After a devastating 2-2 draw with Reading this past Saturday, Watford continue their stagnant run of form, and their position in the Championship play-offs becomes ever more perilous. Watford currently sit at 5th position in the table on 45 points but are just two points away from falling out of a play-off spot. This only adds pressure to the team as they enter a vital stretch of games against Blackburn, Burnley, West Bromwich Albion, and Sheffield United. By the end of the month, the Championship table is likely to look drastically different, and Watford are in grave danger of finding themselves near the back of the race at that point. As frustrating as this season has been for Watford fans, I’m now realizing that we should have seen this coming from miles away. While we bicker about the squad’s lack of commitment and lambast the managers for their tactical buffoonery, we turn the spotlight away from the man who has set all of them up to fail.
Gino Pozzo has been the sole owner of Watford FC since 2014, and there is no doubt that he has helped the club make great improvements. From bringing in several talented and beloved players to overseeing a five-year stay in the Premier League and a trip to the 2019 FA Cup Final, Pozzo has helped Watford experience successes not seen since the managerial reign of Graham Taylor. But his magical touch has noticeably disappeared in recent years. In his quest to bring Watford to the forefront of English football, Pozzo has been ruthless in his treatment of managers. I began following Watford during the 2019/20 season, and I witnessed the asinine decision to sack Nigel Pearson with 2 games remaining and the team hanging on the precipice of relegation. Even if Pearson hadn’t been getting excellent results, sacking him at that time dropped a bomb on the club that the squad couldn’t recover from. I maintain the belief that Pearson would have been able to get the squad to safety in 17th place, but the players had no chance of success with that distraction heaped onto them. The carousel has since continued with Vladimir Ivic, Xisco Munoz, Claudio Ranieri, Roy Hodgson, Rob Edwards and Slaven Bilic all being appointed and (sans Bilic) sacked with only moderate success to show for it. Meanwhile, the squad is perpetually spinning in circles having to learn new approaches and tactics. On top of that, the transfer activity prior to this January window has been gratingly conservative. All of this leads us to the beginning of this season, when that fans were told that new manager Rob Edwards would be backed “come hell or high water”. Watford fans dared to believe that Pozzo had finally seen the error of his ways. Yet once again, the wool had been pulled over our eyes. Edwards was sacked after just ten games, with only three of those being losses. This brings us to the present, where current sacrificial lamb Slaven Bilic is struggling to tread water.
I’m not going to be fooled anymore. By sacking Edwards, Pozzo pulled the rug from under our feet yet again, and has made me doubt that his approach will ever change. I think the players have absorbed a similar message. They now know that the manager will take the fall before any of them, and thus don’t feel the need to pour their heart and soul into the club. The appointment of Ben Manga and Helena Costa as Technical Director and Head of Scouting respectively seems all well and good, but their level of control remains to be seen. The transfer window seems promising with the addition of Ismael Kone, Ryan Porteous and Henrique Araujo among others, but they risk falling into the same complacency that so many players before them have. Bilic has expressed his frustration with the team recently, but the draw with Reading heaps pressure onto him. In a vacuum, that result would be a sackable offence, but for Watford, sacking a manager barely means anything anymore. Bilic’s and the squad’s apparent apathy is a result of the behavior at the head of the club. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results, then Pozzo has fully lost the plot. By itself, sacking Bilic is pointless, but I’d be surprised if he survives the Blackburn game. The only hope for this club is bringing in an owner with a clear vision who will stick to their plan. Until then, the club’s proverbial tires will spin in the mud while we watch opportunities slip away.