The Pozzo family’s takeover of Watford in 2012 might not have reaped immediate rewards, but it’s fair to say the club are in much better shape now than they were then.
The club’s final pre-Pozzo season brought an 11th-place finish in the Championship, with a squad made up of few players you’d have considered too good for the second tier at the time, managed by then-rookie Sean Dyche.
Watford’s turnaround might not have been as sudden as that undergone by FA Cup semi-final opponents Wolves, but the contrast between then and now is no less dramatic, as emphasised by the starting XI and subs who beat Middlesbrough in Dyche’s final game in charge.
Perennial England Under-21 call-up Loach had been first choice at Vicarage Road for a few years but lost his place towards the end of the season when Tomasz Kuszczak came in on loan from Manchester United.
The Boro victory was a farewell game for the loyal club servant, who would complete a move to boyhood club Ipswich Town that summer.
However, after losing his spot at Portman Road to Dean Gerken, he would gradually drop through the leagues and is now in the National League with Hartlepool United.
Considered Mr Watford, Doyley was – along with Loach – one of the survivors from Watford’s previous Premier League campaign in 2006-07. He survived the takeover, too, playing more than 25 games in each of the following two seasons.
Sadly for the defender, he was allowed to leave after playing less and less as the Hornets returned to the big time in 2015.
He was 32 at the time but is yet to hang up his boots. He is now on the books of Billericay Town in the National League South, with the Essex club in the play-off mix in their first season after promotion.
Jamaica defender Nosworthy had already made his loan move from Sunderland permanent before the end of the season, and he was able to get a few minutes under Gianfranco Zola.
However, the arrival of the likes of Joel Ekstrand and Gabriele Angella in the following years meant his chances would become limited.
The defender would eventually leave for Blackpool and also spent time at Dagenham & Redbridge before eventually retiring from football in 2016.
Former Birmingham City defender Taylor was, like Nosworthy, already in his 30s during the 2011-12 campaign. Unlike his centre-back partner, though, the veteran had just one year left on his contract and would end up leaving in search of first-team football after the arrival of more than a dozen new players that summer.
Taylor would end up moving to Sheffield Wednesday but struggled for games and eventually hung up his boots in 2014, a few months shy of his 35th birthday.
Dickinson had come through the Stoke City academy, helping the Potters win promotion to the Premier League, but barely got a sniff in the top-flight and so opted to join the Hornets.
He was a near ever-present in that first season, but the Pozzo takeover saw Daniel Pudil supersede him as first-choice on the left of the back four.
Having left Hertfordshire for Stoke’s neighbours Port Vale in 2013, the defender has spent six years in the lower leagues and is currently attempting to help Yeovil Town stay in the EFL.
One of the handful of players who Watford signed during Dyche’s reign, Ghanaian midfielder Buaben was another to be frozen out once the takeover occurred – he played just once in the 2012-13 campaign, a seven-minute run-out at Hull, having played more than half of the games in the previous year.
Buaben arrived from Dundee United and, following a stint at Carlisle, returned north of the border. He’s currently playing for Falkirk in the Scottish Championship
Eustace was Watford’s captain in the 2011-12 season and retained the armband post-takeover but left at the end of the following campaign after turning down the chance to stick around as a player-coach.
After two years at Derby County, the midfielder moved into management with Kidderminster Harriers. He left the non-league club in 2018 to join Steve McClaren’s coaching staff at QPR and took over as caretaker manager when the former England boss was dismissed.
Former Aston Villa academy product Hogg had moved to Watford from the Midlands club in 2011 and remained a regular under Zola but was allowed to leave for Huddersfield Town in the summer of 2013.
He has remained with the Terriers ever since, helping them win promotion to the Premier League in 2017, and will aim to pass the 200-appearance mark for the club next season.
Murray had been one of the shining lights of the 2011-12 campaign, breaking into the first team as a teenager and looking capable of holding down a first-team place for years to come.
However, with the influx of new players over the summer, his minutes would be limited and he failed to kick on in the manner some had hoped.
The winger played a handful of games in the 2014-15 promotion season but was loaned out after Watford reached the top flight. Dundalk, where he currently plays, are his fourth different permanent club since leaving Vicarage Road in 2016.
Scotland international striker Iwelumo scored Watford’s opener against Middlesbrough, but it proved to be his final league goal for the club. He was loaned out the following year, before leaving for good in the summer of 2013.
After retiring in 2014, Iwelumo went back to school, studying for a journalism degree. Since beginning his studies, he’s been seen as an analyst on Channel 5’s Football League coverage among other places.
The one starter from that 2012 squad to remain at the club today, Deeney scored the winner against Middlesbrough to end the season on 11 goals – his first double-figure return in the Championship.
Since then, of course, the striker has gone from strength to strength, racking up more than 300 Watford games and more than 100 goals for the club.
He will lead the Hornets out at Wembley as captain, having helped them get there by converting a stoppage-time penalty in the semi-final victory over Wolves.
One of two subs to come on in Dyche’s final game, replacing Hogg early in the second half, Forsyth split the following campaign between loan clubs Bradford and Derby with fewer than half a dozen Watford games thrown into the mix.
He clearly made an impression at Pride Park, joining Derby permanently in the summer of 2013. He was part of the Rams side which made the 2014 play-off final and has stuck around amid all the comings and goings at the club.
Deeney might be the only starter to remain, but Mariappa, who came off the bench in the win over Boro, is also at the club. However, unlike his team-mate, Mariappa has left and returned.
The defender joined newly-promoted Reading for the 2012-13 season, and Crystal Palace ensured he would remain in the Premier League after the Royals’ relegation.
After falling out of favour at Selhurst Park, he returned to Watford in 2016 and has battled his way back into the first team at the club where he began his career.