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Rapid fire at Watford

Rapid fire at Watford

Watford take an unusual approach to their managers: they sack them at the first sign of a poor run of results. Somehow the policy seems to work for the club.


Transcript

Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.

One story every day to make sense of the world of football.  

Today, Watford’s controversial sacking policy.

***

After they lost 1-0 to Leeds United at the weekend, Watford sacked their manager Xisco Munoz.

“It’s been a bit of a nail-biter in the end for Marcelo Bielsa… and Leeds United. But the cheers that ring out around Elland Road tell you that they have won for the first time in seven games in the Premier League.”

Watford FC, YouTube

He’d lasted just 10 months in the job. 

And Munoz wasn’t happy with Watford’s owner Gino Pozzo either. He wrote on social media that it was a conclusion he “neither expected nor wished for.”

And his sacking was a surprise. After he took the job in December 2020, he steered Watford to promotion to the Premier League. 

He’d not had a bad start to life in the top flight either… his side had earned seven points from their first seven games. That’s usually about what’s expected for a newly-promoted team. 

“It’s a shocking decision isn’t it really… I mean it’s embarrassing but it just shows why Watford have got no class. Erm… you know… getting rid of a manager after you know, sort of six games that they’ve had already… they’re 14th… and when I saw that they’d sacked him, I had to have another look at the Premier League table and think… are they bottom or something? Why, why are they making that decision already?”

Jamie O’Hara, talkSPORT

Watford’s statement hinted that it wasn’t the results themselves that had caused them concern. They said “recent performances strongly indicate a negative trend.”

But when you look at Gino Pozzo’s track record for hiring and firing managers… it’s no surprise at all that he pulled the trigger at the first hint of trouble, and appointed the experienced Claudio Ranieri instead.

Jack Kitson who runs a website dedicated to managerial changes called “The Sack Race” tells us more.

“So obviously the length of Ranieri’s contract, two years, has raised a lot of questions. That’s like a Sir Alex Ferguson amount of time for a Watford manager, two years.

“Obviously no manager under the Pozzos has ever reached two years, ah you have to go back to Malky McKay 2009-2011, which of course preceded their arrival. Yeah so Ranieri as well hasn’t managed two years in a job since Monaco I believe, which was about seven years ago.”

Jack Kitson

Since he took over the club in June 2012, Pozzo has sacked fourteen managers.

That’s one every 30 matches on average… not even a full season. 

But it must be said that he’s no cowboy owner. Pozzo has implemented a strong international scouting network at Watford, and he increased the club’s revenue to a record 148 million pounds in 2019. 

Even with their strict sacking policy, under Gino Pozzo, Watford have earned two promotions to the Premier League, an FA Cup semi-final, and an FA Cup final. 

“Here’s Hogg… Deeney! Do not scratch your eyes…you are really seeing the most extraordinary finish here. It almost mirrors the final day! With the very last kick of this playoff semi-final, Troy Deeney wins it for Watford and sends them to Wembley.”

Sky Sports Football

The season that ended in 2019 was their best ever. They earned 50 points and finished eleventh in the Premier League. 

You can’t help but wonder though, is all the chopping and changing really healthy for a football club? And why does Gino Pozzo pull the trigger so frequently?

The answer lies with his father, Giampaolo Pozzo. He’s owned the Italian club Udinese since 1986. The family owned Spanish club Granada in the past too. 

Since 2014, Pozzo Senior has made eleven sackings, Watford made eight in the same period of time. 

In Italy, this policy is a lot more commonplace. 

Former Palermo owner Maurizio Zamparini famously made eleven managerial changes in just two seasons. 

And while Giampaolo Pozzo has made a lot of changes at Udinese, they’ve not been relegated to Serie B since 1994. They own their own stadium, which is rare in Italy. 

They also discovered Alexis Sanchez through their scouting network and they even qualified for the Champions League in 2011. 

So Gino Pozzo is simply following his father’s blueprint at Watford. 

And it does seem to work for them on some levels. 

It’s not just Watford who frequently sack managers either. 

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is perhaps the most famous example of a strict hiring and firing policy. 

“Obviously helps having buckets of money and some of the best players around but it’s worked for Chelsea…I mean they’ve been incredible haven’t they over the last er sixteen or so years… winning so many trophies…”

Jack Kitson

Chelsea have obviously been successful. But it’s sometimes a sign of dysfunction. 

Nottingham Forest have made 20 managerial changes since 2011. They went from third in the Championship in 2010 to a series of disappointing finishes…as low as 21st in 2017. 

Fans of these clubs have had to adjust, they know that they can’t get too attached to a particular manager. 

And the Pozzo family have turned the concept of stability in football on its head. 

The usual view is that keeping a manager in the long term gives a club a stable foundation. You only need to look at the fortunes of Manchester United before and after Sir Alex Ferguson left to see an example of that.

But Gino Pozzo has proved that Watford won’t wait around to let one manager’s poor results drag their club down, they won’t see their work off the pitch undone. They will cut the manager adrift at the first hint of trouble. 

For them, it’s a way of creating stability from instability.

So while Watford may never be world beaters, they do seem to be in safe hands… despite Gino Pozzo’s aggressive sacking policy. 

Today’s episode was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Imy Harper.