Watford FC: the 2000s

Geoff Wicken

The 2000s proved a bumpy ride.  Watford were relegated from the Premier League after one season and Graham Taylor retired in 2001.  A new group of investors came in, recruited Gianluca Vialli as manager and gave him significant funds.  But results were disappointing, and by the summer of 2002 Vialli was gone, replaced by Ray Lewington whose brief was to keep the club in the second tier while the board attempted to keep the club out of administration.  Happily Watford succeeded on both counts, although it was a close call.  Lewington also took the team to cup semi-finals in both 2003 and 2005.

To much surprise in 2005-06, new manager Aidy Boothroyd led Watford back to the Premier League, promoted via the play-offs.  But again relegation was immediate.  A second burst of over-spending in an attempt to rebound failed as badly as the first one had, and Watford spent the rest of the decade trying to stay afloat in the Championship, a task which again was successfully if sometimes narrowly achieved.


The Golden Games:

6th May 2006: Football League Division 1 play-off semi-final, first leg

Crystal Palace 0 Watford 3

Watford hadn’t been expected to do well in the 2005-06 season, with their financial troubles and an unproven new manager in Aidy Boothroyd.  But several new players were signed, and Watford spent the entire season in contention for promotion, finally finishing in a deserved third place.  For the first leg of the play-off semi-final Watford took on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.  The first 45 minutes saw Watford ride their luck, but in the second half they dismantled Palace, with high-quality goals from Marlon King and Matthew Spring sandwiching Ashley Young’s fabulous long-distance free-kick.  A 0-0 draw in the second leg saw Watford through to the play-off final.

Were you there?  What are your memories of this match?  Share them in the comments section below.


21st May 2006: Football League Division 1 Play-off Final

Leeds United 0 Watford 3

This was the day on which Aidy Boothroyd’s Watford side reached the Premier League.  Having overcome Crystal Palace in the play-off semi-final, Watford faced Leeds United for a place in the top tier.  A majestic performance from the Hornets meant that the outcome never seemed in doubt.  Jay DeMerit headed in Ashley Young’s corner mid-way through the first half, and the second half brought goals from James Chambers and Darius Henderson from the penalty spot.  It was a comprehensive victory.

Were you there?  What are your memories of this match?  Share them in the comments section below.


7th December 2009: The Championship

Watford 3 Queens Park Rangers 1

In some ways this was a routine home win, but it contained a truly great moment – and in front of the Sky TV cameras.  This was the day on which long-term Watford favourite Lloyd Doyley scored his first goal for the club, after nine seasons and 291 appearances in the team.  And what a way to do it!  With Watford one down shortly before half-time Lloyd, playing at left-back, joined the attack.  Don Cowie put over a cross for Doyley to launch himself at the ball and score with a diving header.  The celebrations on the pitch and in the crowd illustrated just how popular a player Lloyd was.

Were you there?  What are your memories of this match?  Share them in the comments section below.

This page was added on 24/05/2018.

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