Barnsley Preview - Home, Sept 12th
Bottom of the league with just one point, no wins and on a goal difference of minus eight, new Barnsley boss and former Manchester United striker Mark Robins has a sizable task on his hands. However, if the former Rotherham gaffer was to hand-pick his first game in charge of the Tykes, he'd probably chose the Hornets as his first opponents.
To say Barnsley are Watford's bogey team of late would be a crass understatement. The Hornet's have failed to beat the Tyke's since their return to the Championship. Last season Malky Mackay oversaw a 2-1 defeat at Oakwell as caretaker before a drab 1-1 under Brendan 'Who?' Rodgers at the Vic'. The season before the Tykes ran out winners twice, 3-2 at Oakwell [Steve Kabba managed to head one off the Barnsley line preventing an 'Orns goal] and a sickening 3-0 mauling back in Hertfordshire one cold midweek.
So, negativity aside, it's time for Watford to break their Barnsley hoodoo, and what better time with Robins only able to spend three days with his squad prior to the game. In fact, here at VitalWatford, we probably know more about his new squad than he does at the moment!
It wasn't a busy Summer for the Tykes, Heinz Muller, the clubs number one for the previous two seasons moved on, joining Mainz for 600k. His replacement, Englishmen David Preece joined from Danish side Odesne having had previous spells in the U.K with Sunderland, Darlington and Aberdeen. First-choice goalkeeper Luke Steele was stolen from West Brom after a successful loan spell at Oakwell in 2008.
Brother Sam Sodje wasn't the only Sodje in the clan on the move in the Summer, Onome Sodje, the forgotten Sodje pitching up at York City got his big break joining the Tykes on a free transfer after his contract expired. The situation surrounding his move was controversial as his previous employers claimed the 21 year-old forward fought deportation with the clubs help, [Al Bangura anyone?], only to walk out on York and sign for then manager Simon Davey's side. Thirty three goals in 65 league league starts is a good return and he'll be looking to fight it out with fellow new signing Andy Gray for a place up top.
Experienced forward Gray arrived from sinking ship Charlton after his £1m move to the Valley failed to take off. Just nine goals in 46 league appearances and a hefty salary was enough to convince Phil Parkinson to make a loss on the 31 year-old who signed on a free. Marking his home debut with a goal, Gray's first strike came in Simon Davey's last game, a 3-1 defeat to you-know-who's Reading side.
The final piece of the jigsaw came in Adam Hamill, signed for a nominal fee after Liverpool finally got sick of loaning the versatile young winger out to various Football League clubs. Hammill made 14 appearances for Barnsley last season in his second loan spell in Yorkshire having previously plied his trade for Blackpool, Southampton and Dunfermaline. The sort of player who could 'open a can of beans with his left foot' if we were quoting Iain Holloway...
Capable of playing on either wing, Hammill could be the difference between the two sides if his final product is consistent.
Another man with that ability is winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce. The talismanic winger joined from Southend and has chalked up 78 league starts and 12 goals in two years with the Tykes. Seven international caps for Jamaica are testament to the Lambeth-born wingers ability, though nine moves in just six years suggest the winger has had trouble settling down. However last season nine goals and the winner in the final day win at Plymouth saw Campbell-Ryce mark his most prolific season with his most telling contribution.
Finally, Chris Morgan's most high-profile victim, Iain Hume is back amongst the action having made four appearances this season after last season's horror skull break at the elbow of the Sheffield United psycho-cum-skipper.
Ex-Hornets: Martin Devaney [0 Apps; 0 Goals].
Likely Watford XI
Hodson Mariappa DeMerit Doyley
Cowie Jenkins Lansbury Cleverley
Likely Barnsley XI
Hassell Moore ( c ) Foster Kozluk
Campbell-Ryce Colace Silva Hamill
Prediction: Watford 2-1 Barnsley
Come on you 'Orns!