After Years Of Storms, Can Rob Edwards Finally Bring Calm Waters To Watford?

The former Forest Green manager still has Sarr and Dennis at his disposal
18:15, 19 Jul 2022

Another season, another manager at Vicarage Road. This time though, things feel slightly different for Watford after their relegation from the Premier League, and there’s even an underlying sense of hope that new boss Rob Edwards will see out an entire season. Madness, I know. 

The 2021/22 campaign was a hot mess for the Hornets. Instead of establishing themselves back in the top flight, they lurched from manager to manager and failed to gain any sort of momentum. Xisco somewhat surprisingly started the season in charge after promotion but only lasted until October, but when he was sacked the club were in 14th place after seven league games.

That gamble hugely backfired as Claudio Ranieri’s only two league wins came against Everton and Manchester United. It was a 4-1 win that got Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sacked but it papered over deep-lying issues for the Hornets. By the end of January they were dumped into the bottom three and calling Roy Hodgson out of retirement to replace Ranieri was a sign of desperation, rather than long-term planning. 

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But Watford have never been any good at long-term planning. Jumping from manager to manager has brought a decent level of success in recent years, so this summer their decision to bring in young English boss Edwards, after his League Two title-winning campaign with Forest Green Rovers, did come as a surprise. 

Since Sean Dyche’s departure in July 2012, Watford have appointed just two permanent British managers. One was Hodgson, who was a short-term appointment, and the other was Nigel Pearson, who was not given the chance to keep them up in the Premier League in 2020 ahead of the final two matches.

Ten years on from Dyche’s exit - they now have another manager who could potentially have a successful spell at the club. But it’s a risk. Edwards has never managed at this level. He’s never even managed in League One before. But he’s fresh and at a club that has become so predictable, the 39-year-old could be exactly what they need. 

His summer departure from FGR was controversial and drew public criticism from Dale Vince, and his work has certainly been more understated in comparison to the overhaul happening at Burnley under Vincent Kompany. 

It’s a talking point amongst Watford fans, who have been somewhat surprised by the lack of incomings and outgoings since the new regime took over. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing for their promotion hopes.

“Following a horrific season, the summer has been full of hope,” Watford fan Charlie Zazzera tells us. “Hope that the hierarchy will change their hiring and firing model and give new head coach Rob Edwards the time to implement his playing style and create a positive, winning culture at the club.

“With that hope has come fear, fear of missing out,” he continues. “This is because of the perceived lack of transfer activity with only two players signed in Vakoun Bayo and and Rey Manaj. At the start of the window it was seen as a foregone conclusion that Emmanuel Dennis and Ismaïla Sarr would be sold but with less than two weeks until the start of the Championship season, there's been reported little interest and no sufficient offers. There are still areas in the squad that need strengthening but should Watford manage to keep hold of even one of Dennis and Sarr until January, we'll have an improved chance to fight for promotion.”

Given Dennis scored 10 in 33 in the Premier League last term and Sarr got 13 in his last season in the Championship, the unlikely retention of those two should see Watford competing in the top six again. However, with the window running until 1st September Edwards could soon see his star assets stripped away. 

Many thought when he came in he would turn to stars of the EFL to build his squad, but that hasn’t been the case whatsoever. Kane Wilson, League Two’s Player of the Season under Edwards at FGR, moved to Bristol City, Scott Twine has joined Burnley and Jack Rudoni is now at Huddersfield. 

These Football League stars are once again going to have a major impact on the Championship, but Watford will need to retain their Premier League ones if they are to bounce straight back into the top flight this season. If they don’t, Edwards could just become the next manager on the chopping block at Vicarage Road.

Watford are 7/1 to win the Championship*

*18+ | Be Gamble Aware

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