The trees are shaking off their winter frost, the flowers are in bloom, the sun is shining and the birds are singing. Spring is upon us and soon the clocks roll forward.
With it comes the last glimmer of hope for many fans as seasons are decided and dreams are realised or shattered. Watford will be still be hoping to dream come May and a potential date with destiny in the F.A. Cup.
However, as attention turns to the international friendlies, Watford fans will be reflecting on a crazy few months and, in particular, the F.A. Cup Quarter-Final win over Arsenal.
Ighalo’s swivel and hit, Guedioura’s wonder-strike, Welbeck’s miss are all abiding memories from just over a week ago, yet since boxing day it would be fair to say that the Hornets have been given a wake-up call.
Following a 2-2 draw against Champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Watford found themselves in 7th, above the likes of Liverpool, Everton, West Ham and Southampton in the Premier League.
Fast forward eight points and three months later, Quique Sanchez Flores’ team lie 14th in the table. Fans are left wondering what has happened and discontent is bubbling towards the surface. Nevertheless now is not the time to look inwards and dissect the season, now is the time to keep dreaming.
Watford are safe from the drop as Norwich, Sunderland and Newcastle contest the two remaining relegation spots, whilst Leicester and Tottenham look set to battle it out at the top of the Premier League. So attention undoubtedly has turned to April 24th, when the Hornets return to Wembley to face Crystal Palace – as much as Flores wishes that was not the case.
It will be an occasion to savour and both clubs will be confident of reaching the final on May 21st at 5:30pm, when the world will be watching the oldest and most famous of club trophies be lifted.
Troy Deeney will be controlling his thoughts and endeavour to focus on the league matches prior, but that shouldn’t stop you the fans from dreaming. For that is what sport is for.
Dare to dream of a Hornet lifting the trophy, dare to dream a sea of yellow celebrating at the home of football, dare to dream of victory. Lose yourself in the thought and smile, because little old Watford have a chance.
And this is what the season, these past few months, and the Pozzo-Family takeover has been aimed towards.
Under Bassini and Sean Dyche, Watford were competitive but mediocre – a side screaming for impetus and income as Danny Graham, Don Cowie, and Will Buckley were sold in pre-season, before Marvin Sordell departed later in January – then the team’s top goalscorer. Watford finished in 11th and Vicarage Road yearned for excitement as memories of the brief spells in the country’s top division slowly drifted away.
June 2012 saw the beginning of the Watford FC we now know and it is strange looking back in the knowledge that such greatness has emerged from such uncertainty under the tenure of two-time bankrupt Bassini. Fortunately and thankfully ‘The Red Helmet’ sold the club to the Pozzo family – headed by Giampaolo Pozzo and supplemented by Gino Pozzo, the official Watford FC owner – and thus began a journey of re-discovery, as Watford found its identity and revitalised a stale Vicarage Road.
The club has seen the great Gianfranco Zola lead the Hornets to a play-off final defeat against their opponents on April 24th; the much travelled Beppe Sannino took the club to 2nd in the Championship table before resignation in 2014; and brief stints in the managerial hot-seat were handed to Óscar Garcia and Billy McKinlay before Slaviša Jokanovic took the helm on October 7th of the same year on a one-year contract.
And what an incredible year it was for the Hertfordshire side. Watford won promotion to the Premier League and did so in style with 91 goals to their name, including five against Fulham away, 12 against Charlton Athletic and Blackpool in the space of a January week, and a topsy-turvy 4-3 win away to Bolton Wanderers at the Macron Stadium.
Quique Sanchez Flores took over from Jokanović at the start of the current season and, as you are probably more than aware, this year has been another rollercoaster ride with plenty of highlights along the way. However, following defeats to Tottenham, Manchester City, Southampton, Swansea City, Manchester United, Leicester City and Stoke City in the space of 12 games, Watford fans have raised their expectations and forgotten where the club has come from in recent times.
Many commentators and pundits are suggesting that the bubble has finally burst in WD18, but the F.A Cup Quarter-Final victory provides so much more than a trip to Wembley.
It is a chance for redemption following the Play-Off final heartbreak, it is a chance to thank the Pozzo family for everything they have done for the club and fans, it is a chance to dream of Watford’s first major silverware.
It is a chance to be proud of supporting Watford FC.