It was the glimmers of hope like this that made Gianluca Vialli’s ill-fated season as Watford manager so much harder to take. From the start, the Italian looked poorly suited to the rough and tumble of the second tier. The cashmere sweater and fat tie knot looked out of place in a division that’s always been more suited to hob-nail boots and workman’s overalls.
But there were flashes that suggested the money hadn’t been entirely wasted. A thumping cup win over Bradford, who were adjusting to life in the First Division after outlasting the Hornets in the Premiership, was one of those rare nights.
After a run of five league games without a win, many Watford fans were urging patience. Don’t panic, they said, the team just needs time to gel. This was one of the fleeting occasions that they looked like a team rather than a cut-and-shut motor. Even Ramon Vega scored.
Unfortunately, it did not signal an upturn in fortunes. Vialli failed to settle on a team and his men often appeared to over-complicate things. But this was a night that offered a glimpse of what might have been. Watford played with such freedom and at times the passing and movement looked effortless. It was also the only time Watford scored four in a match while Vialli was in charge.
Watford Baardsen, Blondeau, Vega, Cox, Robinson, Noble, Hyde, Hughes, Glass, Noel-Williams, Smith
Manager Gianluca Vialli
Scorers Hyde 32, Noel-Williams 45, 67, Vega 50
Bradford scorer Ward 76 pen
Why was this match chosen? Vialli's appointment was greeted with such giddy enthusiasm but they didn't have the grit and determination to put together a coherent campaing in the league. However, there was the core of a very good side at Vialli's disposal and the League Cup run showed what they were capable of.
How do I feel about this game's inclusion now? This game, and the victory over Charlton in the next round, suggested that the corner had been turned and Vialli had managed to make something of his expensive collection of individuals, but each time they failed to pick up in the league. What was even more baffling was that when they reached the fifth round, and an away tie at Sheffield Wednesday with a realistic chance of reaching the semi-finals, Vialli shuffled his team again and they were heavily beaten. This win over Bradford one of the few bright spots in an infuriating season.