Hornets boss Aidy Boothroyd will welcome his opposite number to Vicarage Road tonight with warm praise ringing in his ears from City chief Glenn Roeder.
For as City look to rid Saturday's disappointments from the system at the home of the high-flying Hornets this evening, so Roeder was happy to pay tribute to the way that the one-time Canary Academy coach had kept the Hertfordshire side in pole position for one of the two automatic promotion berths.
?The only thing that surprises me is that when I first came here they were running away with the Championship and I thought they would have won promotion by Easter,” said Roeder at Colney yesterday, as a few winter jitters started to hit Boothroyd's best-laid plans.
Certainly in racking up that 3-1 win at Carrow Road in only Roeder's second game in charge, they looked an unstoppable force; a nigh-on perfect promotion machine with all the power and strength anyone would ever need to grind your way out of this division.
?For some reason – I don't know why – they went on a run that I think probably surprised Aidy and surprised everyone else that was involved in the Championship.
?Especially at home – they seemed to be losing every home game. But he's turned things around with some signings in the transfer window and, basically, got them back on track.?
Hence he expects a tough, tough game this evening as the Canaries slip below their own recent high standards.
?Watford are the best-equipped for automatic promotion,? said the Canary boss, with Watford almost planning their return to the top flight from the moment they sold Ashley Young to Aston Villa for ?9 million in the very midst of that Premiership season. And then waited until relegation and the summer before spending again.
?Though they sold Bouazza to Fulham, but generally speaking they kept the same squad and towards the end of the Premiership season last year, they started to pick up points.
?And there is a massive difference between the two divisions,? said Roeder, finding further proof to his theory in Sunday night's Football League awards ceremony.
?Jeff Stelling read out some cup results this year where Championship sides or league sides have beaten Premiership sides. But it's just one-offs.
?And we see it every year. Go up, come down. And unless there's an owner there with ?40 million to spend on players and it's well-spent, they just come back down.
?You can have a one-off in the cup, but over 38 games you get found out very quickly. But, by retaining a squad that's had a lot of Premiership experience, that stands Watford in good stead.?
Couple that to a direct approach to the game and they remain one of the Championship's benchmark sides with Roeder clearly intent on offering a stiffer test of the Hornets' promotion credentials than when they last met in the late autumn.
?They're physically big with a lot of pace in the side and that causes a lot of Championship sides problems. Because if you look at the Championship and you look at the average of all the squads, I would say compared to the Premiership the squads are very slow.
?There is a distinct lack of pace throughout Championship squads; that's not to say that there aren't three or four players in Championship squads that haven't got the pace of Premiership players, but if you take an average of 18 squad players and their abilities to run quickly then I'd say that the Championship compared to the Premiership is a 100-metre runner and a marathon runner.?
Of course, it doesn't help Norwich's cause tonight that one of their clutch of players with exactly the kind of Premiership pace that Roeder's talking about – Darren Huckerby – is likely to miss out this evening's game with a groin strain.
The 32-year-old is already doubtful for Saturday's trip to the Ricoh Arena.
One obvious alternative to shore up that left-hand side will be a start for Matty Pattison. But again, whilst the South African may be many things, he is not quick. he remains the proverbial scrum-half as opposed to the fleet-footed winger.
That said, in the on-going absence of the suspended Darel Russell, Norwich may yet benefit from some extra bite – provided the likes of skipper Mark Fotheringham and Kieran Gibbs can add the kind of guile that was wholly missing from the first-half against Blackpool this weekend.
Whether tonight is the night that Roeder gives one-time Spanish international right-back Juan Velasco is another interesting point after Jon Otsemobor's uncomfortable outig against the Seasiders, while Jason Shackell will be chomping at the bit to regain his starting place from the on-loan Alex Pearce.
One thing is, however, certain. Tonight's trip to Vicarage Road will not find Roeder fondly reminiscing over his own days at Watford – be it as skipper or manager. His life has moved on.
?The only result that I look out for, if truth be known, is Norwich now. I brush across all the other results, but what's happening at Newcastle, West Ham, Watford, QPR… doesn't mean anything to me,? said the City boss, delighted that such a stiff test awaits after events of the weekend.
No-one can afford to take their eye off the ball or their foot off the gas tonight.
?I'm quite happy to go to Watford tomorrow night after playing so poorly on Saturday,? he said simply.
Leave a Reply