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In defence of Watford and their under-fire transfer policy

Watford Vicarage Road

Watford Football Club have attracted negative headlines of late with regard to transfer business. Callum Farrell explains, and discusses why the club should not be punished.

If Watford continue their impressive campaign in the Championship this season and gain promotion to the Premier League, for the first time since their relegation in 2007, many fans will consider them to have “cheated” their way to success.

Gianfranco Zola’s squad contains ten players on loan from Italian club, Udinese, and Spanish club, Granada. All three teams are owned by Giampaolo Pozzo and the theory goes that Watford are being helped along and supported by the Italian and Spanish club, receiving their best prospects to carry them through the season.

However, as Watford and Zola point out, no League rules are being broken. Clubs are only allowed to loan two players from an individual club who compete in the English football pyramid, but when players come from abroad they are treated as standard transfers and so Watford are unlimited with the number of players they can acquire from sister clubs.

Football fans, ever quick to jump to the “honour” of English football and maintain what they see as its honest and unblemished history, see the Hornets as having ruined the competition this year and managers, such as Ian Holloway, can deflect blame for defeat onto the unfair transfer practice the club have adopted.

But has Watford committed any crime that most teams, in their pursuit of the riches available in the Premier League, haven’t already perpetrated?

In order to remain in the Premier League in its first season QPR thought that a sensible business plan was to double its wage bill from £27.6 million to £56 million. On top of that this season they secured the services of Park Ji-sung, Julio Cesar, Jose Bosingwa, Chris Samba and Lois Remy in order to capitalise on the increased Premier League TV deal for 2013/2014. Yet they still currently find themselves in the relegation zone.

At the other end of the table, Manchester City have used their incredible wealth to hoover up talent from all over Europe and the globe in order to keep hold of their treasured Premier League title. This season alone they have spent £50 million in transfer fees to sign players such as Javi Garcia, Matija Nastasic and Jack Rodwell. Yet they are currently trailing Manchester United by 15 points.

Watford’s rivals in the Championship, Cardiff City, made losses of £12 million and £13.6 million in 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 in order to try and finally get into the Premier League. In both seasons the club made it to 4th in the table and failed to progress through the Play Offs. These hugely expensive campaigns have added to the Welsh club’s £83 million worth of debt.

Is Watford’s acquisition of players any worse than other clubs reckless spending? Gianfranco Zola still has to develop these players, coach them day to day and sends them out on a match day motivated and astutely aware of the team’s tactics. Just because Zola may lose those players at the end of the season doesn’t devalue the work that he, his management team and the squad have put in.

In future it would be wise for football fans to look a little closer to home and decide how wise and honourable their club’s transfer policy is before aiming abuse at Watford and the Pozzo family.

image: © bbmexplorer

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