Speaking with the same conviction he hit the 86.4mph piledriver with at the Emirates stadium yesterday, Adlene Guedioura was crystal clear when asked who he wants in tonight’s semi-final draw – Crystal Palace, his old club.
“Palace,” said the Algerian without any hesitation. “It would be good to see some teammates again. But any team will a great game, especially to go there with the fans and win it. Why not?”
Guedioura went one further when speaking to talkSPORT: “It’s always nice playing against Palace,” he said. “Why not meet them in the final?”
Quique Sanchez Flores was not being a killjoy when he said: “I don’t want to hear anything about Wembley.” It’s just he’s such a feet-on-the-floor type coach and such a studious planner that he will already be planning for the visit of Stoke City on Saturday. The head coach has missed at least one of the cup draws this season and will probably rely on one of his staff to tell him who the Hornets have landed in the 7.20pm draw. The weekend of April 23-24 can wait. “I don’t like to think about another match when we have another one first,” he said.
Derek Payne, the former Watford midfielder, feels Watford should not fear anyone in the draw.
“Watford have as good a chance as any of the teams in the semi-final,” he said in the post-match analysis on BBC Three Counties Radio. “They’ve beaten Palace, they drew at Everton, they beat West Ham and the United games were close, especially the one at Old Trafford. I’m just so pleased for the supporters, it will be great for them to have a day out.”
David James, speaking on BT Sport, feels his first club “have a great opportunity to win this now” and a current Watford goalkeeper concurred.
“They deserve to go to Wembley and the fans deserve it as well,” said Rene Gilmartin on BBC Three Counties Radio. “What a year – and what a season for me to get injured. I’m a Watford fan and what they’re achieving is just incredible. I’m sure the fans think this is unbelievable.”
A date with Palace would, inevitably, prompt a painful trip down memory, to the summer of 2013 and the playoff final at Wembley.
“Last time we were there we lost against Palace and everyone will bring that up,” said Troy Deeney. “That’s a long time ago. We weren’t ready to go up then and it was the best thing that happened. I’m a firm believer things happen for a reason.”
Gianfranco Zola and Ian Holloway were in charge of the teams on that balmy May afternoon, evidence of just how much water has passed under the bridge.
“It’s a different squad and different staff,” said Gilmartin. “Everything has changed, it’s a completely different club now. They haven’t played any team this season and gone: ‘Wow, we are so far off that’. Watford have been there and been competitive against every single team.”
The players are certain to be given today off or, at worst, be called in for a recovery session. “Looking at the celebrations, I think a few Watford players will be calling in sick,” said Gilmartin.