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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Boothroyd aims to bounce back with U's

Weston Homes might not build hotels, but for the new manager at the ground they sponsor at Colchester, his career is reaching its Crossroads. From unknown, to genius, to unemployed - now Aidy Boothroyd must prove he was no flash in the pan.

His appointment to the Watford job in 2005 was met with a combination of disbelief and anxiety from Hornets fans. Who was this former Norwich and Leeds coach, and what did he know about management?

An unconvincing end to the season, where he kept the club up in the Championship, did little to convince them. It also failed to suggest what was to follow. Against all the odds, and with meagre resources, just 12 months later Boothroyd led Watford to promotion.

Hailed as one of the brightest young managerial talents in the game, he immeditely set his sights on establishing them in the top flight. An ambitious target considering it was only the second season in the Premier League in their history.

Unsurprisingly, they struggled to compete with the top teams, and finished bottom. The uncompromising, long-ball tactics that had worked so well in the Championship failed to work at a higher level.

Brute force and athletic ability were not nearly enough to accumulate the points needed for survival. Watford lacked quality and guile. Was the manager naive to believe the same tactics that worked against Luton and Crewe would be as successful against Liverpool and Chelsea?

Boothroyd remained resolute, and back in the Championship, Watford were joint top of the division on New Year's Day 2008. However, they won just four of their remaining 20 games, including a run of just one win in fourteen.

Despite hanging onto 6th place and a position in the play-offs, they were comfortably dispatched by Hull City in the end of season lottery. Boothroyd had failed to bounce back. Had Watford's tactics been sussed at Championship level now?

Boothroyd led Watford to promotion in 2006

The Yorkshireman responded, and all the noises coming out of Vicarage Road, including his summer recruitments, suggested at the Hornets adopting a more patient, passing style for the new season. It failed.

At the start of November, and less than 18 months since they were playing Premier League football, he parted company with the Hertfordshire club struggling towards the bottom. The bright star had faded.

Now, 10 months on, he must once again show why he was once being touted a future England manager.

It's credit to the 38-year-old that he is willing to drop down to League One to rebuild his career. He has proven himself in a higher division, after all. Mr Curbishley, take note.

He is also sure to have learnt from his Watford experience. His attempts to get a side built for direct football to play a passing game failed, he must stay strong to his beliefs and play the game to suit his players, not the purists.

Colchester are a club moving in the right direction though. No longer held back by their Layer Road ground, the new multi-purpose stadium has given the Essex club an arena capable of properly hosting Championship football.

And, although the club have been rocked by Paul Lambert's sudden departure to Norwich, a team capable of challenging for a place in the top six is already in place. The new manager must now inspire them to the kind of form they were showing before Lambert's move across East Anglia.

For Boothroyd, the pressure is on to prove his initial sucess at Watford wasn't just beginner's luck. The end of the road, or embarking on the one to recovery? We'll have to wait and see.


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