This season saw Championship side Watford fall just short of promotion to the Premier League via the playoff, but they will still leave behind a lasting impression.
The Football League will meet to consider rule changes that will prevent the exploitation of the loan system that some believe Watford took advantage of this past season.
Watford picked up 14 players on loan last season, 10 from a single club. How is that possible? The family that owns the Hornets also owns two other clubs – Serie A side Udinese and Spain’s Granada.
The current Football League rules state no club can submit a match-day squad consisting of more than five loan players, four from any club. However, those rules only apply to other domestic Football League clubs. Watford was able to pick up so many foreign loan players, thus circumventing the rules.
Watford loaned 10 players from Udinese, including Czech striker Matej Vydra who scored 20 goals in 41 appearances for the Hornets, including a brace in the second leg of their playoff matchup with Leicester that helped overcome a 1-0 loss in the first leg. In fact, that second-leg match against Leicester saw six loan players in the Watford starting eleven – four from Udinese and two from Granada.
Ahead of Watford’s playoff final with Crystal Palace, Palace boss Ian Holloway attacked the loan bundle, saying “Part of me admires (Watford Manager) Gianfranco (Zola) and the Pozzo family for having the foresight to spot the loophole in the regulations, and the ability to recognize the talent of players largely unproven in Italy and Spain. While Watford have clearly benefited as a club, surely what they have done can’t be good for the British game. How on earth can home-grown players come up through the youth system at Vicarage Road? At Palace, we are proud to give our own kids a chance.”
The lack of English players in the Premier League and lower leagues is a heavy topic of debate these days in England.
The 72 Football League clubs will meet in Vilamoura, Portugal Friday, and it is expected that they will equate the foreign loan rules with those already in place for domestic clubs.