Watford’s powerbrokers and Quique Sanchez Flores remain relaxed about his contract situation as the stock of Watford’s brilliant Spanish head coach continues to soar following the toppling of holders Arsenal in the FA Cup.
Sanchez Flores signed a two-year deal in the summer and there was plenty of talk among the national football writers post-match on Sunday about his suitability for one of the top jobs in England. Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United could all be looking for new managers in the summer, while Tottenham Hotspur may be drawing up a contingency plan should Mauricio Pochettino being lured away by one of the big players.
However, we understand there is no panic whatsoever around the table at the back of the dining area at the training ground where Gino Pozzo, Scott Duxbury and sporting director Luke Dowling regularly convene. The plan was always to sit down with Sanchez Flores in the summer, once the dust has settled, and talk about a possible extension. The Pozzos’ model has never centred around tying coaches to long-term deals as the compensation a club receives for a coach is minimal compared to the transfer fee a player on a long contract can command. On the flipside, if you tie a coach to a long-term deal and things go pear-shaped, the club is then liable for sizeable severance pay.
Sanchez Flores has spoken to us before about how, after a career spent hopping between clubs after two seasons, it might be time, at the age of 51, to lay down some roots, especially having uprooted his four teenage children and put them in school in north London. Sanchez Flores loves living in the capital and has commented before on the smoothness and harmonious nature of his working relationship with Pozzo, Duxbury and Dowling. Sanchez Flores has also persuaded Jose Manuel Jurado and Mario Suarez to sign long-contracts here so he’s not about to leave them in the lurch.
“I don’t worry about losing him,” said Rene Gilmartin when summarising the 2-1 win over Arsenal for BBC Three Counties Radio. “I just look at where this club is going and what they can offer him. I just don’t see another club coming in and offering this, this and this. If a big club comes in who are in the Champions League that may raise a question mark but I think he feels part of something here, feels he could be part of something for the next five or ten years at this club. He may want that continuity in his life and want to settle in London. Logistically, Watford is not a bad place. He lives in London and his kids go to school there.”
Sanchez Flores is giving plenty of his peers a lesson in the tactical side of the game. It’s hard to think of a more tactically astute coach in the league.
“He’s a genius,” said Gilmartin in an interview with Vibe 106.7FM yesterday morning. “I’m doing my A licence and I’m looking at what he’s doing. He’s so hands-on. He’s a part of every aspect and it’s great to see as a player and an aspiring coach. It’s great to see someone like that at work.”
He added on Three Counties: “He’s the best I’ve ever worked with and one of the best in the world. What he’s done at this club has been absolutely superb. It’s been an honour to be a part of.”
Sanchez Flores, we believe, was recommended to Duxbury by Maurice Watkins, the former Manchester United director who Duxbury worked alongside as a sports lawyer. The plan was always for Slavisa Jokanovic to get the club promoted and then another head coach, with a different skillset, to come in and take Watford to the next level. The foresight the club operates with means they will already have a succession plan in mind should the unthinkable happen.
“If that did happen then the people in charge of this club will go and get someone else who is very good,” said Derek Payne, sitting alongside Gilmartin at the Emirates. “The Pozzos have come to this club, promised things, taken the club to the Premier League and have got a quality manager. Hopefully it doesn’t arise [the need to find a new manager]. He’s had a great first season in the job.”