ALTHOUGH 2013 was far from being an annus horribilis for Watford, the Hornets could certainly lay claim to the award as the nearly men of the Championship.

Pipped by Hull City for automatic promotion on a dramatic last day of the campaign, Watford then suffered an agonising defeat in the play-off final at the hands of Crystal Palace.

Understandably among the bookies’ pre-season favourites to go one better this time round, the fact their odds for the title have lengthened from 12-1 to 300-1 tells its own story.

Having spent the first fortnight on top of the pile, five wins and three draws – including a 6-1 romp against Cherries – saw Watford well placed in fourth at the end of September.

Still seventh four weeks later, their challenge took an unexpec-ted downturn during November when one point from 12 saw them finish with the worst record in the Championship for the month.

And after the dismal run had continued into December, head coach Gianfranco Zola surprisingly resigned his position following a 1-0 defeat by lowly Sheffield Wednesday – a fifth successive league reverse at Vicarage Road.

The 47-year-old former Chelsea striker had been brought in after the Italian Pozzo family had acquired the club in June 2012 and had been tasked with taking the club back to the Premier League following a five-year absence.

Zola’s departure was quickly followed by the appointment of countryman Giuseppe Sannino who agreed to take on his first managerial post outside of Italy after establishing his reputation with Siena, Palermo and Chievo Verona.

The 56-year-old, who served his playing career as a midfielder in Italy’s lower leagues, began his coaching career in the 1990s but had to wait until 2011 for his first chance in Serie A when he took charge at Siena.

Since his arrival, the Hornets have seen a 10-match winless run come to an end with Millwall thumped 4-0 at Vicarage Road on Boxing Day. It remains, however, their only victory in their past 13 league matches, a sequence which has yielded just nine points.

Currently level on points with Cherries and some 24 off the top, 15th-placed Watford have drawn their past five away games at Ipswich (1-1), Leeds (3-3), Burnley (0-0), Middlesbrough (2-2) and Brighton (1-1).

The Hornets booked an FA Cup fourth round trip to Manchester City after seeing off Bristol City in a replay on Tuesday.

  • Watford legend and ex-Cherries striker Luther Blissett will be a guest of builders’ merchants Travis Perkins at Dean Court tomorrow.