Can Watford FC Bounce Straight Back in the Premier League?


“Watford FC” (CC BY 2.0) by Ungry Young Man

A five-year stay in the Premier League ended for Watford this past summer, just a season after they reached the FA Cup final. The controversial Hornets owners, the Pozzo Family, have a reputation for hiring and firing coaches at will throughout their time at the helm.

It appears as though providing some stability at Vicarage Road isn’t their primary concern. When Watford last earned promotion from the Championship in 2014-15, they had four different managers. Normally speaking, that is not what you would call a recipe for success.

Ruthlessness is not without merit if the ends justify the means, though. While a trigger-happy boardroom chief is something any coach taking the Hornets job must accept goes with the territory in Hertfordshire, this way of doing things somewhat backfired on the owners with relegation last term.

Many were left scratching their heads by the dismissal of Nigel Pearson, the third different permanent manager of the last campaign at the club, with only two games left. Watford failed to win either of those under caretaker Hayden Mullins and dropped out of the Premier League as a result.

Their return to the Championship started under former Serbia and Montenegro international Vladimir Ivic. The Pozzo Family have sacked so many coaches that they sourced this one from Israel after he won consecutive league  championships out there with Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Ivic lasted just 22 matches and four months in charge in the Vicarage Road hot seat. He was replaced by Xisco, a Spanish winger who broke into the Valencia side that last won La Liga in 2003-04 under Rafael Benitez.

Surpassing themselves in terms of left-field appointments, Watford’s current boss cut his coaching teeth with Dinamo Tbilisi where he won the Georgian league as both player and manager. Xisco is still a rookie really with just a short albeit successful stint at the biggest club in the Russian satellite state.

He arrived at Vicarage Road with just four months of managerial experience and no working knowledge of English football, yet that isn’t thought to put the club at a disadvantage. Watford started 2021 in the top six, and the Championship betting on who will go up currently has them as 2/1 chances for promotion.

League leaders Norwich City and Bournemouth, both teams relegated from the Premier League alongside the Hornets, are shorter prices. The same goes for Brentford, who have yet to reach the dizzying heights of the top flight in their history.

Just three clubs can be promoted from the Championship at the end of the campaign. Nothing short of that for Watford will keep Xisco in the job, and even then, as Slavisa Jokanovic can tell you, the owners may still change coach.

This approach has been the Pozzo Family’s modus operandi since taking control of the Hornets in June 2012. That explains why club captain Troy Deeney has played for 15 different coaches in his ten-and-a-half years at Vicarage Road. It is easy to be critical of the Watford way of doing things but, if they do bounce straight back into the Premier League, few fans will complain about how they went about it.

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