Welcome to Last Word on Football’s team of the decade series and today, we take a look at Watford, a club which experienced both the highs and lows of football within the past decade.
The Hornets most memorable moment came in the 2014/15 when they gained promotion back to the top flight of English football. However, they have also had their fair share of setbacks, most notably the 6-0 defeat to Manchester City in the 2019 FA Cup final.
So with the lack of footballing action across the world at the present time, it is time to take a look back at some of the best players to turn out for Watford over the past 10 years.
Watford Team of the Decade:
Manager – Javi Gracia
It was a tough decision to pick out just one man to lead the team, given the fact that 14 managers have been in charge of the Hornets since the start of 2010!
Current gaffer Nigel Pearson has steadied the ship this season, whilst Quique Sanchez Flores led the side to Wembley in his first stint as manager, and not forgetting Serbian coach Slavisa Jokanovic, who led the club back to the promised land in 2015.
However, we have decided to go for Javi Gracia, who was appointed manager in January 2018. Despite the board’s decision to part ways with the Spaniard not long after the start of the current campaign, Gracia is Watford’s longest-serving manager since the Pozzo family took over the club in 2012.
In his 20 months in charge of the dugout, Gracia led the club to their first FA Cup final in 25-years, as well as a very respectful 11th place finish in his first full season as head coach.
Goalkeeper – Huerelho Gomes
The Brazilian keeper has enjoyed a stellar six years at the club, making a total of 100 Premier League appearances since joining from Tottenham Hotspur on a free transfer.
Gomes also made 44 appearances in his debut season in the Championship and was named Watford’s Player of the Season in their first season back in the Premier League.
He has since lost his place in the starting line-up to Ben Foster, and after announcing that he will retire at the end of the current campaign, Gomes will no doubt be fondly remembered by the Watford faithful.
Right Back – Lloyd Doyley
The first player in the line of defence is Lloyd Doyley, who made 443 appearances during his time at Watford, before leaving in 2015.
The academy graduate was a regular starter during the first few years of the decade, before parting ways with the club after the Hornets gained promotion to the Premier League.
Although he was never the flashiest of footballers, Doyley was a fan favourite throughout his 14-year-long stay. He even managed to score just his second and final goal for the club in the past decade, getting on the scoresheet against Bolton Wanderers in 2012.
Centre Back – Craig Cathcart
Experienced defender Craig Cathcart is in the heart of the defence and earns his place in the side due to his six years of service. Signed on a free transfer from Blackpool in 2014, Cathcart had a great start to his career down south, scoring on his debut against Bournemouth in the Championship.
The Northern Ireland international went on to become a popular figure at Vicarage Road, making over 100 top-flight appearances at the back.
Centre Back – Adrian Mariappa
As for Cathcart’s partner at the back, we selected the seasoned Adrian Mariappa, who has enjoyed two spells at the club over the past decade.
Mariappa joined the Hornets at the age of just 8-years-old and went on to make just under 250 appearances for his boyhood club before leaving for Reading in 2012. He was even awarded the club’s Player of the Season award at the end of the 2011/12 season.
The Jamaican then went on to spend three years in the Premier League at Crystal Palace, before returning to Vicarage Road in 2016 and has stayed put ever since.
Left Back – Jose Holebas
The final member of the defensive backline is Jose Holebas, who has been first-choice left-back at the club since his arrival from Roma in 2015.
The Greek international signed for just over £2 million – a bargain fee when you take a look back at his performances over the past few seasons. Signed by Quique Sanchez Flores in the summer of 2014, the fiery defender has gone on to become a valued asset to the Hornets.
Holebas excelled in the 2018/19 season under Javi Gracia, providing a very respectful six assists throughout the course of the season. Liverpool’s prized full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson were the only defenders who created more in the campaign.
Central Midfield – Etienne Capoue
Another Quique Sanchez Flores acquisition, Capoue joined for a club-record fee of around £6.3 million. The signing was questioned by many at the time, but Capoue has gone on to become one of the first names on the team sheet in recent times.
The Frenchman notched seven goals in the 2016/17 season, playing a pivotal role in last season’s push to 11th place, and was named the club’s Player of the Season after a number of fantastic performances.
Furthermore, Capoue is yet another member of the squad that has made over 100 league appearances for the Hornets.
Central Midfield – Abdoulaye Doucoure
Alongside Capoue in midfield is Abdoulaye Doucoure, another player who broke the club’s record transfer fee. Doucoure signed in the 2016 January transfer window for just over £8 million, but was loaned to Granada straight away.
The midfielder relocated to England in time for the start of the 2016/17 season and made 26 league appearances in his debut campaign. He made a name for himself the following season, scoring a total of seven goals throughout the Premier League season, a tally which earned him the Player of the Year award at Watford.
The Frenchman continues to excel in England, and despite speculation linking his future away from Vicarage Road, Watford fans will be hoping to see Doucoure around for the next decade.
Central Midfield – Jonathan Hogg
Some Watford fans may be upset to learn that Almen Abdi has been left out of the starting eleven, and whilst it wasn’t an easy decision, we decided to go for Jonathan Hogg, largely due to his assist for ‘that’ goal against Leicester City in 2013.
Although that may be his most memorable moment in a Watford shirt, it is easy to forget that Hogg was a regular starter during his two-year spell at the club.
The midfielder made a total of 78 appearances in the Championship for the Hornets, before leaving for Huddersfield Town in the summer of 2013.
Right-Wing – Gerard Deulofeu
A high profile signing from Barcelona in 2018, Deulofeu first joined the club on a loan deal, and his impressive displays convinced the Watford hierarchy to pay £11.5 million for his services on a full-time basis.
Despite his inconsistencies, Deulofeu can no doubt conjure up some magic on the pitch, and the Spaniard became the club’s first-ever player to score a hat-trick in the Premier League after he bagged three in a 5-1 win over Cardiff City.
The winger scored 12 goals in the 2018/19 campaign, and after being left out of the starting eleven for the FA Cup semi-final clash against Wolves, Deulofeu came off the bench to score a fabulous goal in normal time, before slotting home the winner in extra-time to send Watford to the final.
Left-Wing – Odion Ighalo
Despite not being a natural winger, we have opted to put our faith in Odion Ighalo to do a job out wide. The forward, now on-loan at Manchester United, first got a taste of English football when he was signed by Giuseppe Sannino on a loan deal in July 2014.
Months later, however, Ighalo was signed on a permanent basis and went on to score 20 goals in his maiden campaign as the Hornets gained promotion.
The jump up to the top flight didn’t faze the Nigerian, as he bagged another 15 league goals to spearhead Watford to a 13th place finish. Ighalo wasn’t able to keep up his goal-scoring form the following season, however, and was sold to Chinese side Changchun Yatai for a reported £20 million fee.
Ighalo may not have had the best of endings to his Watford career, but we believe he deserves his place in the squad due to his impressive first two seasons at the club.
Centre Forward – Troy Deeney
Leading the line for this squad is Troy Deeney; Captain, leader, legend. Deeney appeared in every season of the decade at Vicarage Road, earning the love and respect of all Watford supporters across the globe.
The striker was awarded Player of the Season at the club in both 2014 and 2015, and in 2016 he became only the fifth player to score 100 goals for the club.
Deeney has scored some very important goals throughout his career, including strikes against both Liverpool and Manchester United, as well as scoring a last-minute equaliser against Wolves in the FA Cup semi-final, as the Hornets went on to book their place in the 2019 final.
Furthermore, it was his dramatic strike in the dying embers of the Championship play-off semi-final tie against Leicester City in 2014 that sent shock waves around the world.