Hodgson: “It’s A Challenge I Believe I’m Ready To Take On”

By: Watford FC Staff

New Hornets manager Roy Hodgson believes his previous experience of battling for Premier League survival makes him the perfect man to lead Watford’s charge up the table in the current season’s remaining four months.

The former England boss, 74, arrived at Vicarage Road alongside assistant Ray Lewington - himself a former Watford manager - on Tuesday, tasked with steering the 19th-placed Golden Boys to safety on a deal initially running until the end of the campaign, that could be extended.

Besides his stint in charge of the Three Lions between 2012 and 2016, and a plethora of other roles across the world at both domestic and international level, Hodgson has successfully helped Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace avoid the drop to the Championship within the last 15 years.

And though he recognises the challenge of rectifying a run of form that has seen Watford fall to defeat in seven of their previous eight league encounters, Hodgson is confident he has the tools to kickstart a winning run.

“It’s a massive challenge, but it’s a​ challenge I believe I’m ready to take on and one that I’m very excited about,” said Hodgson. “I’m certainly looking forward to it, and if the players are as good as I think they can be, then I’m hopeful of helping the club to another season in the Premier League.

“I’m confident in the sense that I’ve been in situations that aren’t so different to this before, at Fulham, West Brom and Palace. The period of time I had to change things might have been a bit longer on each occasion - and at West Brom the league position wasn’t as bleak - but in terms of coming in, getting my ideas across, and getting the team playing, it feels somewhat similar.

“It’s going to be a difficult job for Ray and I, as I’m sure it would be for anybody, but I feel we’ve got the ability to be successful. I can certainly assure all the Watford fans that our desire to keep the club in the league will be every bit as great as theirs, and we’ll do everything we can to make that happen.

“Every manager brings a new way of working and new ideas, and when you’ve only got a short period of time it can be tricky to really stamp that philosophy onto a group of players. It’s going to be a really intense four months for us, and if we are going to achieve our goal the players are the ones who are going to do it for us.

“I agree with the club’s belief that there is a group of good players here, but they have to buy into our ideas and show commitment to the shirt. There are no easy games in the Premier League and if we do stay up it’ll be because they’ve listened to what we’ve said and found the performances to earn the points we need.”

Hodgson’s appointment as Watford boss marks his first job back in management since leaving Palace at the end of last season, having guided the Eagles to 11th, 12th, 14th and 14th-placed finishes in the Premier League in subsequent seasons.

Despite admitting he wasn’t actively seeking a return to football the Croydon native insists the chance to work under Gino Pozzo in the English top-flight was too good to turn down, having worked for the Pozzo family at Udinese in the early 2000s.

He said: “I think it was the right time for me to step aside at Palace after a long four years, but my passion for the game was never missing, even when I stopped.

“I haven’t been waking up in the morning pulling my hair out, but I’ve certainly never lost that itch or desire to get back to work. I haven’t actively sought another position, and the last thing on my mind when I watched Watford’s match against Norwich last week was that I could become the club’s manager.

“It’s come out of the blue, but very pleasantly out of the blue and I do feel very ready to take this challenge on. I have worked with the Pozzo family before briefly and had contact with them throughout my career, and I’m excited to work with Gino here.

“I know how he works, and about his passion for football. I know he’s demanding and that he always wants the best, and I’m confident of achieving what he’s asked us to do in the remainder of this season.”

Alongside Hodgson’s reunion with the Pozzo family Lewington’s arrival as the former’s assistant marks an emotional return to Hertfordshire for a hugely popular figure among the Watford faithful.

Lewington, 65, took charge of the Golden Boys during a difficult financial period between 2002 and 2005, and successfully battled against the odds to help Watford avoid relegation from the Championship, while guiding the club to two cup semi-finals in three seasons.

Having worked with him while in charge of Fulham, England and Palace, Hodgson is in no doubt of the influence Lewington will have back at Watford second time around.

Hodgson added: “I think everyone needs an assistant with them who they trust and whose ability they believe in, and Ray offers that. We do have quite a large body of work together behind us now, and it was good he was available and that the club were prepared to bring him in.

“We’re going to be talking a lot about what we’re seeing and experiencing, and it’s always good to bounce ideas off somebody who you know sings off the same hymn sheet as you. As a unit, we can’t wait to get going.”

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