Boothroyd plotting an express ride to Europe

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The Independent Football

They may have woken with sore heads yesterday but Watford are insistent that, however long it lasts, their return to the Premiership will not leave them with a hangover. Indeed, the chairman, Graham Simpson, said that he agreed with his manager, Adrian Boothroyd, that the club's ambition should now be to get into Europe.

"That means finishing in the top six or seven," Simpson added. "I'm not saying we're going to do it in the first year. If you aim low and say, 'My ambition is to avoid relegation', you end up down there. If you aim high, then you have much more chance of achieving something."

Incredible self-belief is coursing through the club right now, a transfusion administered by Boothroyd, although, following Sunday's play-off final victory against Leeds United, Simpson insisted that they would not go for broke to achieve their dreams.

What happened under Gianluca Vialli in 2002, when Watford almost went bankrupt after squandering £7.6m on players in the old First Division just before the collapse of ITV Digital, would not be repeated.

"I wasn't chairman then, I was a director and was very upset by what was happening," Simpson said. "I assure everyone that we will not be going down that road again. We will spend our money very wisely. Some will go on the academy, some on the players, some on the scouting network, developing our stand and then some will be left in the bank so we're nice and secure."

Watford will receive a minimum of £39m from being elevated to the top flight even if they finish next season in last place and are relegated. Not that they feel that will happen. "This is just the end of the beginning," said Simpson, who inherited £10m in debts when he took charge less than four years ago. "We feel we can show the football world what a small club can achieve. We did this on a wage bill of £3.5m, which is probably the fourth lowest in the Championship."

The difference, Simpson said, was Boothroyd, whom he hailed "as the best young manager in football" and who was appointed just 14 months ago with the club facing a relegation battle.

"Most of the football world laughed at us and said, 'Who [is] Adrian Boothroyd'?" said Simpson. "But this was a man who had been preparing himself for 10 years after he knew he didn't have a career in football. This is a man ahead of his time." Booth-royd's playing career ended, aged 26, after he broke his leg.

"Adrian convinced us that he was an holistic manager, that is a manager who has a vision for the club for the 21st century," Simpson said. "He also has the ability when you are in the room to make you feel [you're] the only person he's talking to. That's a great gift and he uses it very well. That's why he has been able to come on, work with players who perhaps were struggling a little bit in the previous reign and work with them and develop them.

"He's given belief, and he gave that to the board, that he would take us forward to a new era. We all knew we were getting on board a train but I'll be quite honest with you - I didn't expect it to be an express train.

"When we started the season, most of the experts had Watford as favourites for relegation. That's fine. That's their point of view. When we start next season we'll be favourites for relegation again. But that's not what Adrian will be saying. He'll be talking about belief, being positive. We have talked about if we are successful what we will do. We will be buying more players, we will be going out sensibly. We won't spend millions on a player. We'll find young, hungry players."

Simpson said the achievement was all the more emotional because he had become "obsessive" about stabilising the club, but also because of the criticism he had received for sacking the popular Ray Lewington and appointing Boothroyd in the first place. "The nearest comparison I have is Graham Taylor," he said. "I have been a Watford fan since 1959 and I went all the way through the Taylor era with my children on the terraces and Graham is a god to a Watford fan like [me]. I can see the comparisons, I can see there are things [about] this man [that are] very special."

How new boys have fared over last 10 years
(showing teams' Premiership position in season following promotion)

* PROMOTED 1995-1996

Ch Sunderland 18th (R)
2nd Derby County 12th
PO Leicester City 9th

* 1996-1997

Ch Bolton Wands 18th (R)
2nd Barnsley 19th (R)
PO Crystal Palace 20th (R)

* 1997-1998

Ch Nottm Forest 20th (R)
2nd Middlesbrough 9th
PO Charlton Ath 18th (R)

* 1998-1999

Ch Sunderland 7th
2nd Bradford City 17th
PO Watford 20th (R)

* 1999-2000

Ch Charlton Ath 9th
2nd Man City 18th (R)
PO Ipswich Town 5th

* 2000-2001

Ch Fulham 13th
2nd Blackburn 10th
PO Bolton Wanderers 16th

* 2001-2002

Ch Manchester City 9th
2nd West Brom 19th (R)
PO Birmingham City 13th

* 2002-2003

Ch Portsmouth 13th
2nd Leicester City 18th (R)
PO Wolves 20th (R)

* 2003-2004

Ch Norwich City 19th (R)
2nd West Bromwich 17th
PO Crystal Palace 18th (R)

* 2004-2005

Ch Sunderland 20th (R)
2nd Wigan Athletic 10th
PO West Ham 9th

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