Watford Football Club have been getting through managers like hot cakes. Vicarage Road has seen 14 managers in the last decade, highlighting a clear lack of any kind of plan from those who run the club.
Despite this carousel of coaching appointments, the club has still managed to bounce between the Premier League and the Championship with two spells in the top-flight during this period. However, the lack of direction that Watford have at the moment has been costly for them this season. The Hornets have already had relegation confirmed with a couple of games to go under Roy Hodgson, their third manager of the campaign.
The club have struggled to learn from their many mistakes in the past but now it seems as though they are starting to think about building a long-term project that can help offer some much needed stability at the club.
The board have acted swiftly to prepare for their return to the second tier by snapping up one of the Football League’s best managers, Rob Edwards. He will be joining them from Forest Green Rovers, who he guided to the League Two title this term. While the news of his appointment was met with bitter resentment from his now former club, it appears to show that the Hertfordshire outfit is looking to evolve.
Credit has to be given to them for going for a manager who has a lot of potential to go far in the game, despite still being raw, and getting him on board early ahead of what is sure to be a very different but fresh pre-season at Watford is a positive move. They will soon be led by a forward-thinking manager who after one season managing in the Football League has a league title to his name, while encouraging a modern style of play.
Arriving at The New Lawn Stadium a year ago, he quickly implemented a 3-4-1-2 system built around the squad’s wing-backs. His work greatly helped the players, including right-back Kane Wilson who was previously of West Bromwich Albion. Edwards has been a great mentor for the 22-year-old who was named as League Two Player of the Season after providing 14 assists and scoring three goals.
Edwards’ exciting brand of football also led to his side producing two of the division’s top four scorers this year in strikers Matt Stevens (23) and Jamille Matt (19), showcasing how creative his side were in this triumphant campaign. This will undoubtedly whet the appetite of the Watford fans who will be hoping that he can work the same magic with the young players coming through at Vicarage Road.
The 39-year-old started out as Wolverhampton Wanderers under-18s boss after ending his playing career at Molineux and following some fine work in the academy in his first season (2014-15) he was brought up to support first-team boss Kenny Jackett for the final two months of the Championship season. He briefly became the club’s caretaker manager when Walter Zenga was sacked in 2016-17 before taking charge of Telford United the following year.
He returned to Wolves as the under-23s manager in 2018 before leaving to take up a role with the Football Association, working with the England Under-20s a year later. In September 2020 he was made the head coach of the Under-16s, a position he held until he joined Forest Green last summer.
From his time spent in the St George’s Park environment, Edwards will have absorbed some insightful knowledge in regards to coaching in the modern game and from what we have seen from his team this season, he has been able to execute his vision to perfection.
Given Watford’s track record of hiring and firing managers, from Edwards’ point of view this is a bold move at this stage of his career, but the fact that he was picked up from the lower leagues rather than someone who had either come over from abroad or had previous experience in the Premier League, shows that the club is finally trying to buck a trend that has more often than not ended in failure.
Things won’t necessarily click overnight and given how promising this appointment is for the Hornets, the supporters and especially the board will require the patience needed for this project to bloom. Considering how off-track hiring Edwards was by their usual standards, it feels as though he will be the first manager in a long time in WD18 to be given the time to build something.