22 July 2012

Are the Pozzos good for Watford?


TDTR has reservations about Watford's new owner Giampaolo Pozzo.

The way that Watford have started their new era under the ownership of Giampaolo Pozzo and his family is a cause for concern.

The Pozzos bought the club last month from Laurence Bassini. They already own Serie A side Udinese as well as the Spanish side Granada, who just about avoided relegation from La Liga last season.

One of the first decisions that the new owners did was to sack manager Sean Dyche. He isn't the most experienced of coaches, but the truth is that he did lead Watford to an impressive 11th-place finish in the Championship last season, which was three places higher than they managed in their last season under the much-lauded Malky Mackay.

His replacement was the Pozzos' Italian compatriot Gianfranco Zola, who had been out of football since his sacking as West Ham United manager a couple of years ago.

The new chiefs are obviously hoping he has the same impact as Paolo Di Canio has had at Swindon Town - by which I mean guiding them to promotion, and not turning them into a team of Johnny foreigners, but one suspects that the latter is just as likely to happen at Vicarage Road as the former.

Earlier this month, Zola brought in a number of trialists with a view to possibly signing them. They were Czech international Daniel Pudil, his compatriot striker Matej Vydra, and Swiss midfielder Almen Abdi. Pudil is contracted to Granada, Vydra and Abdi to Udinese.

It is quite clear that Udinese is the Pozzos' main club. Giampaolo bought them back in 1986 when they had come off the back of one of Italy's 483 football betting scandals, and over time transformed the Bianconeri into a major Serie A force. Earlier this week, they were given the nod to build a new stadium in Udine, and having made shedloads of money by selling players like Alexis Sanchez and Gokhan Inler, the club has a bright future ahead.

Now a question must be asked - are Watford going to be no better than a feeder team for Udinese? The owners quickly need to persuade fans otherwise, by showing that they care just as much for their new acquisiton as their main business.

The Hornets have also been linked with moves for former Italy strikers Filippo Inzaghi and Alessandro Del Piero, who will no doubt be looking forward to playing on wet Tuesday evenings against teams like Huddersfield Town and Bristol City.

Watford fans welcome new technical director Gianluca Nani.

If Hornets fans aren't particularly worried yet, they might be once they find out that their new technical director is Gianluca Nani. He was the legendary West Ham deal-broker who brought outstanding players like David Di Michele and Savio Nsereko to Upton Park. Shortly after assuming his role at West Ham, Nani helped to get rid of boss Alan Curbishley and replaced him with, yep, Gianfranco Zola.

Since starting work at Vicarage Road, Nani has sold goalkeeper Scott Loach to Ipswich Town and defender Adrian Mariappa to Reading. With his track record, expect Jan Lastuvka and Walter Lopez to replace them.

Another Championship club that was the subject of a foreign takeover was Nottingham Forest, who were purchased by the al-Hasawi family of Kuwait. I think things will run more smoothly for the al-Hasawis than the Pozzos.

The al-Hasawi brothers quickly demonstrated that they genuinely care about the club, and understand the legacy left by the late Nigel Doughty. After sacking manager Steve Cotterill, they resisted the urge to go for a star name and instead hired the excellent Sean O'Driscoll, whose sacking from Doncaster Rovers was in retrospect very harsh when you consider what happened next.

With the right signings, Forest are well-placed for promotion to the Premier League. But with regards to Watford, I'm not so sure about them.

Watford are no strangers to having high-profile owners and chairmen, including most famously the singer Elton John. If this experiment goes to pot, the Pozzos might find that, with the Hornets supporters, sorry seems to be the hardest word.

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