This week I was fortunate enough to interview Watford fan Jason Bailey. Jason co-presents the Watford fan podcast 'From the Rookery End', you can follow Jason on Twitter @JasBailey or follow the podcast on Facebook.
We managed to secure a 1-0 win against Watford way back in August, what has changed down at Watford since then?
Well it was most of the season ago, so quite a bit!! The obvious is the takeover, but we'll talk about that later. The bookies had us down as favourites for relegation and we really weren't sure where the team was at that stage, especially after losing at home to one of the division's new boys. Something that seemed quite insignificant at the time was the debut of loanee Jordon Mutch against Leeds. Birmingham City's attacking midfielder didn't exactly pull up any trees that day. However, as he settled into the side his confidence grew and so did the team's, as they became play-off challengers over Christmas. Sadly for us, his loan period ended in the New Year along with that of left back Andrew Taylor and we do miss them. We'll never know, but they could have been the difference between a mid table finish and the play-offs.
Watford sit in 11th position in the Championship, and seven points behind the play-offs, do you think you can sneak in come the end of the season?
This week has been a season defining one for Watford. Hull, Norwich & Leeds in 8 days – all teams in the mix. And with Leicester to come as well, it's fair to say this time last week it was in Watford's hands. However, one point from those first two (home) games has left what is still theoretically possible, a very big ask. But if we do sneak in, you know what normally happens to the team with the momentum!!
What formation will you be using on Saturday, and how do you think Watford will set up?
Malky has mixed things up a bit recently, which with our thin squad hasn't always been a luxury we could afford. It'll be a 4-4-2 with 3 of the 4 midfielders looking to attack, or 4-3-3. I expect the latter given the reasonable performance against Norwich on Tuesday with the same formation. Troy Deeney has played well in recent weeks, so I would expect him to start again as one of the wide men in the front three. His heading ability adding an extra dimension to the usual wing play. Of course, barring any last minute disasters, you will get to see the spine of man mountain Martin Taylor, captain Johnny Eustace playing that holding midfield role & star man Danny Graham. And hopefully you'll get a glimpse of the enigma that is Will Buckley – a great talent with the occasional ability to frustrate!
What do Watford fans think of Malky Mackay?
Apart from the odd forum dissenter, general consensus is that we are very lucky to have such a young & talented manager. That wasn't more obvious than when he was made odds on favourite to take over at Burnley at the beginning of the year. The social networkers amongst Hornets fans made their feelings well known, with profile pictures being changed to show how much they thought of Malky. And let's not forget, he's been in charge for less than two seasons. So he's still learning and can only get better as a manager! We at From The Rookery End have been lucky enough to meet him in person. And we can tell you that as well as being a great manager, he is a very, very nice bloke!!
Danny Graham has been in sensational form this season, do you think Watford will be able to keep hold of him?
Unfortunately, no. He is an outstanding talent and personally I think he has been getting even better in the last couple of months. A few may point to a couple of missed chances in recent weeks. But if you ask me, better to be there missing them than not there at all! So I expect a bid or two in the summer, probably from lower half Premiership teams. And given that our previous manager Brendan Rodgers was sniffing around in the summer, if he gets Swansea promoted, I would expect another bid from them.
Leeds were after John Eustace in the summer, how much impact has he made on this campaign?
John is a particular favourite of the FTRE team and he hasn't let us down this season. He is an inspirational captain, and the effect that has on what is a very young team can not be underestimated. We all thought John's Watford career was over when he was shipped out to Derby on loan during Brendan Rodgers short spell as manager. But the way he has returned to Vicarage Road, fought to earn his place back and now the captaincy has to be admired. His form has dipped a little in recent weeks, but he is still a great captain. You can see he has belief in the team (just look at the way he shouts at them – he knows what they are capable of!!) and I think that's another reason that confidence grew as the season went on. Oh, and he has the best teeth in the Championship!
Apart from Graham who do Leeds need to fear on Saturday?
Scottish international Don Cowie delivers an excellent ball and if he plays well, the team generally get a result. I've already mentioned Will Buckley who has some tekkers to look out for. And if you're really lucky, a cameo appearance from young midfielder Matt Whichelow is always fun to watch. We've seen him turn a couple of games around for us this season.
What will the travelling Watford fans be like inside Elland Road?
I think it's the same with all teams, the away following is a more passionate concentration of the home crowd! They'll be in good voice and I'm sure will try and compete with what I expect to be a healthy Elland Road crowd. It's always good fun travelling away with fellow Hornets and we're always in good spirits, whatever the result.
What are your thoughts on a takeover at the club, and how will it boost your chances next season?
We're trying not to get too excited about it. We've had money before from brief excursions to the Premiership and it's caused us nothing but problems as we've blown it in big chunks and not thought about the consequences of long expensive contracts and the like. I'm sure Leeds fans can sympathise with that! We don't know a great deal about the men behind the takeover just yet and a few fans are getting nervous about it already. If you ask me, it's better than the alternative, administration – again the Leeds fans would be able to tell us how that feels. So to answer the question, I don't think it will have that much of an influence on our chances. We will still be a selling club. We will still use our fantastic academy to produce talent capable of competing for a place amongst the established Watford first team players, rather than spending small fortunes to fill the gaps. Hopefully what it will do is allow us to develop the ground (you've seen our East Stand, right?) so that it becomes somewhere that can generate money 7 days a week, rather than once a fortnight for 10 months of the year. And I pray that we don't repeat the mistakes of the Vialli and post-Premiership Boothroyd eras.
Prediction for the match?
I hope to be proven wrong, but I fear a large and vociferous home crowd and a Leeds team battling to hold on to that final play-off spot will be too strong for a Watford team that is starting to look a little tired after a sterling effort at proving those doubters wrong. We'll have a good go, but I reckon a 2-0\3-1 win for the men in white.