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Matthew Mesiano looks at how Watford's squad philosophy has dramatically changed in 15 months
At the beginning of September Greg Dyke, chairman of The Football Association, publicised his fears over the national squad’s chance of success in the upcoming World Cup.
In his speech he highlighted the problem was a lack of English talent playing at the highest level.
In light of this devastating assessment of English football, I have been looking at the Watford squad to see how we would shape-up in Dyke’s view.
Historically, Hornets squads have been built around a strong English core. This was as evident in Graham Taylor’s reign as it was in later managers strategies right up to and including Sean Dyche.
This structure seems however to have dissipated dramatically with Gianfranco Zola, the Pozzos and the strategy of bringing in an influx of foreign stars such as Almen Abdi and Santos Iriney from the Hornet’s newly acquired sister clubs, Udinese Calcio and Granada C.F.
Watford has been criticised in the media over the relationship with these new sister clubs being described as an ‘Udinese B’ because of the large quantity of foreign signings from those continental connections.
The squad has been totally overhauled and is now a different Watford from the team that parted from Dyche just fifteen months ago.
From that squad, 53% of the first team players were English, compared to a figure of just 28% for Zola’s men.
These figures show that over that period, the club has lost over half of their English players.
Statistics, that at least on the surface, seems to back up the words of Dyke.
Our current first team has almost thirty professionals but only eight of these - discounting Chelsea loanee Josh McEachren - are English and of those only a handful regularly get in to the match day squad.
Zola in the past has answered his critics by stating that it’s not about where you come from, but only if you are good enough to play.
This philosophy is fair enough and proves itself from his impressive first season in charge, culminating in a third place finish and that narrowest of defeats in the heart-stopping Championship play-off final.
Unfortunately this philosophy does nothing in itself to dispute Dyke’s opinion that English players are being over looked by better quality foreign options.
Despite the large contingent of foreign stars at WD18, we still have some exceptional English talent plying their trade, not least lasts season’s twenty-goal star Troy Deeney and new signing Lewis McGugan.
Both are turning heads this season with outstanding performances and Deeney has been the subject of transfer rumours and speculation involving the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham.
We also have a few bright England youngsters with England Under-21 international Jonathan Bond, fellow academy graduate Bernard Mensah and recent addition to the squad Uche Ikpeazu - all of who of who have undoubted potential, particularly Bond who so far has managed to notch up 15 first team starts.
We can see that Zola and the Pozzo family are clearly making efforts to attract and keep English players at Vicarage Road.
Whether this is by choice or to meet the Football League’s regulations however remains to be seen.
What is clear is that they have brought in some real quality talent, foreign or not and this has galvanized the team to some stunning performances.
That is all good news for the Hornets fans and the management’s Premier League ambitions, even if it isn’t such great news for the chairman of the English Football Association.
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