Preview: Bolton Wanderers (Home) - August 9
Watford return to Championship action this weekend a little over three months after a humiliating final day defeat to Huddersfield Town at the end of last season.
The disappointment that surrounded last campaign has dissipated however with arrival of several exciting summer signings and a renewed belief that this will be the year the Hornets make it back to the Premiership having come so close two seasons ago.
The Hornets transfer activity is the main reason there is a renewed belief about this season around Vicarage Road. Former Tottenham goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes was the first to join bringing with him a similar type of experience as his predecessor Manuel Almunia. Gabriel Tamas, Lloyd Dyer, Craig Cathcart and Keith Andrews all followed, boosting the number of players at the club with Championship experience.
The real transfer news however was the decision to re-sign Matej Vydra on loan from Udinese following the Czech's frustrating season with West Brom in the Premiership last time out. If his first season at the club where he scored 22 goals is anything to go by, there is a lot to look forward to over the course of this season. The re-signing of Daniel Tozser was greeted with almost as much delight as the return of Vydra, as Hornets supporters fell in love with the Hungarian during his six month loan spell last season. Juan Carlos Paredes then joined permanently from Granada and he was followed by Odion Ighalo and Gianni Munari both of whom signed on loan as the Hornets continued to bolster their squad.
Of those signings, both Cathcart and Andrews will definitely not feature in the season opener against Bolton Wanderes on Saturday. Cathcart picked up a knee injury during pre-season which sees him sit out the opener. He will be joined on the sidelines by Sean Murray, who is also out with an ankle injury and a dead leg. The only other absentee will be Keith Andrews who is ineligible to play given the fact he is on loan from Bolton. Juan Carlos Paredes however will be in the squad after his International clearance came through on Tuesday.
Whilst expectations of a promotion challenge will be high at Watford this season the same cannot be said for opening day opponents Bolton Wanderes.
The Trotters had a disappointing season last time out struggling to get out of the bottom half all campaign. This came as somewhat of a surprise given the fact they only just missed out on the Play-off's at the end of the 2012/13 campaign. Manager Dougie Freedman has been frustrated in the transfer market so far this summer, only able to bring in a handful of free transfers.
They included Liam Trotter and Liam Feeney from Millwall, Neill Danns from Leicester City, Dorian Dervite and Andy Hughes from Charlton, Dean Moxey from Crystal Palace and Kevin McNaughton on loan from Cardiff. All of those players will be available to the Bolton manager for tomorrow's game as midfielder Mark Davies is their only injury concern. Freedman told Bolton's official website that Davies was "60/40 against to play. He only trained on Monday. Its a decision we'll need to take on Friday to see if he is any good".
Bolton have had a mixed pre season, winning three, drawing three and losing two of their eight preparation games. They enjoyed wins over Norwegian side Vestsjaelland, Rochdale and Port Vale. Their first defeat of pre season came against Swedish club Mjallby where the Trotters surrendered a 2-0 lead, eventually losing the game 3-2. Their last pre season match was against Vitesse Arnhem at the Reebok Stadium last Sunday, a game which saw them lose 1-0.
Bolton's main threat on Saturday will come from striker Jermaine Beckford. The big name striker who featured in the Premiership for Everton for two seasons, started his career at local side Wealdstone in 2003 before signing for Leeds Utd in 2006. He joined Bolton last summer when he signed a two-year contract for an Undisclosed fee from Leicester City. Hornets fans will remember Beckford for scoring the winning goal in the corresponding fixture last season after a mistake by Manuel Almunia.
The Trotters will also welcome attacking midfielder Darren Pratley back into the fold after a shoulder injury cut his season short last time out. Pratley was one of Wanderes most influential players last season before he injured his shoulder against the Hornets at the Reebok in February, an injury which ended his season. Other players to look out for on Saturday will be lively forward Robert Hall. The striker started his career at West Ham Utd. He spent various spells out on loan trying to prove himself before he joined Bolton last summer. The Trotters will be captained by new club skipper Jay Spearing at the weekend. 25-year-old Spearing also joined Bolton last summer from Liverpool having spent the 2012/13 season on loan at Bolton also, after failing to make at impact at Anfield.
Watford: Gomes, Tamas, Angella, Ekstrand, Anya, Tozser, Abdi, McGugan, Pudil, Vydra, Deeney (capt)
Bolton: Lonergan, McNaughton, Mills, Ream, Moxey, Spearing (capt), Kamara, Feeney, Danns, Pratley, Beckford
Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Carl Boyeson