Monsieur Salut looks at the case study in eccentric football management that is Watford FC – a rarity among clubs in making Sunderland look stable and serene – and wonders whether sacking Marco Silva and installing yet another new boss will make the slightest difference to their prospects …
Let us be cruelly blunt. It is not how football should be but no one outside Watford bothers too much which of the main English divisions – Premier, Championship or Leagues One/Two – they play in. Remember how little the rest of football truly savours a Wear-Tyne derby and multiply the couldn’t-care-less-factor by a dozen.
It is a small-time, small-town club with a modest fan base and, or so it perhaps should be, modest levels of expectation. In other words, it is what we have always admired as a proper football club, morally streets ahead of the London and North-western brands that dominate the game.
One of our Watford interviewees last season put it quite well:
Salut! Sunderland: are you happy with Vicarage Road despite its obvious limitations or would you be seriously excited, despite the nostalgia, if the club had greater ambition and looked for a Premier-sized ground?
Del Day, Watford fan: I love Vicarage Road and never want to change it. We are a small, family club that is more than happy with the size it is. Let’s be honest our real hardcore support is around 10–12,000. The rest are there at the moment because we are doing well. That never lasts, being a Watford fan is a transient business, its either great or it’s awful. The ground is more than capable of fulfilling the needs of success and failure.
There are perks to being responsible for Watford FC. They’re close enough to London to make recruiting decent foreign and demestic talent – ie young men whose heads, along with the heads of their Wags, are turned by thoughts of life in or near the capital – a lot easier than it is for any North-eastern club.
Then, if a glance at the table shows them in 10th place, as now, or fifth, as they were not so long ago, does that not in itself suggest the sort of overachievement of which any owner capable of joined-up thinking should be proud?
Ah, someone wrote, but just four points above third bottom. Leaving aside the thought that Sunderland would have relished being four points above the drop zone at any stage of last season (or now), there are still 10 clubs below Watford and none has a better goal difference.
So what better time than to fire the manager, Marco Silva? That is the kind of kneejerk logic that drives the suits of varying nationality who now run football.
Eight defeats in 12 games is a poor run of form. But when the club attempts to justify the crazed policy of getting rid of managers – even when called head coaches – at the drop of a hat (I make Marco Silva’s replacement, Javi Gracia, the 14th in 10 years, which makes Sunderland’s questionable obsession with firing and hiring look almost like a period of calm, rational stewardship).
The present owners, the Pozzo family, can be blamed for only nine of the departures, though the fact that these started with the dismissal of Sean Dyche, as reward for taking Watford to its highest position in four years, gives an idea of the scale of crude ruthlessness involved.
The excuse this time is that Silva lost his way after being approached for the Everton job. I have no doubt he found it a tempting proposition. I also have no doubt that smart owners should be honoured, not indignant to see their managers in demand, and grateful to hang on to them. Surely they are not expecting a degree of loyalty that they would never dream of giving.
Out with the old, then, and in with the new. Javi who? Perhaps an unfair question since he’s managed almost as many clubs as Watford have had managers. But never, it seems for very long. The Telegraph tells us he’s been “out of work since last June, following an unhappy season in charge of Rubin Kazan”.
The Pozzos claim the catalyst for their decision was “that unwarranted [Everton] approach, something which the board believes has seen a significant deterioration in both focus and results to the point where the long-term future of Watford FC has been jeopardised”.
First game in charge for the new miracle worker? Southampton away in the FA Cup on Saturday. Check the betfair £100 free bet offer to find up-to-date odds. My hunch is that there will be no new manager bounce and the bookies currently agree: 9/10 for a home win, 27/10 draw, 13/4 away win.
I await with interest a sharp upward climb of the table, from the present, utterly realistic
10th, and a narrowing of the odds against relegation. Or another swift sacking.