Watford will part company with Quique Sanchez Flores in the summer and bring in a new head coach, WD Sport can confirm.
There has been no official word from the club amid the mounting speculation, and there is unlikely to be until the first year of the Spaniard’s contract expires in June, but we can confirm the club decided weeks ago they will in fact exercise the break clause, which was inserted at the request of Sanchez Flores, when the first year of the Spaniard’s contract expires in June.
Gino Pozzo and Scott Duxbury, the club’s principle decision makers, are known to have become increasingly concerned about several issues which have contributed to the alarming dip in form and believe Sanchez Flores has not shown any sign he is capable of arresting the downward spiral that has taken place. The team has won seven games since Christmas and four of those have come in the FA Cup. Eighteen goals have been scored in 21 games.
Fearing the momentum, or lack of it, spilling into next season, Pozzo and Duxbury believe they could jeopardise their Premier League status and affect the long-term future of the club if they do not act swiftly and decisively. The club have invested significantly in the playing squad and plans have been submitted for a new multi-million pound complex at the training ground and the addition of another tier on the Sir Elton John stand. The investment is largely underpinned by the riches of being in the top flight of English football.
While the decision to replace yet another coach will dismay some fans and lead to widespread criticism, Pozzo and Duxbury have looked beyond the results in the first half of the season and not allowed the run (four wins achieved by a single goal) to the semi-final of the FA Cup to mask a dreadful run of league results this year. Based at the training ground every day, they’ve looked deeply into the underlying issues behind the slump and feel the problems are deep-lying and part of a wider malaise. The manner of the defeat in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, coupled with yet another strange team selection and use of the bench, only served to highlight their concerns and endorse their view that a change is required.
Graham Taylor hinted as much on Sunday. “There is a possibility,” he said in his role as pundit for BT Sport. “In many respects, if you look at Watford over 18 months to two years, they have had four managers. And that isn’t what you’d expect from a team doing what they have done. When his position becomes uncertain, we can’t disbelieve that [there is going to be a change].”
Sanchez Flores retains a lot of support among the fans, many of whom will be extremely sad and perplexed to see the back of a man who has comfortably kept them in the Premier League and to come within an ace of reaching the FA Cup final. But Pozzo and Duxbury made a similarly bold call when they turned down the chance to extend the stay of Slavisa Jokanovic, the man who was in charge of the side who won promotion. The new head coach will be the seventh of the Pozzo era.
Taylor spent 15 years as manager of Watford in two different spells.
“That would be a question all the Watford supporters would be asking,” he said when asked about the need for stability. “They’ve seen so many managers in the last three or four seasons. Why does the manager have to be changed? But that is now coming into our football, particularly in Italy where the owner has a big, big say. What I know is that more and more what I call non-football people are having more of a say in whether they should sack the manager or not. And I don’t think it’s a good thing for the game.”
Sanchez Flores, according to quotes from Etienne Capoue, Ben Watson and Craig Cathcart, retains support in the dressing room but using such a small number of players and his handling of others has led to more than the usual amount of discord you would expect to find in a squad.
“He [Sanchez Flores] is a good person,” said Miguel Britos said prior to the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Crystal Palace. “You can talk about everything with him. He is a good coach and has worked with big teams in Spain. It’s a normal relationship between the players and the gaffer.”
In this week’s WD Sport newspaper, we analyse, in great depth, just how and why things have unravelled for Sanchez Flores and more specifically why the option of a second year at Vicarage Road will not be exercised. We also get the exclusive thoughts of former Hornets’ boss Malky Mackay. This will not appear online so make sure you pick up your copy from all good supermarkets, convenience stores and newsagents in Watford, Bushey, Oxhey, Rickmansworth, Radlett, Chorleywood, Kings Langley, Abbots Langley and Hemel Hempstead, along with selected retail outlets in Berkhamsted, Tring and St Albans.
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