Watford were cruelly denied a place in the Premiership next season when they succumbed to an extra-time penalty against Crystal Palace. The Hornets fell into the playoffs on the final day of the season and must now cope with the double disappointment of defeat at Wembley.
Watford finished five points ahead of Palace in the Championship but that counts for nothing now. The investment in the club and the appointment of former Chelsea star Gianfranco Zola have certainly brought about a transformation in the club?s fortunes but it has not quite been enough to win promotion. Premiership football has been estimated to bring £120 million of revenue to promoted teams, even if they are relegated after one season in the top flight.
Watford have come in for heavy criticism for their innovative transfer policy, including from Palace boss Ian Holloway. He called the situation ?ludicrous? ahead of their Wembley clash but later acknowledged that Zola was a genius for being able to build a successful team out of such a policy. Watford are currently under a transfer embargo due to irregularities under the club’s previous owners but their present side included many player son loan from sister Udinese and Granada. Both teams are owned by the Pozzo family who have invested heavily in Watford?s future. The question now is whether they will continue to support the club to achieve promotion in 2013/14?
The club has so far been silent on the future of Zola but there is no doubt that he has been instrumental in Watford?s rise in the table. For all of Zola?s star status, he remains a modest man adored by the fans. Chelsea supporters will always regard him among the greatest players in the club?s history and it would be no surprise to see him return to Stamford Bridge at some point in his managerial career.
He was badly shaken by his dismissal from West Ham, a move that was regarded as unfair by many observers. He sought advice from Pep Guardiola among others and went back to basics in a renewed effort to make it as a club manager. The Italian has defended the transfer policy and hopes that many of the loan players will have a permanent future at Watford.
In terms of their style of football, Watford have won nothing but admiration for their passing game. Unfortunately they did not perform to their best at Wembley and the greater experience of Palace may have been the deciding factor. The summer will be a time to take stock but, providing Watford keep their manager and retain several of their star players, they are going to be back in contention for promotion against next season.