Talking Point: Backroom Staff
A lot has been made in the media of the instability of the head coach position at the club. All Watford fans are quite frankly sick to death of the term "five managers in 10 months" being flung around newspapers and social media so much.
The swift downfall of Billy McKinlay and the decision not to meet the much-inflated wage demands of Jokanovic`s new contract at the end of last season do however slot straight into the surprising and baffling category.
Despite all of the talk about the top job at the club, I feel that the role of assistant manager at the club has most definitely gone under the radar. The stability that is so vital at any football club is not solely reliant upon how solid or long term we make our managerial appointments, but also the much needed constants among backroom staff.
It seems extremely common in the media and amongst football fans nowadays that once a manager has gone (in perhaps bewildering fashion at times) any hope of solidity at the club must be completely lost.
Contrary to this, I would argue that the assistant managers, physiotherapists and goalkeeping coaches - to name just a few backroom staff - all spend just as much or even more time with the players. This is equally as essential a component for a club as that of the head coach role. Of course, this is not to say that the head coach is any less important, far from it.
Ruben Martinez and Javier Pereira, who arrived as assistant managers at Vicarage Road when Oscar Garcia was appointed head coach in early September, were kept on despite the managerial changes that were to ensue. There can be no doubt that their contributions were instrumental in our promotion. They gave the players the all-important stability to cling onto, acting as a vital foundation from which to push on from.
The fact Pereira and Martinez had been at the club for a month prior to the appointment of Jokanovic, eased the transition process for the Serbian. Their knowledge of the players must have helped the new manager that came in understand the talent in the squad much sooner, which only benefitted results on the pitch, particularly during the grueling Christmas stretch.
Results soon after their arrival - including a poor November - were a fair distance away from what we would have expected of the players. However, the assistant manager duo surely deserves huge credit for navigating the team and Jokanovic through a congested Christmas period. That is to say, from the start of December (who can forget the 0-5 win over Fulham!), up to and including the 3-1 loss to Huddersfield on January 10th.
In this time, we played six league games, grinding out four wins and losing two. This is not remarkable, as many who watched the 0-1 loss to Wolves will know, but it was enough, and was the dirty work and building blocks that formed the base of our surge in the second half of the season.
The building blocks were absolutely essential to our outstanding form from January to that magnificent Saturday at Brighton, but Jokanovic`s request for an English assistant manager was perhaps equally as pivotal. With his request granted, Dean Austin was added to the backroom staff in the aftermath of the 3-1 loss against Huddersfield.
This, I believe, was a godsend. Our real upturn in form coincided with the arrival of Austin. There were twenty-one games left of the season in the wake of the Huddersfield loss. Bearing in mind the sole concern of most Watford fans was to finish in the top six, never mind the top two, Watford won fifteen of these games, drawing three and losing three, amounting to a stunning forty-eight points from a possible sixty-three.
The result of this, as we know, was a very sweet promotion to the Premier League.
It is surely no accident that our consistent winning form started straight after Dean Austin`s appointment, and his coming undoubtedly acted as a catalyst for our season. As good as the backroom staff already was at the club, we`d all been begging for an English influence with greater experience and know-how.
Austin evidently provided this and played a focal role in guiding the team and aiding the management staff to the Promised Land.
It is also impossible not to notice how the post-Christmas trio of assistant managers, alongside the cool, calm and collected nature of Jokanovic, gave us fans a sense that there was a real sense of togetherness within the team.
It was easy to tell that they were a tight nit group - something that was visibly lacking under the reign of Beppe Sannino.
For this reason, the assistant managers, in particular Dean Austin, deserve all the accolades they receive.
In my opinion, as a result of Jokanovic`s brave substitutions, astute tactical alterations and more recognised position at the club, the efforts of Pereira, Martinez and Austin went slightly unnoticed.
Thus, I for one am very thankful that Watford has decided to keep Dean Austin at the club as an assistant manager despite the new arrival of Quique Sanchez Flores.
Despite this, it is sad to see Pereira and Martinez forced to leave, with Flores bringing with him two new colleagues both of whom he has previously worked with.
Joining the coaching structure with Flores is Antonio Diaz Carlavilla and Alberto Giraldez. They briefly worked alongside Flores at Getafe in the Spanish top division; therefore they are already well acquainted with the new head coach, how he works, and his tactical preferences etc. We can only hope that this new coaching structure at the club pays dividends and helps the squad to maintain its Premier League status come the end of the upcoming and exciting new season.