As Liverpool prepare to begin the 2017-18 Premier League campaign with a trip to face Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday, we caught up with opposition fan Bradley Hayden to gauge the mood in the Hornets' camp…
So then, it’s been a long summer but the new season is now here. How have Watford’s pre-season preparations been ahead of the new campaign?
Results-wise, it’s been a mixed bag; we’ve won a couple of games, drawn a couple and lost a couple. But it’s very easy to look too much into pre-season, as it’s all about fitness really. Watford look a lot more organised defensively and have been quite tough to break down so far, which is good because defensively we struggled last season. We’ve been looking for some more attacking options and a bit of pace and unpredictability up front all pre-season, and we’ve brought in Brazil U20 international winger Richarlison and Andre Gray from Burnley just in time for Saturday’s game. So, the Watford side we see on Saturday could be very different to the one we’ve seen in pre-season.
On the new faces, which ones in particular are you most excited about seeing play for Watford this season?
There are a few, as this has been a fantastic window for the club so far. Some fans are even claiming it’s been one of the best transfer windows in the club’s history. Nathaniel Chalobah re-joined Watford from Chelsea this summer having spent time on loan at Vicarage Road a few seasons ago and he was one of my favourite players when we had him previously. I’m excited to see how he does and if he has a good season I think he has a real chance of being part of the England squad for the World Cup next summer. Will Hughes is another, as he’s been a bright young talent who has been linked with a move to the Premier League for some time now. I’m intrigued to see how he does. Then there’s Richarlison, an exciting young Brazilian winger. I’ve heard a lot of promising things about him. Then there’s lastly Andre Gray. He’s still only 26, but he’s scored plenty of goals in recent seasons and that’s exactly what we need. I think he can forge a really good partnership with Troy Deeney should they play together, although it looks like Marco Silva will deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation this season. I think he’ll do really well, though.
One new face who arrived this summer is the manager, Marco Silva. What are you expecting him to bring this season?
I’m very excited. I was delighted when we appointed him as our new head coach, as despite the circumstances, he did a great job at Hull and gave them a fighting chance of survival. I’m expecting him to make us more organised and harder to beat, but I’m also expecting him to improve us attacking-wise as well. I also think Silva will bring some charisma and forge a real connection with the fans.
The game on Saturday, then. How are you feeling about the prospect of facing Liverpool in the first game of the season?
It will be a tough game, as matches against Liverpool are never easy and we haven’t enjoyed much success against the Reds since we won 3-0 at Vicarage Road in December 2015. Liverpool are one of the best teams in the league and have a formidable front three who can cause any defence in world football problems. The Reds have a great manager in Jürgen Klopp, so it will be really tough but an entertaining game, I think.
Are there any particular players for Liverpool who you have your eye on as a threat?
There are a few. The main one is Philippe Coutinho, but thankfully he’s injured and won’t play as he’s one of the best players in the league. Then there’s Mohamed Salah, who I think is an excellent signing - I think his pace will cause defences all kinds of problems. There’s also Emre Can after his spectacular goal against us back in May, which is the best goal I’ve ever seen from an opposition player at Vicarage Road! I’m sure we won’t be giving him so much space this time!
What are your hopes for Watford this season?
Last season was a disappointment. This season, we obviously want to stay up again and that’s the main target, but I’m hoping we can push on and start to challenge for a place in the top 10, especially with the signings we’ve made. I also want to see more consistency as in previous seasons, we usually started well and faded from December onwards. I think a cup run would do us good as well. If we can finish in the top 12 and have a cup run, that would count as a success and a great season for the club.
Finally then, a score prediction for Saturday?
I think it will be a close game like the one we saw in May and I feel we’ll make things difficult for Liverpool. My heart says we might grab a point, but my head is saying a tight Liverpool win. I’ll go for 2-1 to Liverpool.