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End of Term Report Part 8 05/06/2015

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

41- Marco Motta

You can read too much into a monicker like “ex-Juventus full back”.  Consider, perhaps, hushed awed tones on foreign shores as a club brings in “ex-Liverpool full back” Stephen Warnock, or “ex-Manchester United midfielder” Chris Eagles.  In any era, let alone those of huge top flight squads, “ex-Juventus full back” covers a multitude of realities.  As it turns out, and given that we were never likely to have pulled in a peak-career Lilian Thuram on a short term contract, we did pretty well out of Marco.  His debut against Fulham was enough to confirm that we’d signed a tough, energetic, competent full back who was at the very least capable of providing Juan Carlos Paredes with some serious competition, and if he occasionally got caught flat footed and reacted with too much instinct and gusto and too little thought it was often with entertainingly brutal consequences.  It cost him – and us – at Derby, but only after an extremely harsh red card call, albeit one that he’d afforded the opportunity to be made.  Going forward he was bullish and willing, perhaps his best attacking performance coming in stomping all over the right flank in the first half of the final day of the season.  All told, not a bad showing at all…

Next Season: …but evidently not enough, despite Motta’s stated eagerness to stay with us into the top flight.  Which is probably fair enough; if Motta was a good, tough stopgap he was scarcely less erratic than Juan Carlos Paredes and considerably less of a bully.  Nonetheless, seeing his Watford career being quietly brought to an end with a “decided not to offer a contract to…” statement was a little odd.

Beppe Sannino

In the mid-eighties, looking back four managers would have meant looking back comfortably twenty years.  Now, given the seemingly inevitable but as yet unconfirmed departure of Slav, we’re looking back scarcely nine months to Beppe Sannino, a period that seems like twenty years in your mind’s eye but actually wasn’t.  As we’ve suggested before on these pages, the real surprise was not that Sannino resigned when he did but that he hadn’t gone during the summer;  signed to do a job – to rescue the Hornets from their nosedive and bring some discipline and defensive shape to a side lacking much of either – he did that job quickly and effectively.  Gregarious, emotional and popular with the supporters, there was never any great clamour for his dismissal from the stands.  I’ve rarely seen as shameful a capitulation as that against Huddersfield on the last day of 2013/14 though, everything about that day reeked and even if players bear a lot of the responsibility for that you had to wonder where the united way forward was going to come from on the back of it.  When Sannino was still ostensibly at the centre of a dressing room storm at the start of this campaign despite a reasonably strong start resultswise, it was only a matter of time.

Next Season: Beppe was Catania’s new boss within a fortnight of leaving Vicarage Road. He lasted three months, with Wikipedia currently citing a run of poor results and “a strained relationship with the club’s board”.  It was good to see Beppe send his wishes on our promotion; one imagines that wherever this unusual character’s next position is, it won’t be undertaken quietly.

Óscar García

In all honesty there’s not a lot to say here.  García had one match in charge, properly, before being put on medical leave and ultimately resigning altogether… we lost the match but I didn’t see it.  All you can really reflect on is that those who questioned the job he’d done at Brighton as a commendation might want to reflect on Brighton’s season this time round, for all that they’d lost players in the interim. García and Watford were unlucky…  the Hornets recovered, we hope that he will too.

Next Season: García reportedly turned down the Barcelona Sporting Director role in January in favour of searching for a management job in the UK.  Not happened yet, but you wouldn’t rule it out.

Billy McKinlay

I don’t really have a problem with Billy McKinlay’s services being disposed of, if I’m honest.  Yes, it was only eight days (or whatever), but I don’t doubt that we paid him more than he was due (given that he never signed a contract), and it’s easy to sympathise with an anxious response to Brighton (H), when he sat up defensively against a moderate side and declared himself happy with a draw.  To dispose of McKinlay at that stage took some balls, and will not have been done lightly…  knee-jerk erratic behaviour has been characteristic of many other owners both at Watford and elsewhere, but not this lot.  Some were anxious, most prepared to trust the Pozzo’s judgement.  So what was really unfortunate was the decision to appoint McKinlay in the first place… given that something obviously happened quickly to cause Pozzo to revise that judgement.  A difficult position for the owners, a new manager having just unexpectedly quit in such circumstances… but not our finest hour all told.

Next Season:  McKinlay has joined David Moyes’ Real Sociedad coaching staff in November, his new side finishing twelfth in La Liga.

Slaviša Jokanović

Inevitably, there are several versions of The Facts doing the rounds.  Very loosely, at one extreme Slav has chosen to follow up his overseeing of promotion with an extraordinarily bold demand for a long, lucrative contract.  At the other, such contract discussions as there have been have been brief, Slav was offered a token increase and when he didn’t accept it all negotiations ceased.  The real real real truth, if there is such a thing, is probably somewhere on a sliding axis between the two.  Assuming the first extreme for the moment…  one can only support the Pozzos’ stance, however well Slav did last year (and we’ll get to that).  As when they threatened to play hardball with Matej Vydra in the summer of 2013, the Pozzos’ model only stands a chance of working if you make the difficult decisions when the time comes.  Bringing in players, building the squad, that’s the fun bit.  Refusing to compromise on salary structure and contract format has to be part of that too.  If the Pozzos made a habit of caving in to salary demands neither they nor Udinese would have lasted – and that’s the key thing, I thing, prolonged viability – as long or as well as they have.  The other extreme, the Slav as disposable extreme…  seems incredibly harsh, if true.  But then, it’s their money and their decisions.  What is absolutely clear, and has been clear throughout all of the managerial comings and goings of the season – is that we are doing more than paying mere lip service to the “continental structure” of the way the team is managed.  The Head Coach is a vital role, but that’s all it is… it doesn’t define the whole club.  Were that not so we would never have gotten ourselves promoted in such a perversely unsettled season.  So…  if Pozzo genuinely doubts whether Slav is the man for the next bit then my inclination is, with a heavy heart, to trust his judgement.  It’s not like we have a choice for one thing.  It’s not like he hasn’t earned a bit of slack for another.

To reflect, there can be no doubt that Slav did / has done, an extraordinary job; the suggestion that he was a leftfield appointment, someone with a track record based in leagues that we knew nothing about and therefore unqualified seems an awfully long time ago.  He picked up a strong squad of players and blended it into something that we’d only glimpsed previously, or pictured in our mind’s eye.  In the second half of the season the team was relentless, it was almost as if we wouldn’t lose a game without a mitigating circumstance – a dodgy decision, a freak late goal too late to overturn.  Through it all, Slav’s rotation – something that Zola and Sannino had both been criticised for when thing went wrong – seemed like the easiest thing in the world.  Hurdles were overcome, tactical surgery invariably produced improved second half performances and through his aggressively deadpan, monotone delivery he was on his way to becoming a cult figure…

Next Season: …so it’s a real shame that it ends as it appears to have ended.  It’s not just about being successful as a supporter, you want to be part of something and associate with the people too, you want something tangible and consistent to be a part of.  It doesn’t look like Slav will be part of that constant going forward, but will have plenty of options and however it’s been playing out, he’ll remain one of the most successful bosses in Watford’s history.


That’s it for the looking backward stuff (finally….).  Enjoy the summer, we’ll be back before the fun starts again.


1. seanf81 - 05/06/2015

Brilliant analysis as always. All eight were must reads. Cheers

Matt Rowson - 05/06/2015

Thx Sean

2. Harefield Hornet - 05/06/2015

Still not sure how to feel about this. Now that Flores has finally been confirmed officially as head coach our only option is to embrace the change and look forward I suppose. One thing is for sure though – life is never dull at the Vic these days! I’m pretty sure the players will accept this and move on, lets face it they had enough practice last season. Troy said something rather odd about being ready to play for whoever was in charge next season before the news broke about the stalled negotiations, so perhaps the vibes were alrerady evident. and it wasn’t one of his usual tounge in cheek remarks either. Great summer eveyrbody and cheers big Slav – thanks for the memories.

3. Martin Coupe - 05/06/2015

I echo Sean’s comments, your time and effort putting these together is much appreciated. Looking forward to the new season preview…

4. Luke - 05/06/2015

Great stuff Matt. Thank you for clarifying my own thinking with your thunking. I agree getting promoted in such “a perversely unsettled season” was remarkable. And so much fun too.

5. Peter - 06/06/2015

Can only echo others comments about how enjoyable a read you and Ian always provide. Thoughtful and insightful the WO could do a lot worse than carry these as an article each week as great post match opinion and superb writing. So thanks.

Glad that you have pointed out the lesser – but vital – role the head coach plays within the Pozzo’s model. This is something that few seem to grasp – especially non Watford fans. This is a different model that requires a different approach and therefore a different appreciation from a supporters perspective. It is interesting how many players reference the relationship and importance of the owner in glowing terms.

This, as you say, is a model designed with longevity in mind. In the gap between Graham Taylor’s two reigns the club struggled to get out from under the shadow of the great man – the Pozzo’s model seeks less dependence on one mans brilliance and places more trust in the process and the method. In this way we are insulated from one person leaving and ripping the guts out of the club.

Rodgers, MacKay and Dyche have demonstrated that they are very capable managers however they were not able to show that to their full potential under the previous owners – my point is that good managers/head coaches are a lot easier to find than good owners. I think in this respect we have hit the jackpot and if they want to make some decisions that seem initially a little odd – well that’s fine by me.

Thanks once again for a great season of great thunks

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