The Friday Preview
There couldn't be a worse time to face Dave Jones' Cardiff City side as the Hornets take on the Bluebirds in their second home game of the week this Saturday. In case you've not checked out the oppo's form, Jones' side rattled in a mere six at home to Derby on Tuesday night to crush Nigel Clough's hapless Ram's side 6-1. Gulp.
Man on fire
Grabbing a mere four of the six that Cardiff managed to ram past Derby County on Tuesday night was former Hornets loanee Michael Chopra. The former Geordie forward is in his second-spell in South Wales after leaving to join Sunderland in 2007. But after two hit and miss seasons on Wearside, the diminutive forward re-joined the Bluebirds on-loan last season to help their promotion push. Despite chipping in with several goals Cardiff fell at the final hurdle and slipped out the Play Off's on the final day of the season.
Chopra's second spell with Cardiff has been nothing short of spectacular already. Having signed for around £4million permanently over the Summer, the former Newcastle youngster has already scored 12 goals in a meagre 13 league and cup clashes. A career total of 73 in 149 league starts stands up well against most Championship forwards and you wouldn't bet against the former Barnsley and Nottingham Forest loanee finishing up the Championships top scorer, again.
A selling club?
Cardiff's year-in-year-out charge towards the summit of the league before their inevitable slide and fall is usually hindered by the Summer exodus of their brightest talents.
Having lost Chopra two years ago to Sunderland in a £5million deal, it was the turn of Roger Johnson to leave this Summer. The powerful former Wycombe centre half joined Alec McCleish's Birmingham side for around £5million after a long pursuit. The season previously, Dutch centre half Glenn Loovens departed to join Scottish giants Celtic in a £2.5million deal and finally, the season before that young talents Chris Gunter and Aaron Ramsey were lost to Tottenham and Arsenal respectively for around £7million the pair. You have to wonder, had former Southampton and Wolves boss Dave Jones been able to keep his side together whether the Bluebird's would've been promoted years ago.
As it is they've started well again and the hot talent they've somehow managed to keep hold of thus far is winger-cum-forward-cum-occasional-left-back, Joe Ledley. The Wales cap has been with the Bluebird's for five years and is just five starts away from his 200th in a Cardiff jersey. Consistently linked with a move to Everton, Ledley is pivotal to the Cardiff attacking unit. Another man linked with a move away is Ross McCormack who was touted as a possible target for Hull City who were prepared to pay in the region of £6million for the former Motherwell youngster.
With the loss of Johnson over the Summer and the poor form of Peter Enckleman toward the end of the season, it's been a pre-season of rebuilding at the back for Dave Jones. The first capture was that of former Celtic and Norwich goalkeeper David Marshall who was snared early on on a free from the relegated Canaries. With victory at the Nou Camp whilst with the Bhoys, his experience and youth will bring longevity between the sticks.
Mark Hudson was signed for a fee touching just over a million after he was relegated with Charlton Athletic. A powerful centre half who signed for the Addicks from rivals Crystal Palace, Hudson has also plied his trade in the Premier League with Fulham. Possibly featuring alongside Hudson could be another Summer signing in Anthony Gerrard. Cousin of Liverpool skipper Steven, the former Walsall centre back ended a four year association with the Saddlers.
Paul Quinn was snared from Motherwell for a fee nearly 300k over the Summer and he's made seven league and cup starts already, fighting off competition from yet another centre back in former Wolves defender, Gabor Gypes. It was the opinion of many Bluebird's fans over the Summer that Gypes made Johnson look good and their relief that the Hungarian has been clung onto.
Piecing together the back four are right-back Adam Matthews, a young-home-grown lad who has made six league starts since debuting at Blackpool. On the left is midfield convert Mark Kennedy who has massive experience with both Liverpool and Wolves as well as 34 Reublic of Ireland caps.
Ex-Hornets:Michael Chopra [4 League Apps + 1 Sub, 5 goals], Neal Ardley - Youth Coach [105 + 6, 7].
Likely Watford XI
Rather dependent on the severity of injuries to Cowie and Hodson on Tuesday, and whether Cathcart, Lansbury or Jenkins or deemed well enough to play after midweek virus'
Hodson Mariappa Bennett Doyley
Cowie Cleverley Eustace Harley
Likely Cardiff XI
Matthew Gypes Hudson Kennedy
Burke McPhail (c) Whittingham Ledley