What happened last season?
What's going to happen next season?
Despite the disappointment of defeat by West Ham in the play-off semi-finals, mulling over the season in my head as I skulked away from Upton Park, the conclusion I reached was: We hadn't earned a place in the play-off final, let alone promotion, given many of our performances over the preceding nine months.
That said, had we not thrown away points from any number of games during the course of the season we could seriously have challenged for an automatic promotion spot. Which doesn't say much for the quality of the other twenty three sides in last season's First Division.
There was an astonishing 156, yes 1-5-6, goals in Town's 46 league outings. Town netted on 84 occasions but also had the divisions most charitable defence, leaking an incredible 72 goals (only a few less than the MK Dongs). You were left never knowing which team would show up. The one capable of totally outplaying play-off contenders Sheffield United (3-0 at home) or the one that gave away a daft late goal to lose 4-3 at Portman Road to the almost relegated Gillingham.
Defensively we improved dramatically with the arrival, unfortunately just on loan, of Matt Elliott from Leicester for the last twelve games. Not unsurprisingly manager Joe Royle has brought in another central defender Jason de Vos from Wigan, and is looking to bring in an as yet unnamed Premiership defender on a season long loan, to add a bit of "spine" to the side for 2005/06.
The Canadian National side's captain can play football, from what I've seen of him in pre-season, just as well as hoofing the ball into the back of the Britannia Stand when the situation dictates it. Midfielder Kevin Horlock looks the business as well, certainly at this level, and should prove to be a valuable acquisition from West Ham.
With Royle's hands still tied well and truly behind his back as far as financing any further transfer activity is concerned, and with a number of senior players having moved on or being released, Town will need to rely on players coming up through the ranks of the Academy more than ever before.
Gone are John McGreal, Jermaine Wright, Chris Makin, Martijn Reuser, Alun Armstong, Chris Bart-Williams, Marcus Bent and (subject to talks with QPR) Georges Santos.
Last season Academy products Ian Westlake (fans' Player of the Year), Matt Richards and Dean Bowditch established themselves as first team regulars and this coming season great things are expected of youngsters Scott Barron, Aidan Collins, Antonio Murray and Gerard Nash.
I don't share the negative vibes emanating from some parts of the county for the coming season. With the arrival of the "mystery" defender from the Premiership, and perhaps another midfielder, - and assuming the front line (any two from Darren Bent, Pablo Counago, Shefki Kuqi and Dean Bowditch) can continue to find the back of the net - I think that we are in good shape to mount another challenge on the promotion places (at least).
So when do you need my article for 2005/06?
Soundbites (from assorted Census correspondents)
"Beware of the Kuqi-monster - call him a "w*****" and he then scores!!! If you hear us chant "w*****, w*****!" - you know we're wanting him to score!"
"We really have no idea if we will have 11 players to start our first game the way Joe Royle is going."
"My daughters name is Beattie but my wife wouldnt let our son be called Kevin because all Kevins are silly.Is this true?"
"My only Watford story is that....My mate used to play for London Saracens at Vicarage Road. Once when he wasn't selected for the team (or subs), Sky gave him some cash and got him to run up and down the touchline with a microphone......so in other words he got paid super inflated wages twice, whilst watching a game of rugby...."
"Would just like to add a vote for Franchise FC to go down (again), and say that i'm again looking forward to a season of witty punditry and clever disparagement of Watford's opposition. Keep up the good work!" (awww shucks- ed)
"I am playing as Sheffield Utd in Championship Manager and I am 4th in the table"
"Shefki Kuqi is also a weak link in the team, and it seems we still need another centre back"
"Santos is a superb player and it's a real shame he did not join you last year"
"Wayne Brown never talks shop away from the factory. And this is the first time I've ever completed the BSaD questionnaire without mentioning Ramon Vega."