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Gino Pozzo’s Hornets 2020: Update on Watford FC

It’s obvious that the Watford F.C. has progressed significantly over the past 8 years since Gino Pozzo took charge of the club, making an impressive comeback to the Premier League and competing in a prestigious FA Cup Championship in 2019. Still, the club’s follow-up performance in the current season has been lackluster and the club is currently sitting in the 17th position at the Premier League Table.

From his history at Watford, Pozzo, who comes from a family of football aficionados and a history of owning two other European football clubs, is known to be a perfectionist who demands a great deal from his players as well as managers. While he has been criticized for making what appear to be rash decisions, and appointing an unprecedented number of managers since he took over the club, Pozzo continues to run a tight ship at Vicarage Road.

In September of 2019, Pozzo fired manager Javi Gracia, who had successfully coached the team throughout the 2018-2019 season, leading the club to an FA Cup Championship and finishing in 11th position at the Premier League Table, when Pozzo noted that the team seemed to have “gone flat” under Gracia’s management.  Having won not a single match in the season, Gracia was replaced with Quique Sánchez Flores, who was reappointed after having also been dismissed some seasons back.  In December, Sánchez Flores was replaced with Nigel Pearson, an Englishman who earned a solid reputation in English Premier League football through a lengthy tenure as manager at Leicester F.C. from 2008 through 2015.

While it may seem to some that Pozzo’s decision-making style is a little reckless, many others consider Pozzo a visionary given his keen foresight, as noted in his instinct for identifying Watford as a promising team that could be successfully lifted from the down-in-the-dumps condition it was in when Pozzo bought the club.  His straightforward handling of affairs coupled with his lifelong passion and understanding of football have been instrumental to Watford’s dazzling resurrection in the English Premier League.

Historically one of the poorest clubs in English football, Watford enjoyed a brief heyday in the Premier League during the late 1970s and 80s, but the club had basically spent the better part of its history languishing in the lower divisions. When Pozzo purchased the club from Laurence Bassini and took over the Hornets in 2012, the club was not only in dire need of a financial rescue, but was also hopelessly in need of a new direction and focused leadership. 

Pozzo not only managed to stabilize the Watford F.C. financially, alleviating the club’s financial woes and making significant improvements to the stadium at Vicarage Road, but his leadership also brought about a change in the club’s scouting and recruitment policy.

The Pozzo family, who has owned the Udinese Football Club in Italy since 1986, also once owned the Granada Football Club in Spain before Gino Pozzo purchased the Watford F.C.  Their unique model of owning international sports clubs simultaneously gave rise to a scouting and recruitment practice of trading and loaning players between clubs, as well as recruiting young promising players from all over the world.

One of the most influential characteristics of the impressive resurgence of the Watford F.C. in the English Premier League can be credited directly to Pozzo’s tenure at Watford, where he has set up an extensive global scouting network that has allowed the club to supplement their squad with top-quality players from around the world continuously. Pozzo’s broad scouting network has ended the club’s over-reliance on higher-priced English players, since the club now recruits players from all over the world at lower prices.

With a capacity of only 21,000 Vicarage Road represents little more than a quarter of the capacity at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium. The club, among the most humble in the Premier League, cannot afford to purchase renowned stars as their followers and supporters would wish. At Watford, the Pozzo strategy is to recruit promising, up-and-coming players, groom them, make them great, and then sell them to larger clubs for a profit.

Young players from developing countries are attracted to this opportunity, as it not only benefits Watford but also grants them international visibility, as well as a foot into one of Europe’s top leagues, an opportunity to play with Premier League players, and a chance make a name for themselves. It also provides a platform from which they can attract the attention of bigger clubs who can pay better money for their skill and talent as their careers develop.  Essentially, it’s a win-win formula for both the club and the players.  So much so that even up-and-coming English players, who could feasibly command higher salaries at bigger clubs, are seeing the benefit of Gino Pozzo’s system.

Pozzo has established a three-headed leaderships team at Watford F.C., consisting of himself, Filippo Giraldi, who oversees the squad and managers, and Scott Duxbury who handles the more administrative components of the business. But Pozzo remains closely involved in every key decision made at the club, including recruitment and hiring of players and managers. Even when Pozzo is not physically present at Vicarage Road, he and his team remain in constant contact.