Hard luck for critics of Watford’s transfer policy

Having gone so close last season, are Watford certainties to go up next year?

Two points away from automatic promotion, the Hornets were forced to take the much more unpredictable route to the Premier League known as the play-offs.  After suffering a 1-0 defeat at sixth-placed Leicester, the second leg at Vicarage Road looked to be heading to extra time as Watford led 2-1 in the 96th minute.  That was before the Foxes’ Anthony Knockaert controversially won a penalty, leaving Gianfranco Zola and his side facing a heartbreaking aggregate defeat.

In a scene more fitting of a sport-based film (and one coincidentally played out by Brentford and Doncaster Rovers only two weeks earlier), the spot kick failed to find the back of the net, with a swift counter attack seeing Watford snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  Despite the jubilation of that day, a Kevin Phillips penalty in the final ultimately meant that they did not have much to show for their efforts all season.

Watford made headlines at the start of last season as they made the most of the loan system, signing multiple players on temporary deals from both Udinese and Granada.  A total of ten arrived on loan from Italy as well as two from Spain, with many fans questioning the club’s ability to do so.  The fact that the three clubs were all owned by Italian businessman Giampaolo Pozzo only raised further concerns about the legality of the situation.

Amendments have been made to the number of loan signings allowed between clubs, but that has not stopped an influx of foreign talent at Vicarage Road.  Since this time last year, nine Udinese players and three Granada players have penned permanent deals at Watford.  Such activity in the transfer market means that exciting times lie ahead for Hornets fans, who will surely see their team involved in the race for promotion once again.

Their rivals might not like it, and some may even feel Zola’s side have an unfair advantage over the rest of the league.  However, as any Watford supporter will tell you, the rules are the rules.