Former Watford defender Neil Cox says he is still unhappy with events surrounding his departure from the club back in 2005.

Retired Cox, speaking ahead of the clash between two of his former clubs today, was forced to train with the Hornets' youth players at the end of that season.

Eventually the centre-half joined Cardiff City but after making 248 appearances at Vicarage Road, Cox feels his transfer from the club could have been handled better.

“Looking back at my time at Watford it was disappointing to think how I was treated after spending five years there,” he said.

“It wasn’t Aidy Boothroyd’s decision to make me train with the youngsters but I was very disappointed with the way I was treated at the club before I left.”

It was Graham Taylor who brought Cox to the club back in the 1999/00 season as the Hornets battled to avoid relegation from the Premier League. Ironically, Taylor watched him play against his side in the play-off final just five months earlier for Bolton.

Cox admitted the start of his career with Watford was a turbulent one as the club were first relegated from the top flight and then missed out on promotion the following season after a promising start.

Playing in the unfamiliar position of full-back, Cox remembers being criticised by some sections of supporters during his first two seasons at the club.

“When I arrived at Watford, I replaced Nigel Gibbs who was one of the fan’s favourites, so it was difficult for me to win the fans over,” he said.

“The first season I arrived was difficult because we were losing games and the players were losing confidence. The following season we won a few games initially but our luck seemed to change and teams began to suss out how we played.”

That summer saw the arrival of Gianluca Vialli at Vicarage Road and Cox found himself training with the reserves as the first team flew off to Italy for a pre-season tour.

“When Vialli took over I was only put in reserves with a couple of others because Graham Taylor had told Luca that I was a bad influence in the dressing room,” he explained.

“I had no problem with training with the reserves as I had to keep fit; I just got on with it. I spoke to a couple of other clubs but Watford wouldn’t agree a fee.”

However, Cox soon found himself back in the side after the team began to suffer with injuries and eventually was able to play at centre-back, alongside former AC Milan defender Fillipo Galli.

“Fillipo was brilliant,” he recalled. “He was a world class player who was so down to earth.”

That year saw Cox’s career at Watford take-off and he was awarded the captaincy the following summer after Ray Lewington was appointed manager.

It was an eventful few years for the Scunthorpe-born defender, starting with the team’s agreement to defer 12 per cent of their wages to help rescue the club from dropping into administration.

Despite the financial difficulties, the team managed to reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup before losing to Southampton 2-1 at Villa Park, a game Cox believed they could have won.

“The draw for the semi final went well and we and Southampton were happy to have avoided the big teams.

“We believed we had a chance of winning.”

For Cox, problems began to arise off the field as he fell out with the chairman at the time, Graham Simpson. He felt it was necessary to pass on his captaincy at the end of the 2003/04 campaign.

He said: “I had one or two disagreements with the chairman and he wanted to sell me.

“But the manager didn’t and I wanted to stay so I felt giving up my captaincy was the right decision for the team.”

Nine months later, the controversial decision to sack Lewington was decided and Cox revealed he thought the decision was a poor one.

“I was very angry with the sacking of Ray as he had managed us through the pay cuts. He had been given no money to bring in new players and they had agreed for a new manager to come in before they sacked him.

“The players were sad to see Ray go as I think we would have stayed up, and it was no surprise that Boothroyd was appointed.”

The club eventually avoided the drop and Cox played his final game for Watford as they defeated Stoke at the Britannia Stadium to secure survival.

He was then a victim of Boothroyd’s squad overhaul that summer as he looked to get rid of the club’s senior players for the following season.

That campaign saw the club reach the Premiership and Cox says he wasn’t surprised by the team’s feat.

“Miraculously the club found some money to spend in the transfer market, so it wasn’t a shock when they got promotion. They had a good squad already,” he said.

Now 38, Cox is living in Portugal as a property developer after retiring in 2008 following an 18-month spell with Crewe Alexandra.