This Saturday sees a return to Tyneside for Watford FC. The Hornets are currently riding on the crest of a wave after a superb start to the 18/19 campaign and will venture North very confident of adding another three points to their tally.

I’ve always viewed them as a bit of a ‘so what’, also ran of a club. They dwell in Hertfordshire, on the outskirts of NW London in a region that has a number of much larger, more fashionable clubs nearby. This fact alone has left them somewhat in the shade.

However, in recent years under the likes of Marco Silva and Walter Mazzarri they have made themselves a solid, mid ranking Premiership mainstay and this season under Javi Gracia they’ve been trading punches at the sharp end of the table without looking out of place.

Quite simply, they are well run. Their recent transfer dealings should be seen as a blueprint of exactly how to do things. Take Richarlison as an example. Watford listened to their manager and brought him to the club in 2017 for the relatively moderate fee of £11.2M. After one eye catching season, a cash rich and slightly bigger fish in Everton came along and took him off their hands for circa four times the amount they’d initially paid. This could then rise to £50M with appearances etc.

They currently have some real talent in the likes of Pereyra, Success, Doucoure & Holebas amongst others. Some will move on for top dollar but they keep getting richer and attempt to continue recycling well.

It’s the polar opposite of how Ashley goes about his business. He doesn’t trust anyone with his money and loathes parting with any of it. It’s well documented how much he has trousered through player sales in recent times, but refuses to release much of it back to his Champions League winning manager. Consequently, we’re aimlessly meandering towards relegation with mainly loan players, unwanted by their parent clubs and £5M stopgaps like Joselu who struggles to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo.

If we do go down for a third time under Mike, his penny wise, pound foolish mentality will be shown up even more as how not to do things. As well as waving goodbye to £120M+ of TV wedge his threadbare squad will yield little in clawback through player sales. He’s asset stripped us into the ground.

The Watford way or Ashley’s? The Hornets must piss themselves laughing at us.

Looking at the fixture this weekend, it’s tough to find many positives. It’s getting on for nine years since goals from Colo & Carroll last defeated them in the Championship. Since then, we’ve met five times and have been beaten every time. When they last visited Tyneside last November, they played us off the park running out 3-0 winners, our heaviest home loss of that season.

Looking at the two squads on paper, it’s difficult to make a case for anything but an away win. However, I believe Rafa will take their threat very seriously. If we try to go toe to toe with them we’ll get picked off on the break. Therefore, I believe he’ll have us set up to stay compact and surrender possession.

This won’t please a growing percentage of our support. They’re tired of such austerity football. However, I believe the more cognoscente amongst us understand the reasons behind it and will hopefully stay with the team.

Our best hope is to sit deep and hopefully nick something. At least we have Rondón fit enough to play some involvement. We’ve seen small flashes of what he could bring to the team, but his lack of minutes means it’s anyone’s guess if he’s really up to the task or not. Christ knows, we need something at the sharp end. We can also take a bit of solace in Watford’s recent home drubbing by Bournemouth. This performance would appear to be more exception than rule though.

I think it’ll be tight this Saturday. However I think they’ll probably have a bit too much for us and will win by the odd goal.

Let the good times roll….

NICK CLARK – FOLLOW NICK ON @Clark5Nick