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Will Pozzo gold bring about Bassini’s end-of-reign bow? 24/06/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Not a clue, is the honest answer… and this article is more a snapshot of  sentiment at this point in time as the sands shift beneath our feet on a daily basis than any kind of prediction as to how it will end up.  Good headline though, isn’t it…?

It’s always awkward when people employed to talk about football are forced out of their (often rather lazy) comfort zone and into discussing the business side instead.  Quite what qualifies Lawro or Hansen to comment on any behind-the-scenes machinations isn’t clear, though that doesn’t prohibit such questions being posed on occasions with predictably grotesque consequences.

Here, nobody pays us to talk about football and the beauty of blogging is that pretty much any idiot can do it; we do so because we enjoy it.  This blog is the viewpoint of two supporters; we support a football team because we enjoy watching football, primarily, and being part of something.  Not because the business of trading in football clubs, which at times is often murky, disheartening and pathetic, holds any great fascination in itself.  What follows has to be read with that caveat in mind…

Laurence Bassini then.  Well, where to start?  Where to finish is easier, frankly, given the club owner’s apparently litigious frame of mind.  About now ought to be pretty safe.

What’s beyond dispute is that if it’s been possible, whilst squinting furiously, to overlook Bassini’s appalling PR, less-than-crystal-clear background and (generously) questionable personnel decisions for much of this season whilst Sean Dyche’s team has overachieved pretty spectacularly, that moment has passed.

The paucity of reliable information has made following proceedings somewhat challenging;  Kevin Affleck’s well-circulated tweets from somewhere in the middle-east may be well-informed (if soured somewhat by the suspicion of an axe that needs grinding) but tend to suggest and insinuate more than they explain – a tiresome trend duplicated as ever by several who see themselves as “in the know”.  The Watford Observer is reporting facts where it can but seems reluctant to speculate or expose itself.  As for Bassini, nothing that comes directly from the owner has felt terribly reliable at any stage;  nonetheless it’s been bizarre to those of us on the outside looking in to see things emerging from the club in recent days that are in direct contradiction to Bassini’s contributions, as if the club itself had tired of the lack of clarity and started to issue press releases of its own accord.

Using the word “choice” in this context is not appropriate.  We don’t even have a handle of what’s happening, let alone any means to influence it, let alone any clear alternatives.  But it would be a pretty grim reality that wasn’t preferable to the status quo, with stories of members of staff having the police called on them for refusing to pass on the keys to the club safe, wages not being paid and the club apparently as stable as a house of cards.  (He can’t sue me for saying that, can he?  Can he sue me for saying that?).

What to make of Pozzo and the takeover, then?  Not being Bassini is probably a start in itself, but not a be-all and end-all.  There were those that delighted at the Russos taking over chairmanship from Graham Simpson, if anyone needs reminding about difficulties inherent in distinguishing frying pans and fires.

The mooted appendage to a group of Pozzo-owned clubs covers  a wide range of outcomes, from the beneficial to the downright depressing.  At risk, of course, is the club’s very identity.  None of us signed up to support a nursery club for one thing, and its not difficult to envisage that the priorities of a community club (the work undertaken by the Community Trust for example) wouldn’t necessarily be shared by an overseas owner.

On the other hand, this article seemed pretty encouraging when taken at face value.  Youth development, check.  Tight business model, check.  Mutually beneficial?  Looks that way. Selling your best players?  Well that would hardly be a radical change of tack, nor is it anything but sensible for a club that needs to continue to attract – and thus not obstruct – young talent. One reservation is the source of the article; a single piece from a hitherto unknown (to us) journalist does not constitute evidence of objectivity.  Nonetheless – and not least given Pozzo’s unquestionably strong record in, you know, running football clubs… reasons to be optimistic, before one even considers the devil we know.

The other issue of great concern, however, is the mooted change in management.  Indeed, several of a group associated with a less than glorious period in West Ham’s recent history – Gianluca Nani, Scott Duxbury and Gianfranco Zola – have had their names linked with recent developments.

It’s the name of Zola that stands out.  A likeable public persona and allowances for the challenges he faced as manager at Upton Park don’t outweigh limited experience – at any level.  And, of course, the fact that the present incumbent has done a rather good job in these or any circumstances, thank you very much.  As an indicator of Pozzo’s familiarity with the club that he’s buying, this isn’t great… the connotations of a high-profile former Chelsea striker and Italian international being installed as manager shouldn’t have been lost on Pozzo, it’s a concern that his name was leaked so early.

Commenting as airily as this is low risk, of course.  We can’t affect anything very much, and the likelihood is that everything will have changed by the time you finish reading this article.  For the moment, we’re cautiously optimistic.

But ask us again tomorrow.



1. Leggatts 'orn - 24/06/2012

Having been involved in a good few business mergers and acquisitions over the years, these can be stressful and things do go wrong, despite the best intentions of all involved. Don’t forget there will be wall to wall lawyers, earning fees that would make most eyes water, sometimes you wonder if they are really interested in getting the deal done, or are more worried about the size of their next invoice. Directors do throw hissy fits and chuck dummies, but then in most cases there isn’t a local paper waiting to publish their latest rants and tantrums. Any number of reasons this could have got sticky, heck the Pozzo’s could have sent their Euros to NatWest, never for them to be seen again. I may be living in cloud cuckoo land, rather than N.Watford, but what I have read about the Italians sounds pretty good, so cool heads, yes that includes you Mr Bassini and let’s hope this deal goes through, because the future does look a bit brighter under the Tricolori. Cool heads everyone. Oh and Zola, no tks.

2. Martin Pollard - 24/06/2012

Spot on with this one gents.

3. Simon - 25/06/2012

Matt, you’ve pretty much summed up my views on this.

It seems reasonably clear that we’ll end up with new owners one way or another (which, on the basis of recent antics seems to be a good thing) and it seems fairly unlikely that the perfect owner (ie one that has sufficient cash to help us out when required but wants to keep us on an even keel businesswise so we’ll be OK should anything happen to him or his money) is waiting just round the corner.

Given that, the Pozzo bid seems, on the information presently available, to be a decent option. It’s difficult, though, to form any sort of concrete view until they have been able to disclose more about their plans for the club and the business plan they’re looking to work to. It certainly seems a little early to be as categorically certain of the merits as some on other forums appear to be.

In addition to the notes of caution you raise, the other one that I’m struggling slightly with is that Italy and Spain have fairly similar playing cultures which are very different to Championship football. In particular, the Pozzos appear to have achieved particular success by mining contacts in the South American markets. Although not exclusively so, players from South America have traditionally settled more quickly into the playing style in Spain and Italy than they have in England. This will all no doubt have been taken into consideration in making the bid but I’d be interested to see how this element plays out.

4. nick - 25/06/2012

As with everything we seem to have done over the past decade its been another rollercoaster for the fans.

I dont subscribe to Basini being Lucifers human form and I think he’s made a decent fist of the last 14 months but I do find his lack of transparency frustrating. Its also clear to see he’s lost it when even his clubs website is contradicting him. You kind of get the feeling he’s been sent out to play whilst the adults talk.

I’m excited about the Pozzos. I think you can make a decent economic case for continuing the good work of the trust and building community ties with the likes of Arsenal, Spurs, QPR, MK Dons and Stevenage on your doorstep competing for floating fans.

I was very disappointed by the WSTs statement about the takeover. It was ill written and poorly researched. Their point about ‘remember Granada only just avoided relegation’ was one of the funniest things I have read for a while. This is the same Granada that have just been promoted twice on the trot to get into that league. I have to wonder what their aim was in writing such a statement.

5. Back from Hammerau - 25/06/2012

Would it be libellous to say that “nothing befitted his tenure more than the nature of its ending”?
Or is it libellous simply to ask that question?

6. @yellowyell - 25/06/2012

I liked the statement from the club on Friday saying that “the deal is progressing nicely”. Doesn’t the use of the adjective “nicely” echo a particularly favourite word of a certain Sean Dyche? Maybe it’s just me but I couldn’t help thinking that whoever penned that statement chose the wording rather deliberately –

7. sahorn1 - 26/06/2012

Nice headline!, good summary.

8. Sim - 26/06/2012

A very well written and considered piece as usual

On Bassini, he’s obviously been a PR disaster and will be remembered as such, but I can’t help but feel he’s had a positive impact on the club in real terms. The new seats in the Rookery, the new pitch, clearing debt, new players and refurbishing the Red Lion – you could argue that whether that should have been a priority or not – were all promises that were delivered on in stark contrast to the previous regimes.

I agree with your points about the Pozzo model (tight business model, youth development etc). I’d add that seeing as owners such as these are plainly not in it to make money from Watford – selling assets etc – then their interest likely stems from the footballing benefits to their other clubs chiefly Udinese. Whether this is a good or bad thing for Watford remains to be seen. If our own academy suffers due to us having to field young players from either Udinese or Grenada then we’ve effectively sacrificed what we’re most proud of for financial stability. Not that we have the choice of course.

I am however cautiously optimistic and welcome the prospect of being run by ‘fooballing’ owners once more. However, those cheering on the takeover by echoing the bizarre sentiment felt by many fans across the country – present company excluded of course – who see having a benevolent owner spending millions on their club as a right of a football fan, will be thankfully disappointed.

9. Harefield Hornet - 29/06/2012

Looks like the deal has been done – all aboard the WFC rollercoaster (again)

10. JohnM - 30/06/2012

The takeover has been confirmed. Now, at last, I can look forward to a season without the nagging worry of financial meltdown or administration. Yes, i realise that the Pozzo family will not pour in floods of money, and may bring in people that we might not be totally happy about. But, mainly, we can follow a team on the pitch knowing that they will be secure, no matter how they perform.
And, oh boy, this is going to be very entertaining—.

11. Ralph Jackson - 30/06/2012

When Bassini took over I tried to find out online about his background for what he might have to offer in the cause of Watford FC. What I could find was of course scanty indeed and none too encouraging. That, mixed with reports from the usual sources, left me fearing the worst at the time, repeating the prayer: please God may we not plunge into admin in a couple of years’ time out of this, for that would have been a disaster for reasons much more fundamental than just the loss of 10 points. I remained sceptical, waiting for the Friday morning bombshell to arrive in the Watford Observer, but latterly Mr Bassini had been winning me over for all the reasons mentioned by Sim above.

Going into last season on the back of a fourth successive year of annual cutbacks in the playing budget, keeping out of the bottom three appeared to be the realistic objective, and in truth that was probably still the case until the beginning of March. But the team came through the test with flying colours and far exceeded expectation, aided significantly by the emergence of Sean Murray, as well as the sheer never-say-die industry of Troy Deeney which we are now going to miss for at least some of next season. Sean Dyche and his staff have done an excellent job in what had been tricky circumstances. It would be harsh on this management if they were to be cast aside for this new era.

Should we draw comparisons between the Pozzo takeover and our Italian misadventure of a decade ago? I’ve read the same things about their stewardship of Udinese and Granada and was encouraged also, especially about the youth development and sound financial management. But my over-riding hope out of all of this IS that we keep our identity, all those things that make us Watford,and that the Community side stays intact and continues to flourish. Nursery club? What a ghastly concept, no thanks, but where’s the line one crosses over to become one? Having a few players on loan? The destiny of, and what transfer monies we realise for,our academy products?

Good article Matt, the only thing I would say is that if Gianfranco Zola has no experience, then how much managerial experience did Aidy Boothroyd,Malky Mackay,Brendan Rodgers or Sean Dyche have when they took up the reins at Vicarage Road?

JohnM - 01/07/2012

Agree with the above. I feel that, regretfully, some sacrifices to ensure the financial security of the club for the forseeable future would be worthwhile. However, I am sure that these guys seriously desire Watford to be a premiership club and the money that comes with it—otherwise why would they buy the club? I am encouraged that supporters of the Posso’s other clubs are, on the whole, positive about their owners. Personally, I prefer owners who believe in sound financial management—and practise such successfully— than those who pour in money then dissappear in three or four years. Yes, it does seem positive.
Not so happy about the team management, tho. Very hard on S.D. if he is eased out—and that coming from someone who was less than positive about him nine months ago. It seems many West Ham fans liked Zola and his style of play during their period of serious financial problems. If the new owners prefer him—well, lets give him a chance. Sadly, it seems customary for new owners to dump existing managers. I feel less comfortable with Nani and Duxbury, and their connections with West Ham’s recent problems. However, I am sure that, if they don’t deliver, they will be made an offer that they can’t refuse.

12. JohnM - 02/07/2012

Pozzo statement in Italian press states that Zola deal is virtually agreed. Not entirely happy, but they have bought the club. Also statement to the general meaning of ‘We want to take this historic club back to the Premiership’.
One thought. Checking the Pozzo’s record on managers at their other clubs—they don’t have much patience. If they appoint Zola, and he fails to deliver—don’t expect him to last beyond the end of the coming season!

13. Mark - 03/07/2012

Modern football for you.

A big shame for us and Dyche himself to lose a decent young manager who worked with the players so well.

However new owners can do what they like..

I only hope Zola is given TIME to put his mark in terms of tactics and new signings on the team.

Am a bit worried we might end up with a load of inexperienced youngsters from overseas who cannot cope with the demands of the Championship.

Naturally we have to back the new guys and give them our full support though.

14. Roger Simpson - 03/07/2012

Not happy about Dyche being replaced by Zola, though.
Shades of Vialli?

15. JohnM - 04/07/2012

Zola has a great deal of respect within the football community, and is regarded as an honorable man. From that point I have no problems. The worry is that, like Vialli, we are having a manager imposed upon the club who has little or no knowledge of championship football—-or has not grown up throughout their life in English lower league football. An analysis of top rated Premiership/old First Division/international footballers over many years shows that, generally, they do not cope well when managing lower level clubs. They usually try to impose a style of football that cannot cope with lower level, often more direct, styles of football, or they bring in players who struggle to cope with lower league demands, or they fail to communicate with hoary, scarred and basic lower league footballers.
As I write this, I have a newspaper report in front of me claiming that a number of Watford players are very upset with the treatment of SD. Not a good way to start (although one cannot always believe newspaper stories).
Don’t get me wrong—the takeover of the club has got to be a good thing. I am sure we will look back in five years from a far better financial, playing and ground infrastructure position than we are now. But there will be short term problems. If Zola is unsuccessful—well, the Pozzo’s change managers more often than I brush my teeth.

Matt Rowson - 04/07/2012

Do you have a reference for that “analysis” John? Not that there isn’t some truth in what you say… but plenty of managers who played at their football at the top of the game did very well as managers by starting lower down also. Martin O’Neill, Paul Lambert and Gus Poyet spring to mind.

Mark - 04/07/2012

Noticed that too but thenthere wasn’t a quote from a CURRENT player..just Sordell who would have great respect for Dyche as he was the one who trusted Marvin to start games unlike Malky.

I wouldn’t expect the players to be happy with Dyche going unlike when a manager not performing well leaves but some will be happy to play under somebody they might view as a legend of the game.

JohnM - 04/07/2012

Ummm! Would point out that, having mentioned I was making a comment on this site, I had the newspaper article placed in front of me, as I was typing, and a fat finger jabbing at it a couple of feet in front of my eyes. I commented ‘off ther cuff’ at that point. Actually, Mark, I totally agree with your comment.
Matt, I don’t claim that ALL top level players fail at management at lower levels—just most. It is often lower level ex-league players who seem to. succeed (G.T. for example). Perhaps because they have more to prove, whereas successful players may feel a little overconfident . How many ex-England players have become successful managers over the last 30 years at lower levels? How many thought Adams and Butcher would set the world alight? I admit that failure can often be due to overly high expectation from the relevant teams supporters. Do you recollect Bobby Charltons abysmal few months at Preston (?) after great enthusiasm at his appointment?. But, of course, some do succeed. So there is hope for Zola, who, actually, was not that bad at West Ham—in the circumstances.
I now stand against the archery target waiting for the arrows—-!

16. Johnnyboy - 05/07/2012

Like everyone I am sorry to see Sean Dyche go who I think performed ahead of expectation. There is bound to be some movement among managers in the championship and Division 1 before the season starts so hopefully he will find something soon. Also, it’s not a bad thing to be an ex Watford manager;League Cup final manager, Liverpool manager, England No 2 and, Northampton Town manager
Now, with regards to Zola, he does have reputation for working with younger players – Italian Under 21’s – so on a positive side if he brings through and develops our young players he will certainly have a M Rowson eating out of his hand

17. Harefield Hornet - 05/07/2012

It now looks as though we are getting an ex Napoli -Juventus coach installed as Zola’s assistant. Dyche must be the unluckiest manager in Watford’s history – simply a case of being in the job at the wrong time.

Like them or not, we obviously have no choice other than to embrace these changes and I can’t help feeling that although we may lose the “Old Watford” for ever, the positives will outweigh the negatives. One thing is for certain, we couldn’t continue as we were. Three sided ground, unable to hang on to players, unable to hang on to managers, a month to month saga of whether the bills/wages would be paid and the certainty that the former owner could hit the sel-destruct button at any given time.

Come on you Horns!

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