DS: When we last met on April 15 last year, you were third in the Championship with four games remaining. It's gone pretty well since?
MF: It has indeed. Despite another change in manager and 15 signings before September coupled with the tag of relegation favourites, we’ve managed to make an excellent start to the season!
Were you always confident that your team would thrive/survive in the Premier League?
I personally believed we could stay in the Premier League this season as there was a good chance there would be three teams worse than ourselves, but to have surpassed the points tallies set in our previous two Premier League seasons so early in 2015-16 has come as a bit of a surprise.
Despite getting promoted with the second best goal tally in the Championship last season, I had doubts that we’d be able to find the goals with the strikers that we had at our disposal….something that annoyingly looked correct after we scored in just one of our first five competitive games this season.
Ighalo and Deeney - the best double act since Morecambe and Wise?
They’re absolutely vital to our style of play and luckily neither has spent any time out injured so far this season. As a stats man, I have to point out that their partnership is the best in the Premier League in terms of chance creation (37 chances created for one another – eight more than any other pair of players in the PL this season) and whilst Ighalo has won the plaudits for his goals, he wouldn’t have had many of them without Deeney’s craft (he’s assisted six of his goals and created a league-high 26 chances for him).
Ighalo has the knack of being in the right place at the right time, which is definitely a skill and not just luck. On the other hand, Troy Deeney has improved his game and has introduced a much more creative side to his aggressive/physical approach. I think a lot of opposition fans are fooled in to typecasting him as a burly, bully-boy (which he can be), but he’s much more intelligent on the pitch than people give him credit for.
Unheralded player of the season?
Ben Watson, hands down. The boo-boy for many fans last season and there wouldn’t be many about who thought he would get anywhere near our Premier League side. Does all the dirty work and is a workhorse, but also has craft in midfield and will always be available for the pass. You don’t hear any Watford fans tutting at his name being read out over the pre-match tannoy any longer.
Should probably mention Craig Cathcart here too. Despite being a very dependable CB in the Championship, many doubted he could make the step up as a solid Premier League player and it was a bit odd to see him given a new four year deal in the summer. However, overall this season he’s been superb.
How much credit does Quique Sanchez Flores deserve for his first job in a new country with a newly promoted team? It seems to have drifted under the radar slightly.
He’s done very well to mould a great team unit from a group of players that have either been lower league players in England for the last few seasons or deemed not good enough for the top-flight by other Premier League clubs in the past. After failing to score for three successive games in August/September (and also not being able to create many chances), there were doubts as to whether the Pozzos had done the right thing in replacing the successful Slavisa Jokanovic with the Spaniard, but those fears have completely disappeared now. It’s also important to point out that he is easily the most handsome & well-dressed man in a Premier League dugout.
We have to ask: how does the whole multi-club ownership sit with you as a fan? Obviously you were able to sign Ighalo on a free transfer, for example.
It’s worked out for us and without it we would never have witnessed the calibre of player that we have done in the seasons under the Pozzo reign. I think Watford have probably had the better of the deal so far as we haven’t seen any player leave for Granada or Udinese and we haven’t had the dilemma of having to sell a key player to a top club for a lot of money yet (like Udinese have had to do under the Pozzos).
I can see what it would annoy fans of other clubs – because they aren’t lucky enough to have it!
What do you think the owners' vision for the club is? Consolidation ad infinitum like West Brom and Sunderland, or something a little more ambitious?
I’d like to think they see us as eventually being an established Premier League club with a solid 25,000-30,000 home crowd each week. We’ll never be a massive club, but I think West Brom and Swansea are in a similar place to how we’d like to see our club in two years.
We have the added bonus of being so close to London, so I think that will help to attract bigger names that clubs of a similar stature.
With safety virtually secured in the Premier League - barring a silly collapse - do you think the club is taking the FA Cup seriously?
I don’t see why we wouldn’t, but I think we’ll give some much needed playing time to our fringe players as they haven’t had much of a look in so far in the Premier League. I would expect Watford to play a mix of first team regulars and usual subs in this match, but if we make it to the QF onwards, that will change.
What are your personal feelings on Forest, and which player do you expect to cause you the most problems?
I’m fond of Forest as a club because of their history, but they have been a mess for a while now. There are many similar sized clubs in the Championship now, so it’s going to be difficult to win promotion without a solid recruitment plan and without relying on history to attract players. Jamie Ward seems to be in a decent run of goalscoring form and Jack Hobbs has dealt well with Troy Deeney in past Championship matches, so it’ll be interesting to see that battle.
To be honest, I’m glad that we don’t have to face Michael Antonio again in this match as he was excellent against us last season (but I’m guessing you have similar feelings on Matej Vydra).
Back in 2002, David Prutton and Jack Lester decided that the colour yellow was their sworn enemy and set about doing something about it. Consequently, they spent some time on the naught step and were made to think long and hard about what they'd done.