Watford’s 2-1 home loss to Brentford means the Hornets are six points from Premier League safety and relegation puts them in the spotlight, so start thinking about a rest for next season.
Watford are broken, messy and in need of a complete reset.
A decade after owner Gino Pozzo took over a mid-table Championship club from bankrupt Laurence Bassini, 15 head coaches later they are back to brambles and nettles. Ten straight home defeats equals the steal record set by Birmingham and Sunderland – and that streak is a shame.
In the bug derby between Hornets and Bees, Brentford – promoted from Watford last May – weren’t very good, but they stung more in both boxes. Thomas Frank’s team lost nine out of 11 games before Christian Eriksen’s first start. Since integrating the inspirational Dane into the starting XI, they have won five out of six and they are now safe.
But among the long-suffering patrons at Vicarage Road, the mood is turning sour, with executive chairman Scott Duxbury feeling the heat. Gross debt, including financial backing from Pozzo, soared to £139million. Senegal winger Ismaila Sarr and top scorer Emmanuel Dennis are unlikely to be around next season to satisfy the bean counters.
And it’s not Roy Hodgson’s brothel. Had he been appointed last October in place of Claudio Ranieri – a lovely man and Leicester legend but a poor choice – that might have been a different story. Although there have been no formal talks, the chances of seeing Hodgson, who has only signed a short-term contract and turns 75 this summer, in the Championship next season are slim.
It would be kinder to hand the former England manager his car clock before the lid closes and field Sean Dyche or Diego Martinez to restore factory settings this summer. Dyche, sacked by Burnley on Good Friday, was Watford manager in 2012 when he knew he would be pushed aside by Pozzo’s new regime to make way for Gianfranco Zola. He was waiting to find out his fate when he looked up the Sky Sports ticker to find he had been kicked out. It might be time to roll out the welcome rug instead of pulling the rug out from under your feet.
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And Martinez, who knocked Granada above their weight in Spain, was on Watford’s radar when Ranieri stepped on the board. It would correspond to the Pozzo model: foreign, available and progressive. Whoever is in charge next season, there needs to be a sea change in mindset and personnel.
After Christian Norgaard’s opener and Dennis leveled with his 10th goal of the season, Joshua King seized a glorious chance against a post in injury time and Imran Louza somehow salvaged the rebound. Pontus Jansson’s 95th-minute winner from Eriksen’s perfect set-piece left Hodgson laughing at the cruelty and Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster admitted: “It’s our season in a nutshell, but we don’t have only ourselves to blame. I’m a guy who always likes to have a smile on my face, but sometimes that’s a mask you have to wear.
Bee messiah Frank, asked to compare Watford’s insatiable appetite for change in the cockpit with Brentford’s longer-term prospects, gave a diplomatic response. He said: “I can only say what I believe in – I overwhelmingly believe in clubs where there’s a clear strategy, everything is lined up top to bottom and no matter what you stick with it. .
“That’s why we’ve done so well and I’m almost 100% sure that if our bad form had continued and we couldn’t reverse it, I would have stayed in my job. We would have tried to rebuild, a bit like Norwich did with Daniel Farke. Of course there are various reasons for changing managers and also things that we don’t know, like what happened at Burnley, but I’m a big believer in consistency .