Watford’s sporting director Luke Dowling and Hornets’ consultant Nicola Salerno will meet their former employers next month after Watford were drawn against Leeds United in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Dowling, who oversees the UK arm of Watford’s transfer business, was a recruitment consultant at Elland Road in 2014 while Salerno, a close aide of owner Gino Pozzo and a regular at the training ground, worked under Massimo Cellino until June last year.
Leeds, meanwhile, have two players with former Watford connections in their ranks. Rangy midfielder Toumani Diagouraga, who scored in the win over Bolton Wanderers yesterday, and former loanee Liam Bridcutt anchor the Leeds midfield. Watford’s Under-21 coach Harry Kewell made his name as a flying winger at Leeds United, although his relationship with the fans turned sour when he joined Galatasaray.
Watford are likely to play Leeds at Vicarage Road on Saturday February 20 at 3pm as it is unlikely to be moved for TV coverage. It will be the first time the Hornets have met Leeds in the FA Cup. They have played each other three times in the League Cup, most famously in 1992 when goals from David Holdsworth and Jason Drysdale helped stun a Leeds side featuring Eric Cantona. The winners of this fifth-round tie will earn £180,000 in prize money and then be one win away from a semi-final at Wembley.
One Leeds fan has already tried to stoke things up ahead of the game, goading Troy Deeney about coming up against Giuseppe Bellusci. The defender was sent off in the last meeting between the two sides at Vicarage Road.
There was a spark between the two clubs when they met in an U21 clash at London Colney in October. Lewie Coyle, who is the brother of pro boxer Tommy, sparked a 21-man melee with a reckless tackle on Ashley Charles. He was shown a straight red card. Alex Jakubiak described the challenge as “unacceptable”.
Watford last reached the fifth round in 2009 while the previous time they were in the Premier League, in 2006/07, they reached the semi-final, losing to Manchester United at Villa Park.