If you watched closely enough, and weren’t watching the last few excruciating minutes of the game against Newcastle United through your hands help up in front of your face, you’d have seen the cool, calm and collected outlook of Quique Sanchez Flores disappear momentarily around 4.45pm. His mask, very briefly, slipped.
Usually the coolest man in the stadium, the head coach was trying to whip the crowd into a frenzy and implore them to roar his team over the line to a significant win. Shortly after the whistle blew for the final time you couldn’t move for fist-pumping and hugging in the technical area. These kind of frenzied celebrations, which only sport can really elicit, are normally led by chief scout Filippo Giraldi and the goalkeeping coach Paolo De Toffol. Not on this occasion. Sanchez Flores was the ringmaster, turning to face the crowd in the Sir Elton John Stand and marking the three points with an extended double fist pump and a roar.
What it did show is that all this nonsense from coaches and managers about the next game, taking one game at a time and all matches being as important as the one before and the one after is, largely, codswallop.
“It was one of the most important matches in the league,” Sanchez Flores said when asked by us about the emotion at the final whistle. “Against Newcastle, it felt like something more. Maybe because we can make a difference [if we beat Newcastle] and we had the need to win. We needed to show Vicarage Road we are the same team. We recuperated the energy and we played really, really well. We like to win always, to be competitive in every single match, but it was important to win for the morale of the players.”
A fifth straight league defeat would have led to increasingly nervous looks over the shoulder and talk of being dragged into a relegation battle. You can forget all that now after the 2-1 win over the Magpies.
“We are lucky because since the beginning we never have had the feeling we are in panic, that we are near the bottom,” he said. “It is true we had a bad run but this is part of football. We have always been in the position between ninth and 12th – this is a good position for Watford. Yes we make mistakes but the feelings with the team and the players are always the same – that we are very competitive.”