There is no chance of Watford ditching their commitment to attacking football if they get promoted to the Barclays Premier League, according to their longest-serving player, Lloyd Doyley.
Watford and Crystal Palace will compete for what has been dubbed “the biggest financial prize in football” today – a place in the Premier League.
Scepticism surrounded the Pozzo family when they took over Watford last summer, but the appointment of Gianfranco Zola as manager has eased those doubts and the Hertfordshire club are favourites for tomorrow’s £120 million showdown at Wembley.
Zola wowed crowds with his silky skills during a glittering playing career and he has brought that mantra to Watford, where his team plays free-flowing attacking football in a 3-5-2 system.
Wigan’s commitment to attacking football won them many friends during their time in the Premier League, but it was not enough to save them from the drop last season.
Doyley, who has been at Watford for 12 years, insists that does not mean Zola will be scared to retain his attacking philosophy next year, should his team gain promotion, though.
“I can’t see the boss doing that to be honest,” the Watford defender said. “He likes us playing attacking football, no matter what team we play.
“We played Manchester City in the FA Cup this year and we still played three up front. We kept playing the way we wanted to play. The best way of defending is scoring goals and that has been shown this year. We are the top scorers in the league so that’s the way we play.”
Doyley agrees that Swansea, who qualified for Europe this year after just two seasons in the top flight, have proved that playing attacking football can pay off.
“They have had a few years of building the passing system and they are now one of the best teams out there,” the 30-year-old added.
“When Arsenal play them Swansea have most of the ball. We are still a long way off that but we are progressing.”
Watford narrowly missed out on automatic promotion when they lost to Leeds on the final day of the season and they needed a dramatic 96th minute winner by Troy Deeney to overcome Leicester in the second leg of their semi-final.
To avoid being on the wrong end of an upset today they will have to keep Wilfried Zaha quiet. The Eagles forward, who is playing his last match before leaving for Manchester United, scored twice against Brighton to send Palace through to the final, but Doyley is confident of keeping the England international quiet.
“We have (kept him quiet) twice already this year,” Doyley added.
“He is a good player, but we have got a lot of good defenders in our team.”
Palace manager Ian Holloway is relieved the build-up to the game has centred around the match itself without any sub-plots.
Holloway was accused by some Palace fans of not understanding their rivalry with Brighton prior to the semi-final, which was marred by excrement being left in the Eagles’ dressing room ahead of the second leg at the Amex Stadium.
The play-offs could also have thrown up meetings with Holloway’s former club Leicester or a Bolton team managed by his predecessor at Palace, former Scotland striker Dougie Freedman, who only missed out on a top-six spot on the final day of the season.
“It’s not Leicester, who I failed with, it’s not Bolton with the previous manager and it’s not Brighton, who our fans couldn’t stand it if we lost to them,” said Holloway.
“It’s Watford, they’re pretty middle of the road really. We don’t really hate each other or anything...do we?”