Vladimir Ivic took charge of his first game as Watford Head Coach on Friday evening and, in doing so, became the fifth man in a single calendar year to stand in the technical area at Vicarage Road.
A scrappy 1-0 win, thanks to a first-half header from Craig Cathcart, makes Ivic the first Hornets manager to win his opening fixture since fellow Serbian Slaviša Jokanović 2014. Ivic will hope it’s a good omen as he attempts to rebuild a fractured dressing room and guide Watford back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Watford’s hire and fire culture has received widespread criticism since the Pozzo family took over in 2012. The first manager to be axed was Sean Dyche, who had just guided the club to their highest finish in four years. Since then the Hornets have burnt through a further 11 head coaches. Seven were sacked, two couldn’t agree to contract renewals and two resigned.
Whatever the circumstances surrounding their departures, the common theme was the length of their tenancy. Javi Gracia became the longest-serving Watford manager in almost a decade after holding the reins for 18 months.
Despite the negative perception of Watford’s turnover in coaching staff, the results speak for themselves. In eight years since the Pozzo’s took charge, the club has been to a play off-final, two FA Cup Semi-Finals, an FA Cup Final, have won automatic promotion and spent five seasons in the Premier League. Last season, however, Gino Pozzo’s approach backfired spectacularly.
The sackings of Javi Gracia, Quique Sánchez Flores, and Nigel Pearson caused discontent in the stands and the dressing room, resulting in a dismal season which saw Watford relegated on the final day. In a statement released on the clubs’ website, Gino Pozzo confessed his efforts had not been good enough and insisted the board would be making changes to their approach.
Vladimir Ivic will hope that Pozzo is true to his word. 17 first team players were ruled out of the Middlesbrough fixture on Friday evening and, with the transfer window not due to close until October, the former Maccabi Tel Aviv man can expect several key names to depart. With a hectic schedule set against a backdrop of uncertainty, Ivic will need something not afforded to previous Watford coaches; time.
The Serbian has a history of working within tight constraints. At Maccabi, he was tasked with building a team with players already at the club, as well as some returning loanees, to comply with FFP rules. It’s understood that his ability to improve from within and his history of integrating young players was a key reason behind his appointment. Vladimir Ivic is known to be a fair but strict manager, who emphasises hard work and discipline. He has taken charge of a difficult dressing room and has a huge task on his hands to instil a new philosophy in a group of players who seldom get attached to their coaches.
The imminent departure of senior players such as Troy Deeney, Etienne Capoue, Roberto Pereyra, Danny Welbeck, Ismaila Sarr and Will Hughes will present an opportunity for a fresh start at Vicarage Road. Exciting young talents such as Domingos Quina, Joao Pedro, and Jeremy Ngakia will look to seize the moment. With some hard lessons learned, The Hornets are aiming to galvanise, rebuild a broken system, and push to reclaim their place in the Premier League. If Vladimir Ivic can deliver on his promise, he may be the man to buck the trend and establish himself at Watford.
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