Watford boss Boothroyd thanks Delia

Adrian Boothroyd will take a leaf from Delia Smith's book as he seeks the ingredients to take Watford into the Premiership.

Adrian Boothroyd will take a leaf from Delia Smith's book as he seeks the ingredients to take Watford into the Premiership.

The Hornets boss – whose team travel to Crystal Palace today for the first leg of their Coca-Cola Championship play-off semi-final – was youth-team coach at Norwich during their play-off campaign four years ago.

Although City were beaten in the final by Birmingham, Boothroyd was impressed with the way joint major shareholder director Delia and manager Nigel Worthington, responded to the play-offs.

"I have great memories of the play-offs from my time at Norwich, even though we were unsuccessful," said Boothroyd. "Delia and Nigel created a terrific atmosphere, and it was a brilliant environment to be part of.

"Nigel created a work ethic and turned the club around in many ways, while Delia made sure that everyone was involved. The stewards and the people who worked in the offices all played a massive part during that time, and that is the sort of environment I want to create at this club. Everyone is in it together, and hopefully we will all be celebrating after the play-off final."

Boothroyd admits that his time spent working with Delia Smith did not improve his culinary skills, however, admitting: "I'm absolutely useless in the kitchen: I can just about manage to boil an egg. But when I left Norwich in 2003, Delia sent me some signed books, and that shows you the quality of the person."

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Boothroyd made good use of his days on the windswept fields of City's Colney training centre – "practising" being a manager during his two-and-a-half year stint in charge of City's youth team, which he ran in much the same way as he expected a first team to be run.

"I was prepared theoretically for management and I practised being a manager just like you would practice penalties," said Boothroyd, who quit Carrow Road in October, 2003, to take up a similar role at West Bromwich Albion.

"You've got to be prepared to be as innovative as you can if you are going to get to where you aspire to be.

"So I used to run Norwich City's youth team as the first team in the way we trained, how we got ready for matches, debriefing, how the players learnt so I could then give them to Nigel Worthington.

"I kept it to myself, but in my mind that's how I was doing it."

Watford had to endure considerable criticism when they appointed Boothroyd – a man with no previous experience of top-level management – to replace the sacked Ray Lewington in March 2005.

But the 35-year-old – who suffered play-off disappointment as a player with Mansfield when they lost a semi-final 6-3 on aggregate to Chesterfield in the old Division Three in 1995 - has surprised everyone by guiding the Hertfordshire club, who were among the favourites for relegation last summer, into the top six.

Boothroyd, who left his position as first-team coach at Leeds to take over at Watford, has been meticulous in his preparation for these matches, even staging a mock penalty shoot-out – during which the Watford fans were asked alternately to cheer and boo their own players – after the 2-1 win over Ipswich.

"We had a contingency plan for the play-offs," Boothroyd continued. "We played Wolves away and Ipswich at home within three days over Easter, and we used that as practice for the play-off games.

"We finished in the top four which means we play the second leg at home, but that is important only if you are good at home and poor away.

"We have been equally good at home and away this season, which is encouraging. But there will be a lot of nervous people - players, managers and fans - in the play-off matches. We just have to get the job done."

Boothroyd's men did not beat any of the other play-off contenders during the regular league season, but he added: "Our poor record does not concern me, because things change around, and it might just be our time."

The Hornets have a fully-fit squad available for the clash.

Marlon King and Gavin Mahon returned to the line-up against Hull last weekend after a ban and a rest respectively, while James Chambers, Clarke Carlisle and Matthew Spring were rested in anticipation of the end-of-season shake up.

Boothroyd added: "Everybody is fit. We have a clean bill of health for our most important game of the season."