Aidy Boothroyd was finding out the hard way that self-belief alone doesn’t get you too far in the Premiership.
It was November and the Hornets had not won any of their 10 league games since promotion. They weren’t in the bottom three but only because they had scraped together a few draws. It was getting to the stage of the season when they desperately needed a win.
The Premiership season didn’t do Boothroyd too many favours. Marlon King sustained a long-term injury at Arsenal and missed most of the campaign. Ashley Young was then sold in the January transfer window.
Before the Middlesbrough match Ben Foster, the goalkeeper, was ruled out with a knee injury, making the odds of a Hornets win even longer. Watford’s luck didn’t look like changing until the sixth minute when Hameur Bouazza’s off-target shot hit Jonathan Woodgate and bounced in.
Suddenly, Watford felt like the world, though firmly against them, was not an entirely unjust place. And after that they began to play with real verve, subjecting Middlesbrough to the sort of run-around they’d been on the receiving end of themselves at the Arsenal a few weeks earlier.
Admittedly, Boro were awful and barely created a chance, while Ashley Young, Tommy Smith, Jordan Stewart and Bouazza all went close.
If the Watford fans were fearing a cruel equaliser out of the blue, Young eased their worries when he pounced on a poor George Boateng clearance and steered the ball home.
That was enough to secure three deserved points and give Boothroyd something to build on. It was a victory that offered so much hope and encouragement that this Premiership season might turn out differently to the previous one.
But it was not to be. The reality for Watford at that time was that Premiership wins were a rarity. There can be weeks, months, between them. We were already learning to savour them when they came along because there were to be only five all season – one fewer than in Graham Taylor's top flight season in 1999-2000.
‘I genuinely believe there are three teams worse than us,’ said Boothroyd after the match. Sadly, Watford would not win in the league again until January 23 – when Blackburn Rovers were beaten at Vicarage Road.
Watford Lee, Doyley, Shittu, DeMerit, Stewart, Smith, Francis, Mahon, Bouazza, Young, Henderson
Manager Aidy Boothroyd
Scorers Woodgate og 6, Young 60
Why was this match chosen? It was the first victory of Aidy Boothroyd's top flight season and so there was a mix of relief and delight at the final whistle, not least because we had to wait until well after the clocks had gone back.
How do I feel about this game's inclusion now? It's probably too high in the ranking and the past three seasons have made Premier League wins less of a rarity but at the time it was significant because it was only the sixth top flight win since the reorganisation of the English leagues and the creation of the Premier League/Premiership in 1992.