Ahead of a first FA Cup quarter-final appearance in nearly a decade and the guarantee of a historic second straight season in the Premier League, Quique Sanchez Flores has stressed that Watford could not be in any safer hands ownership wise.
Sanchez Flores has worked at some politically unstable and volatile clubs, where he’s had players sold behind his back and brought in over his head, and had to coach teams amid a backdrop of boardroom conflict, so he is relieved to find stability and harmony in the backroom office at London Colney and in the boardroom at Vicarage Road.
“He [Gino Pozzo] is always focussed on the club,” Sanchez Flores said. “He’s always focussed on the future and always focussed on next season. He’s always preparing for next season. Fans of Watford should be completely safe and confident with this man because he always has the idea to improve the team and the club. It is an amazing experience for Watford.”
Troy Deeney could have left Watford on several occasions but the Pozzos’ ambition – and not to mention the remuneration package dangled under his nose – persuaded him to stay each time. Gino even bought him a Rolex watch as a reward for becoming the first player in the club’s storied history to score 20 goals in three consecutive seasons.
“With the ownership we have got, the model has worked at other clubs, so it is not like [the Pozzos] have just come in and had a trial to see how this works,” said Deeney in an interview with Gillette Soccer Saturday before the Leicester game. “Thankfully it has worked well. The changing rooms have all changed, the facilities, even at the training ground everything has improved. More things are in the plans for next season and if they are improving things, it just makes you think as a player, ‘Right I need to improve as well because if not we won’t be here to enjoy it’… especially for me, because this is my sixth or seventh season and I have been here when there wasn’t enough kit to go round, so I am making sure I am here for all the riches that come along.”
Deeney is perfectly placed to talk, with some authority, about just how far Watford have progressed from the days of selling the family silver to breaking the club transfer record twice in the same season.
“You appreciate things,” he said. “I think this season we have had players come in for six or seven million. Before this season I think I was the highest transfer fee for half a million, six or seven years ago. I think this highlights the great work of Malky Mackay and Sean Dyche that they were able to build something competitive with a low, almost embarrassing budget.”
Some described the managerial merry-go-round last season as embarrassing. Some said a lot worse about a period that witnessed four head coaches come and go in 37 madcap days.
“We tried our best to hit the headlines every week in getting a new manager [last season],” said Deeney. “But the main thing from our perspective is it didn’t affect what was in the dressing room. If we hadn’t gone up last year, I think quite a few of us would have left, myself included. We had the strong mentality in the dressing room, and decided that [last year] was the final year we were really going to go at it [to be promoted], and thankfully it worked out pretty well. We are delighted with how the season has gone, we have the most points at the moment of all the newly promoted teams, and at the start of the season we were written off as the team to go down because of all the new people we bought in and the new manager. We were the dead cert to go down for everyone.”