Watford has made a name for itself as a ‘hiring and firing club’ under the stewardship of the Pozzo Family since their arrival at the Hertfordshire club in the summer of 2012. A dozen managers have passed through the doors of Vicarage Road in the nine years the Italians have been in control, with opinions split from fans and pundits alike.
With Claudio Ranieri becoming the 13th managerial appointment during the Pozzo’s reign, we look at whether or not this high turnover recruitment system is one to be admired or derided.
Thirteen managers in nine years is a lot, especially for a club embarking on its sixth season in the Premier League in the last seven years, however, there are many following similar strategies with less success. Take Nottingham Forest, for example. In the same time period, they have appointed 15 full-time managers, with a best finish of seventh in the Championship all they have to show for the upheaval.
The Pozzo way may confuse some football fans, including a few at Watford, but the money is in the Premier League and being able to achieve financial stability, while improving the club, is high on owner Gino Pozzo’s agenda. These policies may have flaws, but they are effective.
Over the past couple of years, Watford have made mistakes in the managerial market, leading to unrest in the playing squad and ultimately bad results and changes of manager. Seemingly under 24/7 surveillance when results begin to take a turn for the worse is another reason why this job is arguably one of the most high-pressure jobs in the country, maybe in Europe.
There is usually a reason behind most sackings, however, there are some that lacked justification. Take Javi Gracia for example, the Spaniard led Watford to their first FA Cup final in 34 years, and their best-ever finish in the Premier League. Within four games of the next season, he was gone. Decisions like that that give Watford a far from ideal reputation when looking for another manager.
The Watford 13
Gianfranco Zola – July 2012 to December 2013 (526 days)
The first manager of the Pozzo era. A third-place Championship finish showed promise, but after a poor run of form the following season, Zola resigned in December.
Giuseppe Sannino – December 2013 to August 2014 (256 days)
An unknown upon his arrival at Vicarage Road, he steadied the ship and led Watford to a 13th place finish. His departure in the opening month of the next season came as a surprise.
Oscar Garcia – September 2014 (27 days)
One manager whose departure was not based on results. Garcia was forced to relinquish his duties to focus on recovering from a heart problem that hospitalised the Spaniard.
Billy McKinley – September 2014 to October 2014 (8 days)
Promoted to head coach for his first managerial role, albeit on an interim basis, McKinley led the team to a win and a draw in his eight days in charge before being replaced by Slavisa Jokanovic.
Slavisa Jokanovic – October 2014 to June 2015 (266 days)
The man who eventually led Watford to the Premier League for the first time in eight years. The Serbian left at the end of the season after failing to agree a new contract at the club.
Quique Sanchez Flores – July 2015 to July 2016 (365 days)
Flores arrived in Hertfordshire on a one-year deal, overseeing a 13th place finish and an FA Cup semi-final before leaving at the end of the season.
Walter Mazzarri – July 2016 to May 2017 (325 days)
The Italian came to Vicarage Road with a respectable record during his time in Italy. However, he was relieved of his duties at the end of the season after scrapping Premier League safety in 17th place.
Marco Silva – May 2017 to January 2018 (239 days)
After a positive start to the season under the Portuguese, talks on a potential move to Everton led to a drop in performances and he was sacked in January 2018.
Javi Gracia – January 2018 to September 2019 (594 days)
The Spaniard led Watford to an 11th place finish in 2018/19 along with an FA Cup final. Sadly, his tenure ended after one point in the first four games of the following season.
Quique Sanchez Flores September 2019 to December 2019 (85 days)
The Spaniard returned to Watford in September 2019, but was sacked in December after picking up only one win in his second stint.
Nigel Pearson – December 2019 to July 2020 – 227 days
Pearson arrived and almost kept the Hornets up, but he was sacked with two games to spare with Watford three points above the drop zone. Watford were relegated on the final day.
Vladimir Ivic – August 2020 to December 2020 – 126 days
The man tasked with taking Watford back to the Premier League. Perceived ‘negative football’ led to his just before Christmas, despite the Hornets being in fourth place in the Championship.
Xisco Munoz – December 2020 to October 2021 – 287 days
Munoz led Watford back to the Premier League, but became the latest victim of the Pozzo’s following a 1-0 defeat away to Leeds.