It speaks volumes for the quality of strikers Watford have had on their books that poachers like David Connolly and Kevin Phillips, along with FA Cup semi-final hero George Reilly and playoff final star Darius Henderson, don’t make our shortlist. (yes, we are ruthless here at WD Sport HQ).
We were even considering leaving out Odion Ighalo and Mo Johnston, on the basis of a lack of appearances, but we relented as 1) there would have been an uproar and 2) you cannot ignore their goals-to-game ratio.
Johnston rattled in 24 in 38 appearances as Watford reached the cup final before Celtic pulled on his heartstrings and lured him back north. Ighalo’s strike rate is equally impressive and he’s charging on at more than a goal every two games, including seven for this newly-promoted side. Likewise with Charlie Livesey, who ended up with 26 in 64 games, 23 of which came in his second season.
Cliff Holton did the business over a longer period, smacking 84 in his first stint and then 12 in his second spell. There were angry fans outside Vicarage Road when, unbelievably, he was sold the season after he bagged a club record 48 league and cup goals and captained the team to promotion. The petitions gained more signatures when he scored a hat-trick for Northampton just five hours after being allowed to leave. He scored a club record 36 for the Cobblers, too. His record of 293 League goals in 570 appearances has been bettered by only Arthur Rowley, Jimmy Greaves, John Atyeo and John Aldridge since the war.
We guess there would have been similar uproar had Troy Deeney been sold in any of the past three summers. The way he turned his career around after a spell inside has been remarkable and to think Watford felt they had shelled out too much when they paid £500,000 for him from Walsall. He scored 65 Championship goals in three seasons after a 35-game goal drought and helped knit the squad together during some chaotic managerial changes.
He describes Tommy Mooney as a mentor and they speak regularly. Deeney has gone past Mooney’s 65-goal haul for the Hornets but a fair chunk of Mooney’s games for the club were played at at centre-half. Mooney squeezed every drop of talent out of his body and the crowd loved his all-action style. Few will forget the memorable winner he scored at Anfield in 1999.
Cut from a similar cloth is Heidar Helguson. Who knows if Watford would have stayed up had he been signed at the start of the 99/00 Premiership season rather than midway through it, but what a bit of business Graham Taylor pulled off in signing him for £1.5m. Nobody has leapt higher in a Watford shirt and he’s exactly the sort of player Quique Sanchez Flores would love in his hard-working, high energy side.
Marlon King led the line the last time the club was in the Premier League, the hopes of Aidy Boothroyd’s side dying once he was ruled out in October with a serious knee problem. He wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea but the goals he scored in the previous promotion campaign made for one of the most enjoyable seasons in recent memory. Danny Graham also makes the shortlist, mainly because his 41 goals at just under a goal every other game came in a struggling side. He also earned the club a £3.5m, much-needed transfer fee.
Vinnie Jones recently said Ighalo reminds him of Luther Blissett, which is some compliment. Blissett recovered from a debut against Swansea he described as “crap… absolutely awful” to score more goals and play more times for the Hornets than anyone else.
“[The then manager] Mike Keen had actually made noises about getting rid of me,” Blissett said in an interview with WatfordLegends.com. How different history would have been had he been prematurely let go. There would have been no two goals at Old Trafford in 1984, no double against West Brom, no four-goal haul at Sunderland or two at Arsenal in the FA Cup.
And who could forget Ross Jenkins, who justified his club record fee of £30,000 and then some. He twice won the Player of the Season award and spearheaded the attack as Watford went from the Fourth Division to Division One in five heady years.
Now it’s time to select your front pairing (don’t spoil it by selecting the same player twice!). You get one vote for the No 9 role…
and then another to vote for his strike partner
The results of the all-time Watford XI, based on your votes, will be published before the game against Manchester United