Watford’s gap in thinking. And some say Sunderland are a basket case

Marco Silva: by Dom Fellowes (The Special One) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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.

M Salut, drawn by Matt, colouring by Jake
Click the image to return to the Salut! Sunderland home page

17 thoughts on “Watford’s gap in thinking. And some say Sunderland are a basket case”

  1. But unfortunately the truth isn’t so sensational so the mainstream media and the like have to print how evil the pozzos are! What a boring read the truth is ?

  2. The difficulty for outsiders passing comment on Watford is that they use their own long-standing models as the correct way of doing things and see Watford as ‘eccentric’, as the above article puts it.

    But if you look at the models of Watford, Chelsea, Man City – and an increasing number of other clubs doing better than historically they ever have – you’ll see that the manager-centric approach is no longer the best way of running a club.

    I have no true idea what Sunderland’s problems are, so I wouldn’t feel qualified to comment. But I do know that the Pozzo family have a successful business model that they’ve applied in the UK – and are reaping the benefit. It merits study by football fans more widely. “Knee-jerk logic” is very much one thing the Pozzo family don’t do.

    Personally, I find Watford’s approach a little soulless. I admire the Pozzo approach rather than warm to it. But I’m grateful that they’ve lifted my club from bankruptcy to surviving for 3 years in the Premier League. And I’m intrigued to see where they take the club next.

    • Good post. Outsiders can learn from insiders. You – I exclude the hard-of-thinking who have little to offer but yah-boo insults – have made this a worthwhile exercise

  3. (Via Facebook) from the Watford supporter quoted in the above article:

    Ah, as much as I can see the insanity of it all and how basically we have been mesmerised by the Premier League and would literally do anything to stay there – but, in Silva’s case I honestly believe that it was the only solution to a problem that has just got worse over the last few weeks.

    I was at King Power on a Saturday and some of the performances were utterly shocking. Something had gone terribly wrong. As for Saints, we absolutely destroyed them early in season at St Marys, one of the best away games I’ve been to in terms of an all round performance. The difference from a week ago was like chalk and cheese.

    Saying all that I’d be more than happy to return to the good old days, warts an all.

  4. I think the above covers the Silva situation.
    As for well run, we are financially stable, don’t spend over budget, scout cheap talent then sell high or loan out. It’s true about the amount of players – we own many that we will never see – 15 senior players out on loan I think. It’s a good income stream.
    Since the owners came in we have a superb ground now compared to 5 years ago, we have excellent upgraded training facilities and the best quality players that have ever been here. That said, apart from Gomes and Deeney we have nobody to hang our hat on although there are a few now that if they stay can be remembered in 30 years but I don’t hold my breath because of the business model.

  5. Ok my friend.

    Zola resigned
    Garcia resigned due to health reasons
    Sannino resigned
    Jokanovic rejected our contract offer
    Flores didn’t care
    Mazarri was useless, didn’t speak a word of English either even after a year
    Silva secretly spoke to the owners of another team, and asked our players to join him when he left, despite us telling him he was staying. We then still gave him three months to prove himself, during which he managed two wins in 16 games.

    • Thanks, Dan. Whereas Peter had only mild insult to offer, you provide detail that explains, well, a few of the surprisingly large number of managerial departures. It still looks an unstable club (however well run you all feel it may be) where loyalty – from anyone to anyone – is considered for wimps. There is no lack of affection in my post. I’d sooner have Watford in the Premier League than any club to its south. But Graham Taylor must be spinning in his grave.

    • Kneejerk response, devoid of the substance I now await. Tell me how owners who find it so difficult to live with anyone they hire are so brilliant. I am eager to learn

    • Flores and Mazzari were the only ones sacked. Flores completely lost interest which was a great shame. He sorted out our defence for the first year up without which we would have been straight back down. Mazarri with his lack of English and apparent lack of respect for the fans made his position untenable.
      The Pozzo family are running Watford their way, which does not fit the traditional English model, which means they get grief all round outside of Watford. I am happy and grateful for what they have done for Watford and they are in for the long term with stability around their backroom staff etc.

      • That’s more like it, Peter! Inspired by your fellow Watfiord fans …

        I thought mine was a perfectly reasoned piece and am happy that others disagree with my conclusions/assessment. That was the intention: to get people talking and this site has a long record of welcoming visitors who support other teams.

        Wjy do you exclude Dyche? Surely he was sacked, if not by them, at their bidding

  6. You know Silva secretly agreed a deal with Everton to join them and take several players with him – this while 10 or so games into the job at Watford?

    That and the subsequent form are the reasons he was sacked, and if you ask any Watford fan you’ll find they all agree it was the right decision.

    • But how many right decisions await you in the future? Was sacking Sean Dyche a right decision? Will the new man, with his recent underwhelming record, do remotely as well as Silva has, recent results notwithstanding? From the outside, it’s another case of football losing its marbles.

      • Dyche would never have wanted to work under the Pozzo system, he’s an old school manager not a head coach. New owners of any business have a type of manager they prefer and that’s why Zola was brought in. I’m sure Dyche was well paid off as well.

        Considering we reached the play-off final that season and had one of the most exciting seasons in our history, I would say it was the right decision. In fact the only head coach I was disappointed not to keep was the one who took us up.

        It might not look like it from the outside (unless you do your research) but Watford are one of the most stable and well run clubs in the country!

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