Sunday 15 December 2019

Mullins to hold Watford fort as club chases a tenth manager in six years

Quique Sanchez Flores’ second spell at Watford lasted just 85 days
Quique Sanchez Flores’ second spell at Watford lasted just 85 days

Jason Burt

Hayden Mullins is expected to take charge of Watford's vital Premier League game away to Leicester City on Wednesday following the sacking of Quique Sanchez Flores after just 85 days.

It is possible that Watford may announce Sanchez Flores' successor as early as today but, as of last night, no replacement had been agreed.

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In itself that is unusual for Watford who normally have a new head coach lined up before a dismissal is confirmed, but it was felt best to make a change anyway. Sanchez Flores' return to the club was announced little over 30 minutes after Javi Gracia was dismissed just four games into the season.

Mullins, a former midfielder with West Ham United who joined the coaching staff at Watford three years ago, will step up from the U-23s with Sanchez Flores' staff having departed with him.

Replacement Watford felt that it was more important to sack Sanchez Flores than have a replacement ready following the dispiriting defeat away to Southampton on Saturday.

Watford surrendered a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 and to leave themselves at the bottom of the table with just one win and only eight points - their worst return at this stage of a campaign in the top-flight.

After consultation with players it was felt Sanchez Flores was holding the team back with defensive tactics and his substitutions. There was also concern about whether training was intense enough and that the squad had lost something of its 'DNA' and wanted to attack teams more.

Sanchez Flores' successor will be their tenth coach in just six years with Watford sources having ruled out an approach for former Brighton manager Chris Hughton.

However, it is understood they would like to appoint a coach with Premier League experience and preferably British or Irish.

The Spaniard was dismissed in a meeting at Watford's training ground yesterday morning. It brings to an end a brief second spell at Watford for the 54-year-old who had been in charge during the club's first campaign back in the top-flight, in 2015-16, when he guided them to 13th but was let go after a contract extension was not triggered.

Sanchez Flores succeeded fellow Spaniard Javi Gracia who was sacked after just four league games of the season with Watford believing the relationship between him and his players had broken down.

Bringing back Sanchez Flores, who was reappointed on a two-year deal after coming back from China, was regarded as a safe bet given his reputation for organising teams and making them hard to beat.

Chairman Scott Duxbury said that "ultimately results have dictated our decision" with Watford fearing that they might become cut adrift at the foot of the table if they did not act during a season in which they had high hopes kicking on from reaching the FA Cup Final and securing a top 10 finish.

Sanchez Flores oversaw only 10 league games, gaining one victory, although he was also unfortunate with a number of draws. The final straw came after Watford surrendered a 1-0 lead at St Mary's, given to them by record £41m signing Ismaila Sarr, with two late goals and with the coach blamed for not managing the game out.

Duxbury met with Watford owner Gino Pozzo and technical director Filippo Giraldi, who were all at Southampton, after the game with the decision taken then to dispense with Sanchez Flores once he arrived for a squad recovery session.

He wrote an open letter on the Watford website in which said that the club "will always be in my heart". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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