Watford fan Andy Lewers, the man behind popular fan site, The Hornets’ Nest, talks to COPA90 about Javi Gracia’s sacking. He explains how the decision was in line with the owners’ business model, and why others shouldn’t be too quick to judge.
There’s always that one club who has a horror start to the season. Sadly for me, this season that happens to be my club: Watford.
First things first – the vast majority of us are not glad, or happy, that Javi has been sacked. We loved Javi and desperately wanted it to work out for him. He understood the club, integrated with supporters and, having only been the second boss in our history to guide us to an FA Cup Final, has gone down in the Watford history books for all the right reasons.
That doesn’t, however, mean we don’t understand why he’s been let go – we completely get it.
Watford fans have become accustomed to poorly researched opinions following head coach departures, constantly having to defend ourselves against the ill-informed. So, here I am to give you all a little lesson on how Watford Football Club do things; why it works and why talk of relegation is way too premature.
Where to start? Let’s begin with the apparent ‘revolving door’ policy Watford have in place (which quite simply isn’t the case). People forget that Chelsea have had three head coaches during Gracia’s reign at Watford, yet because they’re ‘expected to challenge for trophies’ each season, no one bats an eyelid.
Of all the head coaches during the Pozzo’s ownership (that’s nine before Quique’s second spell), only four have been sacked. McKinlay was shown the door after just eight days because the owners believed they acted too quickly in appointing him. Although harsh, it led to Jokanovic being appointed and him guiding us to promotion from the Championship.
The next to be sacked was Mazzarri, after a slump in form and a toxic atmosphere at the club. Silva was next – the less said about him the better – and now Javi. The others have either resigned, or come to the end of their contract.
The reason people struggle to come to terms with Watford’s apparent high turnover of managers is because they don’t understand the business model that’s in place at the club. While traditionally, the manager of a football club will have a say in transfers, at Watford, the players who come and go are selected by the owners, who benefit from one of the widest and most sophisticated scouting networks in football.
Watford insist the person in charge of the team is referred to as a ‘Head Coach’ and not ‘Manager’. The difference being that a head coach is simply in charge of coaching sessions and preparing the team for matches, every other ongoing in the background is taken care of by others.
This means, should Watford terminate the contract of their Head Coach early, there is still continuity in the background and still plenty of stability. It’s also why there won’t be much time in between sacking one coach and hiring another (31 minutes on Saturday, to be precise).
The owners do not want a period of limbo and any uncertainty. While we may lose a head coach, training can carry on as normal the following day.
So why did Javi end up getting the boot? Well, despite reaching that FA Cup Final, Watford’s league form was pretty much on par with that of a relegation side. We collected 33 points in our last 32 games, with our last two wins coming against Fulham – who we relegated that night – and an already-relegated Huddersfield.
Our last clean sheet was in February, and he persistently used players out-of-form in a formation that had long since been figured out by opposition sides. While a number of Watford fans (myself included) think he was hard done to, especially given the lack of defensive recruitment over the summer, it’s difficult not to justify his departure.
So in came Flores (again), who has a point to prove at Watford. Contrary to popular belief, Quique wasn’t sacked at the end of his first season in charge. Both he and the owners mutually agreed not to carry on for a second season at Vicarage Road. He is still very much respected at Watford, and got an excellent send off in his final game in 2016.
"Quique’s strengths lie in his ability to organise a defence, something Watford desperately need."
Back then, his remit was simply to keep us in the Premier League, and it feels very much like he’s been brought in for the same reason this time around.
Quique’s strengths lie in his ability to organise a defence, something Watford desperately need. During the 2015/16 season, Watford conceded three or more goals during a game just four times – we’re already halfway to that total this season.
With a defensive mindset and better players at his disposal since his last stint at the club, there’s no reason why Flores can’t succeed for a second time at Vicarage Road.
So, next time Watford part ways with their Head Coach (and don’t be surprised if it’s at the end of this season), just know that everything is under control. Our owners know exactly what they’re doing.
We’ll miss Javi, but it’s time for Quique for write another chapter in Watford’s history.
Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyLewers