At the beginning of the Championship season, Watford were strong favourites for a swift return to the Premier League. And their form at the start of the campaign, confirmed that optimism in Hertfordshire. Runaway leaders of the division, it was assumed that everyone else was playing for second place.
Now, with two games of the season to go, they are competing for a play-off place. It’s unlikely, on current form, that any of their potential play-off opponents will fear them. Watford have lost the critical momentum and authority they once had.
Hornets fans are scathing in their criticism of their once beloved manager, on the message boards. And, more significantly, Aidy Boothroyd seems to have lost some of that spark and enthusiasm, that made him one of the games brightest young managers.
Perhaps the decline at Vicarage Rd., can be traced back to the departure of Aidy’s deputy, the experienced Keith Burkinshaw. Burkinshaw, left the club, due to personal reasons, before Christmas. Since then, Watford, although still hard to beat, have failed to win enough games to reclaim the top spot, that seemed there’s to keep in the autumn.
When you have a man, as innovative as Aidy Boothroyd as manager, the role of the number two, takes on even greater significance. Boothroyd, is an ideas man, a catalyst, someone always looking outside the game, for that extra something, that will give him and his players an edge.
For footballers, that can sometimes be a challenge to more traditional ways of thinking. That is why the number two, must be strong enough, to be able to both tell the manager when he is going too far with his innovation. And also, to bridge the gap, between players and manager. To ensure they are on-side with the leaders ideas. To quell any early dissent. To smooth troubled egos.
What can happen, when a popular number two departs, is that all the ‘pressure’ he has held back, through his personal skills, resurfaces. That is cynicism, recalcitrance, mutterings, and all the other misgivings, players may have about the managers way and style, start to hold sway.
A new assistant can come in, but by then it’s too late. Those who don’t hold with the managers ideas, can gain a critical foothold, in the psychological battle for dressing rooms hearts and minds.
So, perhaps, its no surprise that Aidy Boothroyd appears to have lost his spark. Maybe, his innovative thinking is no longer appreciated by his players. Maybe, in football parlance, he no longer ‘has the dressing-room’. In that case, should Watford fall short in the play-offs, it would be best for him to seek a new challenge.
Refresh his mind and rediscover his passion and enthusiasm for the game. It would be a shame, if Aidy Boothroyd, became just another battle-hardened football manager, in the football roadshow.