Despite being an injury-time strike away from winning the Championship title and only finishing a point behind eventual winners Bournemouth, Watford are [3.2] outsiders to be the Premier League’s top promoted team. There are at least four reasons to believe that this is a phenomenal bet…
The people in charge have the nous
This isn’t like when a Championship side run by an unprepared local businessman or overexcited billionaires gain promotion. Watford are led by a family who have owned football clubs for 29 years, guiding Udinese in Italy and Granada in Spain to the top tier and gradually establishing them there.
In addition to the experience comes a wide-ranging scouting network that has sourced the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Juan Cuadrado, Medhi Benatia and Samir Handanovic, and the Hornets’ ascent from the Championship owes plenty to the calibre of player that they had easy access to.
They aren’t manager dependent
A lot of Championship teams that find a way to the Premier League get there because of a manager working wonders, for instance Owen Coyle at Burnley, Brian McDermott at Reading, Paul Lambert at Norwich or Ian Holloway at Blackpool. The problem with a manager-triggered boom is that when that instigator either receives a better offer or is “found out”, you are left with nothing.
Watford’s climb clearly hasn’t been coach-reliant as they got through four in the campaign that they went up and they were in the top two before hiring Slavisa Jokanovic.
A structure where the man in the dugout isn’t that integral increases security, as West Brom showed in the past five years. It doesn’t matter if the tactician leaves (Roy Hodgson) because every other key staff member remains or if they get an appointment wrong (Alan Irvine) as they are ruthless enough to swiftly readjust.
Their spending has been shrewd
As alluded to earlier, Watford are very well connected and that means not having to fall into the promoted club traps of signing recently relegated players or guys in their mid-30s clinging on for one final Premier League payday.
Their five additions to date this summer are all internationals for European nations. Their average number of caps sits at 24 and the average age is an ideal 27 – experienced but not over the hill.
Jose Holebas was preferred to Ashley Cole at left back for Roma last season, Matej Vydra has already spent two terms at Vicarage Road, striking 38 times, and Etienne Capoue never got much of a chance at Tottenham. There is also a tradition of discarded Spurs midfielders proving to be valuable commodities lower down the table (Tom Huddlestone, Gylfi Sigurdsson).
Championship runners-up have a great survival rate
Watford fans who believe that everything happens for a reason should interpret the cruel way in which they were denied the Championship title as a blessing. Second place is the least triumphant way to go up, yet it is the best position from which to survive your first Premier League season.
Burnley were the first runners-up in seven years to fall straight back down, with the six others not just staying up but doing so with ease. Birmingham finished ninth in 2009/10, West Brom placed 11th in 2010/11 and Stoke and Norwich ranked 12th in 2008/09 and 2011/12.
Southampton (14th) and Hull (16th) also maintained a distance between themselves and the bottom three, indicating that the Hornets have to be laid for relegation at [1.78].