The turnover in management at Vicarage Road is more than the same old Watford – who once had a justification for changing their head coach as regularly as their kits.
There were still a few raised eyebrows, but not many, when Watford got rid of Rob Edwards, their 17th manager in 10 years under Gino Pozzo, on Monday morning.
This is how the Hertfordshire revolving door works. Pozzo’s next appointment at Vicarage Road will match the number of managers West Ham have had in their entire history. Jumping to the man on top is nothing new.
Although reception elsewhere has withered with each departure, the response around the club has only recently followed suit. Once Watford were unapologetic and optimistic about their tough line on the coaching staff, and the fanbase brought him on as they established themselves as a Premier League club. Now the approach to ownership seems contradictory and patience is running out.
“In Rob Edwards, we have appointed a manager that we all totally believe in, and a manager who will lead and drive this change. We will support Rob through thick and thin,” said Scott Duxbury, CEO throughout Pozzo’s tenure. Several weeks. after appointing the 39-year-old, whose highest previous managerial post was at League Two side Forest Green Rovers.
The Watford he joined had just been relegated from the Premier League for the second time in three years, sent off with a whimper and 15 safeties, unhelped by a lopsided squad bruised by such a turnover of styles and philosophies Management.
After beating Manchester United 4-1 at Vicarage Road in November 2021 under Claudio Ranieri – already their second manager of the season – the Italian lasted just eight more league games, and they collected just one. one more point at home en route to relegation. Far from having the final say on their hiring and firing approach as they had done in the past, Watford had now become the butt of the joke.
“We realized that in order to have sustained and successful Premier League football, we had to change things,” Duxbury told the Watford Observer in June. “It’s not just about having talented players, it’s about creating a culture and environment based on continuity. And that continuity starts with the coach.”
This tone struck an extraordinary contrast to the Watford of old. When they first arrived in the Premier League under Pozzo seven years earlier, they did so after going through four managers in their promotion season and having already appointed a fifth in Quique Sanchez Flores to lead them in the elite.
While their approach was ruthless – Flores himself was fired at the end of that campaign despite leading the Hornets to mid-table safety – it was hard to argue his success. The Hornets rarely feared relegation, and even flirted with a first half under Javi Gracia in 2019 before finishing 11th, and still reached the FA Cup final.
In the end, their decisions had proven to be sound, if perhaps cold. Pozzo and Duxbury were a shrewd duo with a keen eye for spotting the first sign of trouble at Vicarage Road, and would strike early before a manager could make things too stale. But any string of good dates can only last so long, and Watford were determined to keep trying their luck.
Things finally caught up with them in 2019/20, helped by a number of poor decisions. Gracia was sacked four games into the season, his second-half replacement Flores lasted just 12 games and their third manager of the season Nigel Pearson at just 22, leaving caretaker boss Hayden Mullins to oversee their relegation the last day of the season.
In Rob Edwards, we have appointed a manager who we all fully believe in, and a manager who will lead and drive this change. We will support Rob through thick and thin.
The calculated plan of the past had been replaced by chaos. Fast forward two years to another Premier League relegation, another three-manager season, then those Duxbury quotes from the summer – even he had been forced to admit defeat.
This apparent change in tactics, soul-searching and humility make Monday’s actions even stranger. Edwards’ start to life at Vicarage Road was not without its flaws, with the despondent defeat at Blackburn and the late draw against newly-promoted Sunderland seemingly sealing his fate with unmistakably poor results and performances.
But if Jewison Bennette hadn’t sent home this late leveler for the Black Cats in what proved Edwards’ last game, Watford would be fifth, four points adrift of second-placed Norwich, after their first 10 games at level of the championship.
“We felt that Rob had enough time to show us his team identity, however, the performances did not reflect our hopes and ambitions,” Pozzo told the Watford website when the announcement was made. decision. Even allowing for any justification for firing a manager so soon, that seems a brutally harsh assessment.
What will resonate more widely inside and outside Vicarage Road is the stark contradiction to Watford’s stated philosophy just 105 days earlier.
And reports in local media first that sporting director Cristiano Giaretta had been sacked, then that he instead kept his job at Edwards’ expense, did little to paint a picture of credibility. of a club once revered for passing under Pozzo and Duxbury.
Maybe a leopard doesn’t change its spots. Perhaps new head coach Slaven Bilic will bring Watford back to the Premier League on the first try. But even if he does, another wave of leadership nominations next season won’t surprise anyone – and those words of summer will ring as hollow as ever.
Watford’s next five games
October 2: Feed (A) – kick off 12h, live on sky sports football
October 5: Swansea (H) – kick off 7:45 p.m., live on sky sports football
October 8: Blackpool (A) – kick off 3 p.m.
October 15: Norwich (H) – kick off 7:45 p.m.
October 19: Millwall (A) – kick-off 8 p.m., live on sky sports football