Sunday’s full interview transcript
SD – Watford Chairman & CEO Scott Duxbury
MC – BBC Radio 5 Live’s Mark Chapman
KK – BBC Radio 5 Live pundit Kevin Kilbane
CW – BBC Radio 5 Live pundit Chris Waddle
You’ve written programme notes for today’s game and there’s lots that we could quote back to you which is really interesting.
[Quoting notes} “There will always be those on the outside looking in only too happy to offer comment and opinion. Football is an industry which attracts attention with each and every decision. Our only interest has been, is and remains the long-term wellbeing of Watford FC…we will never apologise for appearing at times to be different in the way we do things.”
So do you feel you’re different?
I don’t think we’re different in the sense that we simply have aspiration and ambition. I think there’s been certain pundits recently who said we should be happy just surviving; with the crumbs from the Premier League table. I’m sorry, but we want more than just to survive. We want to be a club that is progressive and has ambition.
You can see what we’ve done off the pitch with the stadium and development that we’re a club that works really hard to try and move forward. Yes, we have been criticised recently for the number of managers, but what we do is at the end of a season evaluate how we’ve performed and what our goals are for the future seasons. Part of that evaluation process inevitably leads to the conclusion that we maybe need a change in direction.
Where we may be different from other football clubs is that we have a model where we invest in staff and the football club. That means if a coach does move on, it doesn’t mean there’s a complete upheaval in the football club and the club continues to progress. I think the past three years show that the model does work; we’ve had a promotion and two seasons retaining status in the Premier League.
So something is working – and if that’s different from other football clubs, then I’m happy that we’re different.”
That’s a continental club model where when the manager comes in he has to buy into what we do, rather than us buying into what a manager wants to change isn’t it?
It’s a philosophy, yes, but it’s also making the best of your resources. We are not a big club. Therefore we have to make the best use of our resources.
That means when we invest in the medical department, when we invest in the sports science department, when we invest in all the infrastructure, that has to remain and has to succeed past coaches.
In our opinion, coaches do have a limited shelf life. Either they’re very successful and will move onto a bigger club or they don’t quite work out and they move on. WE can’t afford every time a coach moves on that our entire infrastructure goes every time that happens.
So it’s a matter of using your resources; if that’s a continental model then so be it, but we’ve looked at this football club and how best to run it.
So when you look at the goals you wanted to achieve this season, what has Walter Mazzarri done wrong? Where has he failed?
I don’t think it’s fair on Walter for me to go into that kind of detail, suffice it to say last year we had 45 points and we survived. This year we really hoped we would push on. We’re not saying we want to conquer the Premier League but we do want to be more than just surviving, more than hanging on by the skin of our teeth.
For a variety of reasons, our goals and our philosophies weren’t aligned. So it’s time to move on and look in a different direction forward. But as I say that doesn’t mean upheaval. We have hundreds of people working very, very hard at this football club to drive the club forward and you can see the development of this club.
So changing a Head Coach for us isn’t perhaps as dramatic and doesn’t have that upheaval that at other clubs it would. And I still think commentators, pundits, still have a hard time to understand and evaluate how we operate.
Of course I understand that your methods are working. But I’d like to ask when you interview a coach or a manager coming into the club, because a manager would always have a long-term philosophy in mind. What do you ask for then from a coach? Do you ask them to put that aside and say you’ve got to buy into our philosophy, our project?
I think everyone has to be aligned. You can use the phrase ‘long-term’ but it’s a throwaway line because you only have one season in football; everyone wants to survive in the Premier League and move forward, so that next season is always the most important season.
As a football club, we have long-term goals and ambitions and we’d very much like the coach to be aligned to that. So it’s a philosophical debate at the beginning – but, ultimately, for the coaches we bring in it’s about what can be achieved in that season.
It’s not about him developing the Academy, the infrastructure, the football in the community offering. That’s something that others in the football club do. All we want the Head Coach to do is develop the squad that’s given to him and get the best out of it and try move the team forward with the next season that’s coming.
When you talk about a change of direction under a new Head Coach, what are you looking for from a new Head Coach and how many would you have on a shortlist?
It’s about conversations that we have. With Walter specifically, there’s been a lack of connection with our supporters, with the press and media – a variety or reasons.
We’re looking for somebody who embodies the ethos of the club; who is the ultimate ambassador of the club who can communicate the development of this football club.
We’re doing a lot of good stuff off the pitch in the community and we’ve lost a little bit of our voice, a little bit of our identity so the new coach will come in and give us that identity and voice to echo the work that a number of people are doing at this club.
So you want a better public speaker? A better figurehead? Somebody who speaks English?
It’s a combination of everything. Somebody who embodies what this football club is about. It’s not something unique we’re asking for. Every single football club has a head coach that embodies what that football club is about. We’re looking for that and someone who can really drive what I think is a talented squad forward and achieve success in the Premier League.
I was at Marseilles and basically the coach comes in and that’s it, that’s your job – don’t worry about the players. You can go to the chairman and say I need a left-back and there’s a list or these are the players you’re getting and you fit them in. All the coach had to was come in, coach the team and talk to the press. Tracksuit every day; he never got involved in contracts. Just come in, coach and go home – like a player, really.
So that’s what you’re looking for? Someone who can work with the team, with what he’s got available?
It’s exactly that but not quite as removed as that. At the modern Premier League football club, there’s so much to do; to ask a coach to do anything other than what you’ve described is too time-consuming and he’ll be too distracted.
When it comes to players, yes we have a department that does everything from engaging with the player to negotiations to the signing. But we engage with the coach: he will say I need an attacking left-back and we’ll give him a shortlist of three or four players who play in that position. He will give his approval to that and we’ll then try to sign.
But we’re not hostage to fortune in that sense because it’s not just one target and if we don’t get that target it’s all over. We’ll have various players for the type of target, the profile he wants. The coach is always engaged in that process. There will never be a player turning up at the training ground that he doesn’t want because that would be counter-productive. He simply wouldn’t play him.
So he’s involved in that process but he doesn’t have to spend his time and energy on it. He can give his time to the selection of the team and the other aspects of the role.
When you talk about getting the message out there and being the figurehead of the club and all of that, there’s no doubt that the most identifiable Watford player over the past three or four years is Troy Deeney. So when your club captain hasn’t been playing and is on the bench, has that concerned you or do you stay out of that?
No, not at all. We never get involved in the team selection. What’s telling is that in every Premier League campaign we’ve started and finished with the same coach. There are other clubs in the Premier League that have been reactive in the middle of a season because results have forced them to be reactive and make a change.
We’ve never had to do that. We’ve started and finished with the same coach. At the end of a season, we’ve made a sensible and rational evaluation of where we want to go next season and that’s resulted in a change.
But during that season, we back the coach fully. We would never interfere with team selection and there would always be a technical reason why a player is or isn’t playing – whether it’s a long-standing captain or any other player.
And have you set your goals for next season?
Yes. The goals are to be the best we can and see where that takes us. The beauty about football is you should never have a check on your ambition.
A high-profile pundit on Sky recently said we should be happy with just surviving. That’s terrible. I don’t want anybody at this football club to be happy to just survive.
We should be ambitious and see where that ambition takes us. If Leicester had that check on their ambition, they wouldn’t have been champions last year.
Let’s see where that ambition takes us, and let me be clear: at this football club, ambition will never be checked.”