What's gone wrong at Watford?

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Another week, another reminder of how tough it is to stay financially sound for Championship clubs flirting with the big time.'s Championship Correspondent Emyr Price looks at the worries besieging Watford.

Wind the clock back three years. The world said good riddance to Saddam Hussein and celebrated Mozart's 250th birthday. Take That reformed too. And little ol' Watford were in the Premier League.

Aidy Boothroyd was the man charged with the responsibility of moulding a team capable of promotion from a squad made up of, amongst others, an ex-con (Marlon King).

A back-line boasting an inexperienced Yank plucked from the non-league footballing hotbed of Northwood (Jay De Merit). And recovering alcoholic Clark Carlisle.

Easy-peasy, then.

Boothroyd also had the precocious talents of Ashley Young and Chris Eagles at his disposal, as well as burly front-man Darius Henderson.

A crushing 3-0 play-off final win over Leeds (whatever happened to them?) sent the Hornets into England's top-flight for the first time since the Berlin Wall was operational.

But there was to be no cash bonanza for Boothroyd. Lavish outlays on money-grabbing old pros desperate for one more Premier League swansong would not be sanctioned.

Chairman Graham Simpson had managed to take the club up on bugger-all and was determined to keep them up on not much more.

Or, if you're of an angrier mindset, allow them to come straight back down without offering them sufficient financial backing.

On one level it seems a sensible approach: no reason to invest silly amounts of money in the team if, in the event of relegation, the subsequent debts would be unmanageable.

Sensible until you consider that three years down the line the club is on the verge of administration anyway.

They need to find just over £5 million from somewhere, this side of Christmas, or accept their fate.

But how has all this happened? The answer is by no means clear.

Aside from a few notable arrivals in the shape of Nathan Ellington, Jobi McAnuff , Danny Shittu and Damien Francis – none of whom are currently on the wage bill – it's been sell, sell, sell at Vicarage Road.

Gone are the likes of Ashley Young, who was staggeringly sold in the middle of the club's Premier League season to Aston Villa for £10 million.

This was the catalyst for other significant exits, including the likes of Tommy Smith and Mike Williamson to Portsmouth (combined fee of £4 million), Tamas Priskin to Ipswich (£2 million), and Darius Henderson to Sheffield United (£2 million).

Hamer Bouazza left for Fulham (£3 million) and the aforementioned McAnuff and Shittu to Reading and Bolton respectively (£4 million combined). That's more departures than Heathrow.

Meanwhile, boardroom unrest hinted at deeper problems.

Following the club's relegation from the Premier League, the Russo brothers – Jimmy and Vicenzo – were 'removed' from the board in mysterious circumstances.

Then in 2008 Graham Simpson resigned.

The Russo brothers are now back, with Jimmy as chairman, and it is their loans that are keeping the club afloat for the time being.

But trying to understand just where it's all gone so horribly wrong is perplexing.

Up until this season the club have enjoyed parachute payments from the Premier League, and have accrued at least £25 million from player sales.

Even though there have been some outlays for additions to the squad, a view from the outside in offers little clue as to why exactly the outfit still known to many as "Elton John's club" are on the verge of going bust.


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