Last season was a painful one for Watford Football Club and their army of followers as the London side lost their Premier League status. The warning signs had been obvious for the last few seasons, but they weren’t heeded by the board, who seemed to change managers like other teams change their matchday menu. Finally, the damage was done with Watford finishing in the bottom three of the highest rank of English football, meaning they will be playing in the Championship next term.

The best betting apps had the Hornets as one of the pre-season favourites to take the plunge when releasing their odds 12 months ago, and that call proved to be bang on the money. Watford finished 19th of 20 teams in the Premier League, with their stats for the campaign showing six wins and five draws against 27 defeats, producing a total of 23 points. Relegation came as no surprise to anyone as Watford limped to the finish line.

Their points tally was just one more than bottom club Norwich City who will be remembered as a team that was well out of their depth during the 2021/22 campaign. Watford wasn’t much better, to be honest. They finished a dozen points behind 18th placed Burnley – who were also relegated – and 15 points behind Leeds United and EPL safety in 17th.

The pain is raw at Vicarage Road

It was a painful one for everyone connected to Vicarage Road, but it’s now in the past, and the team and fans must unite for the good of the club. They must work together, stick together and make plans for the future that will see them bounce back to the top flight at the first time of asking. Watford dropped down to the Championship and will be expected to win the league and gain promotion in the coming season, but the club has no right to expect success.

This is a far different challenge to the one faced in the EFL, and Watford know they have their work cut out in climbing the ladder. The EPL is all about big budgets, the best players in the world managed by the most famous coaches. There’s no greater standard of football in Europe with games free-flowing, fast and attractive. You get very little of that in the Championship.

The second tier is very different from the first. In the Championship, you have aspiring Premier League players who are working on a budget while the managers are out to make a name for themselves. Everyone in the EFL dream of playing in the EPL, either by driving their current employers to promotion or by impressing and being picked up by a team from the level above during the transfer window. It’s a battle, and it takes a strong character to be successful.

Relegation isn’t the end

Watford now find themselves at a crossroads. Will they return to the Premier League in their first season following relegation, or will it take them a few tries to get back to football’s promised land? Perhaps this is the beginning of tough times, and the club will continue to slip down the pecking order. They wouldn’t be the first former Premier League side to find life difficult in the lower leagues. Look at the likes of Portsmouth, Sunderland and even Bolton, who have all fallen on hard times.

But relegation from the top flight isn’t the end of the world, and fans shouldn’t get stuck under a dark cloud. West Ham United and Newcastle United both spent more time than expected in the Championship, while Leeds United were playing second-tier football for many years longer than pundits predicted before finally climbing back up through the ranks. All three teams mentioned are now established EPL sides pushing hard for glory.

There’s no doubt that changes must be made this summer, and coach Rob Edwards – who has one of the least secure jobs in British football – has some big decisions to make, decisions he simply can’t afford to get wrong. The standard of players he will attract to a Championship side is lower than the EPL, his budget will be reduced, and the contracts offered to players will be shorter. T will be a long, challenging year for all involved.

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