: Watford

MILLWALL host Watford in the Championship at The Den on Tuesday night.

This game is a rearranged fixture after an outbreak of Covid-19 at Millwall just before the festive period caused its postponement.

Alex Grace spoke to Watford fan Oscar ahead of tonight’s game.

Twitter: @Oscar_reports

Why do you support Watford?

I didn’t have much of a choice. My Dad is a Millwall fan and regularly dragged me to games home and away but once I was old enough to appreciate where I was born (Watford General Hospital) and witnessed the Rookery on match-day, the rest, as they say, is history… (not that it stopped regular trips to The Den)

What season did you first start following the Hornets?

1999-00. A 3-2 defeat to Arsenal at Vicarage Road lingers long in the memory after some questionable officiating and a Thierry Henre brace.

What is the most memorable Watford game you’ve seen?

September, 2010. I was about the head off to university for the first time and bought me and my Dad tickets to Millwall vs. Watford in the Barry Kitchener stand…Watford won 6-1 and the away end were giving as good as they got from Millwall fans. We left quickly after the final whistle.

What has been your favourite season as a Hornets fan?

2012-13. Watford had an iconic squad, including the likes of Almunia, Anya, Cassetti and Vydra under the watchful eye of Gianfranco Zola. Playing exciting, free-flowing football, the Hornets just missed out on promotion as it all ended in despair at Wembley.

But nothing can tarnish that play-off semi-final victory against Leicester City.

Another managerial change this season – was that the right decision?

To be honest, I have no idea.

Right or wrong doesn’t seem to get anyone very far at Vicarage Road and fans are certainly used to the merry-go-round by now. But as long as Watford keep winning no one seems to care.

The players are certainly happier under Xisco and seem to be more relaxed on the pitch with three wins on the trot. But I suppose we will never know if Watford would have been promoted under Vladimir Ivic…

You’ve settled back well into Championship life following relegation – how do you rate the season?  

It may seem odd to say that Watford are underperforming while sitting third in the table but the Hornets haven’t quite got going yet.

Aside from victories against Blackburn Rovers and Preston North End, the Hornets have struggled to exploit the pace of Ismaila Sarr and injuries haven’t helped settle the starting XI.

But Watford are grinding out results and that will be impressing a lot of fans after a few seasons of absent defending.

With the managerial change, injuries and a lot of transfer speculation, Watford have done well to keep pace and keep winning.

Xisco is a very personable coach and enjoys the man-management side of his role, so Watford seem to be moving in the right direction, at least in attitude if not style.

What are your aspirations for the season?

Prior to the season starting, anything less than promotion would have been a failure (and probably still will be) but in the circumstances of the pandemic and the challenges described above, finishing in the play-offs will be okay with me.

I’m not sure we have a squad capable of challenging for the top half of the Premier League at the moment, so happy to enjoy a season or two in the Championship for new players to become settled (and to selfishly visit a few new grounds).

What are your thoughts on Gary Rowett?

I might never be safe back at The Den, but I think Millwall have over-performed in the last few seasons since returning to the Championship.

Neil Harris created a squad in the image of Millwall, with heart, grit and a lot of smarts.

Gary Rowett hasn’t done a lot wrong but has been dealt a tough hand with the pandemic. There isn’t a lot of depth in the squad, attacking options are few and far between, and without the fans behind them, The Den isn’t half the threat it used to be.

If Rowett keeps his job (and I think he should regardless of form), the Lions should comfortably finish mid-table and that’s not a bad effort with the troubles Millwall have had with outbreaks and injuries.

What do Watford need in the remaining days of the transfer window?

Watford fans have been calling for a defensive reshuffle for a couple of seasons and I largely stand with them. Masina and Femenia are Premier League-class but the central defence is often found wanting, so I would love to see defensive reinforcements.

If you could add two Millwall players to the Watford side, who would they be and why?

Easy. Jed Wallace and Jake Cooper. They both love to score goals and would fit well into the current Watford set-up.

Jed can actually score free-kicks – I don’t think I’ve seen Watford score a free-kick since Wayne Rooney could grow his own hair.

Who are Watford’s danger men?

Ismaila Sarr and Kiko Femenia. They have pace and creativity to threaten any defence but are also showing a defensive resilience that is so badly needed in the Championship, making Watford a really difficult team to break down via the flanks.

What’s your predicted Watford starting XI and formation?

Bachmann; Femenia, Masina, Troost-Ekong, Sierralta; Chalobah, Hughes; Cleverley, Pedro, Sarr; Deeney.

A fluid 4-2-3-1/ fluid 4-4-2 formation (not too dissimilar from the win over Stoke City on Friday night).

And finally, a score prediction?

2-1 Watford. I can see Millwall scoring but Watford are in form and think the Hornets will have too much energy in the last 20 minutes.

Image: @Millwall FC