17 managers in ten years: the surreal world of Premier League club Watford

Latest boss Munoz sacked despite leading the club to promotion five months ago

There’s the roller-coaster world of management in English football.

And then there’s the Watford way, seemingly a one-club mission to break every record going when it comes to changing the man in charge.

Now job security is not top of priorities when it comes to professional football. A recent analysis revealed that the average tenure for a manager is an all-time low of just 423 days in the top four divisions.

The financial rewards might be beyond the imagination of many, but looking over your shoulder becomes a habit when you’re in charge of team affairs.

However, 423 days at Watford is a pipe dream for any new recruit.

The club, from just outside London, was promoted back to the Premier League in May after just one season in the lower Championship (four managers employed in that 2019-20 relegation season).

The coach who masterminded that 2020-21 success was Xisco Munoz.

His reward? The Spaniard was sacked on Sunday after seven games of the new campaign, with a statement claiming recent results “strongly indicate a negative trend at a time when team cohesion should be visibly improving”.

Watford were sitting in 14th place in the Premier League at the time of that news, above far bigger clubs such as Newcastle United, Leeds United, and Southampton.

Xisco’s departure meant the club were looking for a 17th new manager in just over 10 years by Sunday afternoon. How ridiculous is that statistic? How can anyone be judged without time to stamp their mark?

Now Watford aren't unique in pulling the trigger with haste. Famously, Claudio Ranieri was fired after leading Leicester City to the unlikeliest Premier League triumph in history.

Meanwhile Watford's owners - an Italian family called Pozzo - plough on with impunity.

Their statement added: “The Hornets will always be grateful to Xisco for the part he played in securing last season’s promotion and wish him well for his future career in football.”

Now that’s some gratitude showed to the former Valencia and Real Betis winger Xisco.

Yes, Watford played terribly when losing 1-0 at Leeds on Saturday. No cohesion, giving the ball away too often, short of ideas. One commentator stated Xisco “was out of his depth”.

However, on the same day, Newcastle recorded their seventh straight game without a win (Watford have two victories). Norwich scraped their very first point of the season. Even Manchester United failed to win at Old Trafford. Again.

All their managers will be in charge when domestic football resumes after the international break. Watford's new boss will have the unenviable task of facing Liverpool in his first game in charge.

Watford’s ground has a capacity of 21,000. They have reached the heights of European competition just once in their history - in the 1980s. Two FA Cup finals are the pinnacle - the last they lost 6-0 to Manchester City in 2019.

A decade ago they were on the brink of financial collapse and yes, credit must go to the Pozzos for bringing financial stability.

But 17 managers in 10 years? The club’s former chairman Sir Elton John must be looking on with bemusement. At least he’s still standing, unlike Xisco and no doubt the next short-lived incumbent at Vicarage Road.

Updated: October 3rd 2021, 1:02 PM
EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS