From the Editor: My Best Watford XI
On Sunday, outgoing Vital Watford Editor Tom Bodell shared his 'Best Watford XI', alongside three other Vital contributors' XIs. You can read that article here. As a way of introducing myself as new Editor, I thought it might be a good idea to offer up my best effort.
As has been said many times before, it is no easy task coming up with a well-rounded and fair Best XI. There will inevitably be fantastic players that miss out on a spot, and I will give some honourable mentions where appropriate.
Sticking to the principles of Sunday's Best XIs, as a man in my early twenties, I will also certainly miss out a huge amount of all-time greats. No Barnes, Blissett, Callaghan or Coton I'm afraid. I was born in a different time. My generation's heroes are Nigel Gibbs, Paul Robinson, Micah Hyde and Alec Chamberlain.
Alas, though, none of the names above feature in my XI - four of a whole host of Watford legends that I've seen play in yellow that I just can't find room for in my 3-5-2 system.
And a 3-5-2 system it will be. I have to stick with what is the most exciting formation I've seen us play with; Zola's 3-5-2 brought us goals, free-flowing football and a touch of class with its fluidity. The system makes it difficult to find a place for a player like Ashley Young, but some things just have to be done.
Matěj Vydra recently said
that this system was the best he has played within in his career so far, but I'm going one step further and saying it's the best system Watford have played in.
It's interesting to imagine how some of yesteryear's stalwarts might have fared in such a system. Who would sit deep in a midfield three of Alon Hazan, Richard Johnson and Micah Hyde? Could Nordin Wooter be molded into a good wingback a la Anya? Could Steve Palmer still play in every position despite the unfamiliar system?
Goalkeeper: Ben Foster
. A relative unknown (to me at least) when he came to the club, witnessing him grow into a magnificent 'keeper was a joy to watch over the course of a couple of my teenage seasons. He came to Watford a very young man with a lot of potential, and left a dead-cert to stay within the England setup for years to come after winning Player of the Season in our Premiership year. The quickest reactions I've ever seen in a Watford shirt.
Centre-back: Lloyd Doyley
. Any Best XI by someone my age should have Lloyd in it. I don't feel the need to justify myself too much on this choice, but if you do have any reservations about Lloydinho's inclusion in my XI, take it up with any one of the eight managers who saw sense and played him in their respective XIs.
Centre-back: Jay DeMerit
. This was a very tough choice to make. There were several contenders for this middle of the back three role. Robert Page, Neil Cox, even Marco Cassetti in this newly adopted position for him could have taken Jay's place. But I've gone with Jay DeMerit here because of the journey he took with us. From unknown American backpacker to internationally-capped Premiership captain in a matter of a few years, Jay DeMerit's story was a zero to hero tale that few of us will forget in a hurry.
Centre-back: Gabriele Angella
. Quite possibly my favourite centre-back to have played for Watford despite it only being a matter of months since we signed him. Angella plays with passion, coolness and mettle, and has been consistently one of Watford's best performers since signing a five-year contract last summer. Just as likely to pull off a step-over or two in his own box as he is to give an opposition striker a hefty off-the-ball shoulder charge (Jason Scotland knows what I'm on about), I can't see past his inclusion in my Best XI despite the apparent lack of familiarity.
Right wing-back: Ikechi Anya
. I was thinking about who might be able to play in this position with as much to offer in both attack as well as defence as Ikechi Anya. I came up with no one. Darren Bazeley would have been suited to the role I reckon, but nothing compares to the attacking threat of our diminutive Scottish international. I must admit, I thought Ikechi Anya did not look ready to play in the Championship when he first came into the side early last season. He looked all pace and fancy step-overs with no end product. A perhaps slightly more ungainly Anthony McNamee was my first thought. But a stunning volley against Bradford at home in the cup in an otherwise forgettable 2-1 defeat at the hands of Bradford showed what might be to come. And what came was nothing short of incredible. Anya's blistering pace, excellent first-touch, and willingness to take a player on make him the obvious choice in this position.
Left wing-back: Peter Kennedy
. Peter Kennedy was my favourite player for a few years when I was younger. He could hit a ball very hard with his left foot, and kicking a ball very hard was what I looked out for at the time. Looking back at highlights from his time at the club, I realise even more how much he brought to the team. That pass to set up Allan Smart's winner at Wembley in '99 was one of the most important assists a player of ours has ever had to make - and he executed it to perfection. It's sad to see Pudil displaced from this position, but if anyone was going to do it for me it was Peter Kennedy.
Centre-midfield: Richard Johnson
. Richard Johnson was my other favourite player growing up (kids are allowed two favourite players if they want), mainly because he could hit a ball very, very hard with his right foot. And his left as well actually. I could watch a highlights reel of his goals for Watford over and over.
Centre-midfield: Almen Abdi
. Similarly to Lloyd Doyley, I really do not feel the need to justify myself on this one. I can confidently say that Almen Abdi is the best player I've ever seen play in a Watford shirt. I've said it now. He is a Rolls Royce.
Centre-midfield: John Eustace
. Captain. Perfect level of physicality - it's professional not cynical. Most of the time it is anyway. In my family, and I'm sure some people reading this will know what Im talking about, we have named a specific type of pass after John Eustace. That semi-aimless dink up into the air on the turn that nine times out of ten will find nothing but open space behind the opposition's back line... That's 'a Eustace'. But the tenth time that pass hits a striker through on goal and John Eustace is a genius.
Forward: Matej Vydra
. I feel awful leaving out Fernando, never mind Tommy Smith, Gifton Noel Williams, Marlon King, Danny Graham and Tommy Mooney. Vydra's previously unimaginable potency in front of goal was something special though, and despite him wanting away after just one season which itself included a long barren spell, I can't not have him up top in my Best XI. He, simply put, is the best striker we have had in years. As long as he finds himself getting game time next season he will go very, very far, we all know he's capable.
Forward: Heidar Helguson
. I need a striker that can hold the ball up alongside Vydra. But also a player that can mix it up. I need someone who can jump higher than they are tall. I need Heidar. Gutted for Troy, he's becoming something of a Watford legend himself, but Heidar's the frontman in my XI.Who's in your 'Best XI'? Let us know by commenting below!