Etienne Capoue says Quique Sanchez Flores is like a father to him and stresses that when the Spaniard does leave Watford it will be for bigger and better things.
The French midfielder has thrived, particularly in the first half of the season, under the Hornets’ head coach after a difficult two years at Tottenham Hotspur. His love for the game has returned and that, Capoue believes, is down to Sanchez Flores, who has harnessed the talent of the 27-year-old, particularly in the first half of the season.
“He is one of the best managers I’ve worked with,” Capoue says. “When I signed for Watford he came and spoke to me. Normally you have a small conversation but we spoke for a long time together. Straight away we loved each other. He knows my strengths and weaknesses. He knows how to manage me in every game. It’s the best relationship I’ve had with a manager. It’s more human, not just football. We talk about everything, like a dad and son.”
It is a heartfelt compliment from Capoue, one given in answer to a question of Sanchez Flores’ uncertain future at Watford. The 51-year-old may have kept the Hornets in the Premier League and guided them to Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final but there is increasing talk the club may opt to end his time at Vicarage Road this summer. Sanchez Flores may even be lured away.
Capoue says it isn’t any of his business what decisions are made by the club’s hierarchy. He is paid, quite handsomely, to play. He does, however, believe Sanchez Flores will go on to manage top European sides.
“If he leaves it will be for a good club, bigger than Watford,” the French international says. “I would be happy for him because he has achieved good things here. I will just do my job. Maybe he’ll tell me what he’ll do next season but I don’t know.”
What Capoue does know is that, barring injury, he will start Watford’s FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace on Sunday. He was one of three senior players given the night off from Wednesday’s defeat to West Ham United in order to ensure he will be in peak condition at Wembley. It is a chance for every Watford player to shine and for Capoue that means being played in the centre of midfield instead of being shunted out onto the left.
“We [Quique and I] spoke about it a few months ago and he wanted to try something,” he says. “Sometimes I play good but sometimes I play very bad…”
Capoue smiled as he tailed off that sentence. He is, of course, referring to the Premier League defeat at Arsenal. It is a game Watford lost 4-0 but Capoue was dragged off after 40 minutes by a visibly disappointed Sanchez Flores.
Surely that tested their father and son relationship?
“If the dad doesn’t like what his son does, sometimes he punishes him,” Capoue says. “So that’s what it was. You still love the dad. We’ve stopped it [playing on the left] because we need 11 against 11. I am better in centre midfield. Now he knows.”
“Troy would have done the same for me.” That is the verdict of Adrian Mariappa who talks publicly for the first time to us about lending Troy Deeney £10,000 when he was in prison. The exclusive with the former Watford and now Palace defender forms part of our 13-page Watford FC coverage in our semi-final issue. It’s available in all places you’d expect to buy a paper in Watford and its surrounding areas – or you can subscribe by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org