The 2000's was a mixed decade for Watford but it produced plenty of fan favourites. Here is a selection of Watford best XI from that period.
It is a tough choice between long-serving Alec Chamberlain and the raw talent of Ben Foster for the goalkeeping position but Foster just gets the nod. The Warwickshire-born stopper arrived on loan from Manchester United in the summer of 2005 and helped the Hornet’s to promotion in his first season. Foster re-joined Watford on loan for their Premier League campaign, turning in a series of impressive performances, and winning the club’s 2006/7 Player-of-the-Season award. Unfortunately, his eye-catching displays meant he stayed at Manchester United the following season and never made his move to Watford permanent.
There was no shortage of talented central defenders at Vicarage Road during the 2000’s – which is why this XI will have three of them. Danny Shittu moved to Watford from Millwall in 2006 and instantly became an integral part of Aidy Boothroyd’s side. The strong Nigerian defender was a constant threat from set-pieces and scored 9 goals during Watford’s 2007/8 campaign. In that 07/08 season, he was named in the PFA Championship team of the year, before signing for Bolton Wanderers in the summer.
American defenderJay DeMerit clocked up 183 appearances during his six years at the club. DeMerit was a natural leader and another defensive-rock at the heart of Aidy Boothroyd’s side. Sadly, the latter stages of his Watford career were disrupted by an eye infection, and he eventually moved to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Academy graduate Adrian Mariappa is the final the choice in defence. The Jamaican international was a remarkably consistent performer for the Hornet’s through the second half of the decade. He returned to Watford this summer after a mixed spell with Premier League rivals Crystal Palace.
John Eustace, Micah Hyde and Tom Cleverley make up a central-midfield three. Eustace was another strong dressing room leader and he brought an air of authority to the Watford sides he played in. Cleverley only spent a year on loan at Watford but his qualities shone through in a yellow shirt. The technically proficient midfielder was also never shy of goal during his stay – scoring 11 goals in only 33 appearances. Hyde adds some sizzle to this midfield trio. The Jamaican international made over 250 appearances for the Hornets and was always capable of get the Watford crowd out of their seats.
Watford’s most successful academy graduate of the decade, Ashley Young, takes his place on the wing of this XI. Young began his Watford career under Ray Lewington as an 18-year-old and instantly showed promise. The tricky winger helped Watford to promotion in the 05/06 season, scoring 15 times, and attracting plenty of suitors. Young eventually left Watford for Aston Villa in January of 2007 and now plays for Manchester United.
On the other wing is yet another product of Watford’s youth system, Tommy Smith. The versatile forward enjoyed two successful spells at Vicarage Road during the 2000’s.He left Watford for Sunderland in 2003 but returned three years later and picked up where he left off - winning back-to-back Player-of-the-Year awards in 2007/08 and 2008/9 and managing 27 goals during his second spell.
Like Smith, Heidar Helguson had two spells at Watford during the 2000’s and secured a special place in Watford fans hearts. The Icelandic striker was brought in by Graham Taylor for club-record fee of £1.5million and over time proved to be a bargain. In 2004/5, he cemented his Watford legacy by scoring 20 goals and picking up the Player of the year award.
Danny Graham rounds of this 2000’s XI team. The striker signed towards the end of the decade and scored 14 goals in his debut season. Graham became an important figure at Watford and his ability to score goals in a struggling side means he just takes the spot ahead of Marlon King, whose time at Watford was marred by off-field issues.
(A special mention goes to fan favourite Lloyd Doyley who served the club through the decade)