Adrian Mariappa, the experienced Jamaica defender, was relegated from the English Premier League (EPL) with Watford in a dramatic final day of the season on Sunday (26 July).
It was not the greatest season for the 33-year-old, who joined the club in 2016, having tested positive for coronavirus in mid-May and will now be back in the Championship for the first time in years.
The London club, who last week dropped into the bottom three relegation berths for the first time since February, outplayed hosts Arsenal yet trailed 3-0 after 33 minutes at the Emirates Stadium. The rot began when they conceded an opening minute penalty, which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang slotted home in style. The Gabon striker set up defender Kieran Tierney to double their lead on 24 minutes, and then scored the goal of the game with his audacious overhead kick.
Watford skipper Troy Deeney reduced the arrears on the brink of half-time, after David Luiz’s foul on ex-Arsenal forward Danny Welbeck, to give the visitors a fighting chance but still relying on favourable results involving relegation rivals Aston Villa and AFC Bournemouth.
The managerless Hornets, who sacked a trio of head coaches during their chaotic season, threw on veteran Mariappa to shore up the leaky defence. A brighter performance after the interval resulted in a series of goal-scoring chances, with Welbeck’s close range effort making it 3-2 on 66 minutes.
Mariappa, who is of Fijian descent, kept out the danger but Watford scuppered their opportunities to succumb to their 20th league defeat this term and finish this stop-start campaign 19th to slip down a division for the first time since the 2011-12 term. Aston Villa finished 1-1 in their bore draw at West Ham United to survive the drop, while AFC Bournemouth won 3-1 at Everton to leapfrog Watford but joined basement side Norwich City as one of the relegated teams.
London-born Mariappa came through the Youth Academy at Watford before signing professional terms for the 2005-06 campaign, and went on to play seven successive seasons with the club – six terms in the Championship and one stint in the EPL – before moving to the top flight with Reading for US$2.5m.
Mariappa, who won 49 international caps for Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz, played only one season with Reading as he was snapped up by Crystal Palace for US$2.35m. He was released after three campaigns and, after his deal fell through to join Scottish giants Rangers, rejoined Watford four years ago.
Whether the former captain of the Boyz will return to ply his trade in the Championship remains to be seen, as many clubs have had their bids rejected for Mariappa over the years and he still has a plethora of admirers in the top flight.
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