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GROUND // Vicarage Road - Watford FC (England)

Back to the UK for one last time. On our small trip to the home of football we have also been able to visit a Premier League team. We choose Vicarage Road for obscure reasons and we weren't disappointed at all. Vicarage Road is much like the older stadiums in Belgium located in an urban area, almost disappearing between the houses.

Watford FC was created in 1881 as Watford Rovers and went from league to league across the first couple of years. They first competed in the FA Cup in 1886 and in 1889 they won the County Cup for the first time. In 1890 Watford Rovers became a part of West Hertfordshire Sports Club and three years later the name also officially changed into West Hertfordshire. In 1898 they decided to merge with their local rivals, Watford St Mary's and changed their name into the current Watford FC.

Just a year before that, the team turned into a professional team. After having joined the Southern Football League in 1896, they won that league in 1915. In 1920 they resigned from that league and joined the new Football League. Watford FC wandered around in those leagues up until WWII. Up until the end of the 70s Watford FC mainly played in third division, with occasional appearances in fourth and second division. From time to time they managed to get good results in the FA Cup. In 1970 they even reached the semi finals.

In 1976 29 year old and life long fan of the club Elton John took over Watford FC with the ambition to take the team to first division. Back then they were still in fourth division. Only 6 years later sir Elton John managed to get the team into first division for the very first time ever, 101 years after they were founded. In that first season in first division they ended as runners up behind Liverpool. To this day their best achievement ever, qualifying them for European football. In 1984 they reached the finals of the FA Cup, losing to Everton. By the end of the 80s however the team would relegate back to second division. In 1996 they even went further down to third division, Division Two at that time.

In 1999, after three great years, they returned to the second division. The start of the new millennium exposed financial problems within the organisation and Watford FC had to cut back costs severely. Luckily they survived and to top this they returned to the top league in 2006, but successes wouldn't last long. Quickly they went down a league again. In 2015 they would finally return to the Premier League, where they currently still play.

There aren't a lot of teams that changed team colours and nicknames as many times as Watford FC did. They were known as The Brewers and The Blues before a popular vote in 1976 decided they are now known as The Hornets (thanks to the gold and black team colours at that time). Watford have been playing in red, green and white stripes, black and white, all blue, gold and black until the red/yellow/black they currently use. They used a hornet as a mascot for quite some decades, but only two years after having officially chosen the nickname The Hornets in 1976 the crest was changed into a hart - a male red deer.

Belgian Red Devil Christian Kabasele currently plays for Watford. Sven Kums signed to the Hornets on 29 August 2016 for a fee rumoured around £8.5million but went straight out on a season-long loan deal with Udinese. In the past they have had Belgians Obbi Oulare, Mujangi Bia and Makabu-Makalambay and big names like Paul Okon, Tim Sherwood, Ashley Young, John Barnes, Daniel Tozser and Daniel Pudil. Even more known are some managers like Graham Taylor, Gianluca Vialli and Gianfranco Zola.

Vicarage Road has been the home of Watford FC since 1922 after having moved around a bit. In 5 years they will celebrate the 100th anniversary. It contains the Sir Elton John Stand, a fairly new stand replacing the beautiful old Main Stand. This has only been built in 2014. It remains a shame to see this is one of the many all seaters in the UK. We certainly hope standing areas will be re-introduced in the Premier League very soon!

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