The Boss Files: Beppe Sannino

By: Watford FC Staff

To help celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Watford’s move to Vicarage Road, Daily Mirror sports writer Mike Walters recalls his encounters with those who have occupied the Hornets’ hotseat.

Next up is Beppe Sannino, who was at the helm for eight months between December 2013 and August 2014...

Somehow, when the language barrier often seemed too mountainous to navigate, Beppe Sannino always managed to get his point across. A convincing 3-0 win against Leeds United, including Troy Deeney’s 22nd goal of the season, had extended the Italian ringmaster’s impressive home record to just one defeat in 12 games, and gave Watford renewed hope of sneaking into the Championship’s top six.

At the post-match press conference – always a hoot trying to decipher Sannino’s extravagant semaphore, body language and sound effects – your correspondent ventured a question that the play-offs might yet be attainable for the Hornets. Sannino spoke virtually no English but he recognised the odd buzzword, and daring to mention the play-offs was like wishing an actor good luck before curtain up at the theatre: well-intentioned, but strictly taboo. Breaking into a high-pitched screech, which was half scalded cat and half emergency brake on a train, his colourful response was delightfully scatty.

But it conveyed emphatically that he would not entertain such fanciful talk unless the Hornets were within touching distance of the dotted line. He soon called a halt to the formalities by pretending to blow a full-time whistle. As it transpired, Sannino was right to be cautious. Following an undeserved 2-1 defeat at Queens Park Rangers on Easter Monday, Watford’s season tailed off with four consecutive defeats and they finished the 2013/14 season in a mediocre 13th.

T-shirts in The Hornets Shop bore the legend ‘Beppe Sannino, he’s out of his box’ – and few supporters were inclined to disagree with the official club merchandise. At the end of every game, he would thank the referee and his assistants by marching on to the pitch to shake hands and bowing theatrically in appreciation. And his suggestion of an extra week’s training after the end of the season was a bit too left-field for the players’ liking. But at least he signed off in style, a 4-2 win against Huddersfield with 10 men which had Vicarage Road rocking.

That was one of Deeney’s favourites in his 11 years at Watford, and he recalled: “Games like that, where our backs were against the wall but the crowd swung behind us and we dug it out by fighting together, was the rewarding side of captaincy. We all put our nuts on the line to win that.” There can’t be too many Head Coaches who part company with their club when they are second in the table, after winning four of the first five games of the season, but that’s what happened to dear old Beppe.

Credit where it’s due: he stopped the rot after Gianfranco Zola’s memorable reign had petered out in five home defeats on the spin, and he made The Vic a fortress again, but Sannino simply couldn’t buy an away win. Three times in a row – at Manchester City in the cup, Nottingham Forest and Leicester – Watford were 2-0 up but lost two and drew the other. Since leaving Vicarage Road in August 2014, he has been Head Coach at eight different clubs, the last of them Al-Ittihad in Libya.

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