Quique Sanchez Flores is not one to get too high when things are going well or too low when things are, well, not going so well. He will have been one of the least concerned at the club about the outcome of the FA Cup quarter-final draw last night. Not because the head coach isn’t fussed but because he is so focussed on the next game, the next challenge, which is Bournemouth at home, on Saturday.
However, when he discovers who Watford have been paired against in the last eight he will be pretty nonplussed. He’s been around more blocks than the Manhattan skyline and the trip to the KC Stadium or the Emirates will be a walk in the park compared to the quarter-final tie he was handed in Atletico Madrid’s run to the final of the Europa League in 2010. Atletico were drawn, in a feisty all-Spanish two-legged affair, against Valencia, his former club.
Valencia had David Silva, David Villa, Ruben Baraja, David Albelda and Juan Mata in their ranks and Atletico would have been pleased at pulling off a 2-2 draw at a jumping Vicente Calderon in the away leg. Atletico executed a Sanchez Flores tactical masterclass in the home leg, surviving a heart-stopping one-v-one opportunity for Villa late on to grind out a goalless draw and sneak through on away goals.
“I prefer not to talk about it,” laughed Sanchez Flores, almost embarrassed at his fine record of winning five of six finals he’s been involved in. “I don’t like talking about the past, I like to think about the future.”
He did, however, offer a nod to the past when discussing Watford’s rich cup history. This will be the club’s tenth quarter-final appearance; the Hornets have made the semi-final five times and reached the final once, in 1984 when they lost to Everton.
“I remember seeing it and it was included in a programme in Spain about three or four weeks ago,” he said. “I remember perfectly the match against Everton. On a programme in Spain three or weeks ago they released this match and they were talking about Everton and Watford. Watford were wearing yellow and red and I saw all the goals. I think always it is a party for the fans and there are always amazing feelings. But now if you want to talk about the FA Cup we will talk about the quarter-final. This is the next step.”
Sanchez Flores has never been to Wembley, not even as a fan. “I have only ever seen the matches on the TV,” he said.
Opponents will not need to see replays of Watford games this season to know they are solid at the back. Saturday’s clean sheet was their 12th in 30 games and they are yet to concede a goal in this season’s FA Cup.
“It’s good that we are not conceding goals because we are working very hard in the week,” the head coach said. “We are not conceding many goals in the league and that is why we have a good balance and in the cup we are able to translate these feelings which is perfect.
“What I like is the feelings we now have in the squad. The squad is calm and positive and we need to take everything in during this time. It is positive the way they are treating this competition. It’s not necessary to tell the players that for one match they need to go for something very special in the history of the club. I think these kind of things are not necessary to explain. They understand perfectly because I am a manager of a very clever squad.”
- Additional reporting by Charlie Doris