Date:Wednesday March 29 2006
On 29 March 2005 Watford Football Cub appointed a new manager. Adrian who? Was the reaction from Watford fans and the wider footballing public alike. Now, one year later, the name Adrian Boothroyd is on the lips of not only Watford fans, but the wider footballing public alike.
Boothroyd, who is regarded by many as one of the brightest young English managers in the country, was appointed following the axing of Ray Lewington eight days previously. Lewington took over a club in turmoil following the sacking of the ill-fated Gianluca Vialli whose multi-million pound team could only manage to finish thirteenth in Division One.
Shortly after Lewington stepped into the hotseat the club revealed debts of £9.5 million. Watford were penniless: Lewington’s slender transfer budget became non-existent and the players had to take a 25% deferral of their wages. Yet the former Chelsea and Fulham midfielder guided the Hertfordshire club to two cup semi-finals – the FA Cup in 2003 and the Carling Cup in 2005.
But as the Hornets progressed in the 2005 Carling Cup – knocking out Premiership Portsmouth and Southampton after being knocked out by the soon-to-be European Champions Liverpool – their Championship form nose dived. With seven matches remaining, Watford found themselves eighteenth in the Championship and in the middle of a relegation dogfight. The Board of Directors felt that they had to act before it was too late.
The decision split the Watford faithful. Some argued that Lewington had been treated unfairly after all that he had done for the club on the tightest of budgets while others felt that he had taken the club as far as he could. Enter Adrian Boothroyd;
Adrian who? Well, as a player he was hardly a household name; plying his trade in the lower echelons of English football with Huddersfield Town, Bristol Rovers, Mansfield Town and Peterborough United until injury cut short his career at the tender age of 26. However, Boothroyd realised that he was never going to be a top-class player so he decided to try his hand at coaching and by the age of 22 gained his first coaching badge. “I did not have any qualifications from school so I decided to go into coaching. “I had my full coaching badge when I was 22,” recalls Boothroyd.
After hanging up his boots the Yorkshireman took up the position of Assistant Academy Director at Peterborough United and in February 2001 joined Norwich City as Youth Team Coach. In 2003 Boothroyd joined West Bromwich Albion as Youth Development Officer and Technical Director and a year later joined Leeds United to take up the role of First Team Coach.
“I have coached every age group. “When I was a player at Mansfield and Peterborough, I worked with the younger players. “I was very lucky. “It was a good grounding for me. “Learning how to get your point across is very important,” explains Adrian. In the search for a new manager Chairman Graham Simpson said that he required a ‘young, progressive manager’ and in the appointment of Boothroyd that’s exactly what they got.
At 34 Boothroyd became the youngest manager in the Football League and the club wasted no time in talking-up their unknown manager. The day Boothroyd was appointed a club statement read: “After the interview process the Board of Watford Football Club were unanimous in recognising Adrian’s potential to become a great new young manager within the English game.”
Boothroyd, who had no previous experience of managing a club, drafted in the vastly-experienced Keith Burkenshaw as his right-hand man. The pair met at Warwick Business School where Burkenshaw was Boothroyd’s mentor on an Applied Football Management course. Boothroyd told Burkenshaw that if he was given a managerial post would he wanted Burkenshaw to become his assistant, Burkenshaw agreed. Both men were true to their word. 69 year-old Burkenshaw managed Tottenham Hotspur to two FA Cups and a UEFA cup in the 1980s and started the invasion of foreign players in the top-flight after signing the inspirational Argentinean pairing of Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa.
Despite losing their first game in charge of the Hornets, Boothroyd and Burkenshaw guided the club to Championship safety following victory at Stoke City on the penultimate game of the season. It was apparent that a large-scale rebuilding process had to take place at Vicarage Road.
Boothroyd recalls: “I was in a great position last year when the club were in the s***. “We were going to get relegated. “So I came in and had the opportunity to assess individuals under immense stress. “That’s when you find out about people and during that time I saw a lot of things that made me think ‘I don’t want these people on the bus with me’. “So I looked at three things and applied them to everyone. “Are they competent? “Are they committed? “Are they compliant? “Anyone who did not tick all three boxes, staff and players, they were out.”
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