It's often the hope that kills you. But with Watford, the 2019/20 season has been defined by poor decisions. Relegation, however depressing, provides an opportunity to reflect on the mistakes and ensure they aren't repeated, in order for us to grow and develop into a Premier League team once again.  

Contrary to popular belief, this slump did not begin the 10th of August 2019 at 3pm. The fragilities were present for some time. 

A positive FA Cup masked a Premier League season devoid of substantial growth in the Watford team. Javi Gracia's side impressed prior to victory over Wolves, but it proved an unfortunate turning point, with heavy defeats against Chelsea ,West Ham, and an over-reliance on Gerard Deulofeu dropping the Hornets to 11th, despite dreams of European Football not appearing unrealistic just weeks before.  

The Cup Run painted the season in a deceptively positive light. The only reinforcements being CentreHalf Craig Dawson from then-Championship outfit West Brom, and an expensive, yet risky punt on Senegalese Winger Ismaïla Sarr, who despite providing goals and energy to a depleted Watford squad, did not suit the Head Coach's style. In hindsight, Watford were doomed from the off. 

Gino Pozzo's decision to award Gracia with a long-term deal wasn't unpopular with the Watford faithful, but was cut short, with 3 losses and a draw sending Gracia on his way. If there was a panic button at London Colney, it had been pressed, as former Head Coach Quique Sanchez Flores entered through the revolving door. Perhaps the Pozzos' encouraging track record with relegations (or lack thereof) had spawned some optimism around Vicarage Road. Despite finally getting off the mark with a win over Norwich, it appeared Flores' defensive style nullified Sarr and Deulofeu, and the team still managed to concede 8 away to Manchester City, failing to improve from Gracia's tenure. Needless to say, tensions were growing in the stands, but more so in the boardroom, as the second Head Coach of the season was dismissed. 

You can place the blame on Flores; despite problems in the squad, there was undeniably enough talent to survive the Premier League, but the appointment of the Spaniard never really seemed to work, and perhaps the finger should instead be pointed at those who made the decision to bring him back. Hindsight is 20/20. 

Out with the old, in with the new. Nigel Pearson was not a typical Pozzo appointment, but his track record spoke for itself. He quickly rejuvenated the team, with Watford enjoying the most successful Christmas period of any team in the league, and boasting deserved victories at home to Manchester United, and rather famously, against an unbeaten Liverpool. But perhaps this was merely an example of a "Manager Bounce", where a new Coach with fresh ideas provides a brief but impressive run of form. 

Pandemic aside, Watford were far from perfect in the weeks preceding the suspension. Late goals conceded against Everton and Aston Villa highlighted defensive flaws, and Pearson's substitutions failed to invoke any confidence. After the restart, there was little to be encouraged by. Brushed aside by Burnley and Southampton, and beaten by West Ham, hope was dissolving for many. Pearson unexpectedly became the third casualty; Hayden Mullins and Graham Stack were handed the reins for a second time on an interim basis. Aside from alleged bust ups behind closed doors, there was no "fight" left. 

It was always going to be an uphill struggle, and Aston Villa's upturn of form led to our downfall. It was never about them, or Bournemouth, though. 

Now for the season ahead. Are Mullins and Stack good enough to lead the team on a permanent basis? Their experience of dealing with youth is encouraging, but their lack of it at a high level is not. At the time of writing there is no replacement in line, but it would be of little surprise to me if there is a new man in charge by the time this is published. 

There's no denying that we've been unlucky. Poor refereeing decisions have cost the Hornets numerous games, against Tottenham, Newcastle, and Southampton to name a few. But you make your own luck, and your make your own errors. A missed penalty against Tottenham, a missed open goal against West Ham, and the misfiring attackers all season have left us rueing our mistakes. Even playing Troy Deeney despite a knee injury encapsulates the stubbornness that has led us to this moment, and why a rebuild is essential. 

It has been clear for many years now that Watford's owners wish to hire Head Coaches who have little say in transfers, but deal with the business on the pitch. Perhaps allowing the next in the door to have a say will allow a better relationship between them and the board, and will stop the consistent dismissals of those at the helm. In addition to this, the club has relied too often on senior players, fielding on average the second oldest team in the Premier League. Appointing a Head Coach that can work with the youth, such as João Pedro and Juan "Cucho" Hernandez, will surely boost our chances of returning to the Top-Flight. 

So what's next? The unpredictable awaits. A new Head Coach and incomings and outgoings to come. Every cloud has a silver lining, and if vital changes can be made from top to bottom, we may find that this can be a rebirth, and an opportunity to right the wrongs that ended our unforgettable five year stint in the Premier League.