There will be many media pundits as well as supporters who will try to draw comparisons between the Watford side that's going into football's top tier with the one that was last there some six years ago. This, however, will be a big mistake, because I believe that a better comparison would be between today's team and the one that Graham Taylor took into the First Division back in the eighties. GT himself seemed a shadow of the man when he last worked his magic, and the boys of 1999 were nothing like the Golden Boys who stormed the top flight and made Watford FC famous. So how does the team of 2005/06 compare with the team that stunned the First Division and became league runners-up?
Up front, we have a strike force every bit as dangerous and effective as Blisset and Jenkins. The goals scored this season by Henderson and King and their ability to draw defenders, making room for their strike partner, should certainly see us trouble any defence. With Ashley Young, we have a talent to remind us of the weaving runs and goals of 'Digger' Barnes. Matt Spring may bear a passing resemblance to an early Cally, and certainly can make the jinxy runs from wide. However, while Cally wasn't always there in augmenting midfield, Matt certainly is, and provides support and continuity.
As a tight central defensive unit, Carlisle, Mackay and DeMerit are as tough and determined as Bolton, Sims and Terry, and give little room for opposition attackers to get a clear shot. In Doyley, we have another talent that can only grow, and with better luck than Bardsley might actually get some recognition.
The one area that seems lacking today compared with the boys from yester-year is in midfield. In Taylor and Joslyn we had men who cared little for reputation and snapped and harried the heels of the so-called greats and allowed our own play-maker, Jackett, to control and spray the balls out to either the wide or front men. While Mahon shows a good work-rate, I haven't seen enough of the terrier in him. Al Bangura is young and enthusiastic and certainly shows no respect to the opposition - long may he continue and hopefully improve.
In Aidy Boothroyd, we have a manager who ignores reputation and promotes self-belief. In an interview with Boothroyd, if you close your eyes, it is like listening to the GT of old. He is hungry for success, and will not accept on his team those who do not follow his way.
We have, as then, a small squad. Injuries and suspensions will leave us woefully short of the established stars, and yet the youngsters in the reserves can slot in as effortlessly as Gilligan and Richardson. Talent abounds and is there for the nurturing. Maybe if the right player comes along we can find another Riley or Mighty Mo as cover rather than replace the retired or sold strikers that disrupted our first foray into Europe.
I firmly believe that this time Watford will again show that they can take on and beat anyone who under-estimates them. This time we are here to stay, and maybe even win a trophy or two. This time we will push for another chance of European glory. I only hope that this time the board have learnt their lessons, and when Aidy decides the call of a bigger club can no longer be ignored, they go for continuity and do not dismantle the structure in place as they did with Bassett, and again with Vialli.