GIANFRANCO ZOLA may be a proud native of Sardinia and most readily associated with the capital in this country after time with Chelsea and West Ham United.
But if the one-time Italian international could choose where he would be happiest for his Watford side to play then surely Yorkshire would be right up there thanks to a truly remarkable record.
Last season, for instance, Zola’s Watford side played six times within the Broad Acres and won five. Not only that, the Hornets netted 16 times on their travels here with only Barnsley maintaining a semblance of pride by inflicting a 1-0 defeat in mid-April.
Any hopes, however, that Oakwell would prove similarly foreboding for Watford this term were blown away a fortnight ago when Zola’s side romped to a 5-1 triumph.
Looking to put an end to that impressive record in Yorkshire today is Jonathan Hogg, someone who knows all about how dominant Watford have been round these parts since Zola took charge at Vicarage Road.
“Watford scored a lot of goals away from home last season,” said the 24-year-old who joined Town during the summer after making 43 appearances for the Hertfordshire club last term.
“The manager was a big part of that. He instilled confidence in all of his players. He just wanted us to trust each other; he was more focused on the attacking side of things and he tried to coach people the way that he played.
“I learned a lot from him and he was a fantastic man to play under; he was very positive and I think that showed on the pitch.
“Watford have continued that trend this term. They are one of the best attacking outfits in the division and it will be tough for us to deal with them. We need to be positive, get in their faces and not let them settle and play their game.”
Hogg was in the Watford side that triumphed 3-2 at Huddersfield last October, the first of five wins in Yorkshire that saw Leeds United thrashed 6-1, Sheffield Wednesday humbled 4-1, Middlesbrough beaten 2-1 and Hull City’s promotion charge held up with a 1-0 loss at the KC.
In the end, the Tigers pipped Zola’s men to second place and there was further heartache for Hogg and his team-mates in the play-offs courtesy of a defeat to Crystal Palace.
The midfielder, who has missed just one league game for the Terriers this term, said: ““It was a brilliant team to play in with a lot of young talent, that I think caught teams by surprise. To get to the final was a fantastic achievement, but to fall at the final hurdle was very disappointing.”
Huddersfield go into today’s contest unbeaten in five league games, a run that means Mark Robins’s side are Yorkshire’s highest placed side in the Championship after 10 games.
Hogg said: “The unbeaten run we are on has given us a lot of confidence. We are enjoying our football and have picked up some decent results. We are improving on different bits of our game each week. At Middlesbrough on Tuesday (when they drew 1-1), we should have pushed for a second. But we sat back and allowed them to attack us.
“It was a good point, though, and a good away performance.”