Watford gap: Dyche says likes of Spurs are miles ahead

The Hornets manager was almost an FA Cup giant-killer with Chesterfield as a player but he tells Richard Rae ahead of tonight's Tottenham match that beating the big boys is harder than ever

There was a time, not so very long ago, when this evening's fourth-round FA Cup tie between Watford and Tottenham Hotspur would have been considered a meeting of equals. Some would suggest that even now a meeting between a Championship club and a Premier League side is hardly a mis-match, the more so when Watford are at home and Spurs will probably rest half a dozen of the usual first team.

To spend time in the company of the Watford manager, Sean Dyche, however, is to be reminded of the reality imposed by ludicrously inequitable television revenues. The Hornets have about as much chance as the third-tier Chesterfield side he then captained were considered to have of beating Premier League Middlesbrough in the FA Cup semi-final of 1997.

Dyche, a hard-tackling defender whose playing career never encompassed the top division, converted a penalty that day to put Chesterfield 2-0 up, only for the game to finish 3-3 after referee David Elleray disallowed a Chesterfield shot that had clearly bounced over the line. The Spireites went on to lose the replay 3-0.

"At that time, Premier League clubs were only really beginning to bring European talent on board, Middlesbrough leading the way with people like Fabrizio Ravanelli and Juninho," Dyche recalls. "Now the world is a smaller place, and Tottenham are a good example. The top clubs look for the absolute top level of player, they put massive resources into that, the infrastructure, the support systems – and that's where the gap has got bigger from having a run with Chesterfield and playing Middlesbrough, to what it is now with Watford. We consider ourselves a reasonably sized club, a Championship club looking to develop, looking to build, but that financial gap has got so much bigger and harder to close."

After a run of eight league games unbeaten before Christmas, three consecutive defeats have seen the Hornets drop to 18th, and Dyche is looking for what he calls "a performance" from his players. "We've had a couple of awkward results in the league, after a very good run – in the grand scheme of our season it's not something we're overly concerned about, though we have to correct it.

"In that respect, playing Tottenham is an opportunity. It's awkward planning to play a team which can change in so many ways, they could play so many different formations with the players they have. That's why we have to concentrate on what we do, and look for players to play slightly above themselves – though to be honest you're looking for that every week."

For all that Watford supporters would relish seeing their team embarrass such high-flying opponents, the consequences might not be wholly welcome. With the transfer deadline falling on Tuesday, an eye-catching performance might persuade Newcastle United, having had an offer of about £2m turned down, to increase their bid for the highly rated defender Adrian Mariappa, or one of a number of interested Premier League sides to bid for the hugely promising 20-year-old striker Marvin Sordell, scorer of nine goals in 24 appearances this season.

"It's a reality of being at Watford, but we're not in the same position as we were a couple of years ago when we nearly went into administration, and we can be wiser with our business because we're on a more stable financial footing," says Dyche.

"We had a big transition in the summer with 54 per cent of our goals leaving [the club sold Championship top scorer Danny Graham to Swansea City for £3.5m] and we've had to try and remodel on, obviously, not major finance. We're a different animal to what we were then, the club is on a better financial footing, but even Cristiano Ronaldo moved for £65m in the end. Players will attract attention, but we can stave it off – unless the Ronaldo price comes in." Ronaldo actually moved for £80m, which only serves to strengthen Dyche's point.

Watford's owner is Laurence Bassini, who took over the club last May, despite being made bankrupt in 2007 after the failure of a business. He feels the same way as Dyche about only selling players for big money – judging by his statement on the club website – as do members of the Watford Supporters' Trust (WST).

"Most fans recognise we have to be a selling club, but the new owner seems to recognise the need to stay in this division and be determined not to let the club slide," said the WST chair, John Fawell. "I think a lot of us were concerned about the manager when he came in because we made an awful start to the season, but he has his own way of doing things and seems to know how to use players. Bringing in Michael Kightly [on extended loan from Wolves] was very successful, but a lot could depend on who he brings in over the transfer window."

Dyche insists he and his staff are working on the basis both Mariappa and Sordell will be available for the rest of the season, although the converting of defender Nyron Nosworthy's loan from Sunderland to a permanent deal improves his options should Newcastle come back with an improved offer for Mariappa. It will have to be considerably improved, according to Dyche.

"The interest is nowhere near the level that might make a club like ours sell our players, nowhere near," he stresses. "I think if clubs at our level are developing players, the big clubs with the big money should respect that and just go about it in a manner that is appropriate, rather than tickling it with offers that are nowhere near to almost get a reaction from us as a club."

Whatever happens, both Mariappa and Sordell will surely start against Tottenham. "You wouldn't be a player or manager without wanting to test yourself against the best, but they're human, and human beings don't get it right all of the time," says Dyche.

"Tottenham get it right quite often at the moment, but we're looking for them to not get it quite right on the night, and for us to play super well, and maybe have a bit of the rub of the green. Who knows? It's the FA Cup, and that's where dreams are made."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor