The ditching of Dyche

Posted by on Jul 9, 2012 in Uncategorized | 16 Comments
The ditching of Dyche

Watford aren’t my club, but when I heard the news that Sean Dyche had been given the boot by the Hornets’ new Italian owners to make way for Gianfranco Zola, I found myself strangely furious on Dyche’s behalf. How dare they breeze into Vicarage Road and and with breathtaking arrogance treat a club legend so shoddily – especially one who had worked so diligently and in difficult circumstances to engineer an improbably lofty position in last season’s Championship table. That it took four days for the club to confirm officially that Dyche’s head had rolled was equally shoddy. The praise for his “honour and dignity“, when it eventually came, seemed as much a comment on the way he had received the news as anything – a pat on the back for not kicking up a fuss (though, of course, it’s possible he’s actually been gagged).

And what of his replacement? The apparent assumption that a big-name manager is required at the helm (nothing new, if you think of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s recent employment record) suggests a complete lack of comprehension of the division on the part of the owners. What’s more, history hangs heavy over the appointment – the club’s previous experiment with Italian stewardship a decade ago, with Gianluca Vialli, was an unmitigated disaster. It’s not as though Zola worked wonders during his stint with West Ham, either (even if it was his successor Avram Grant who took the Hammers down).

But, I wondered, was my indignation just a kneejerk reaction? Was I perhaps being unduly harsh on the Pozzos? After all, if they’re going to make substantial amounts of cash available, isn’t it their prerogative to decide who they want to spend it? Dyche wasn’t their appointment and, in that context, his dismissal assumes an air of depressing inevitability.

And what about the views of genuine Watford fans? Far from being angry, might they actually be enthused by the recent turn of events, excited at the new chapter and accepting of Dyche’s sacking as its necessary preface? I turned to my friend Jez for his thoughts…

It’s naïve to expect that football clubs act differently to any other business. We think they should because we invest a lifetime of faithful devotion, unlike their ephemeral staff. We dress them up and sprinkle on tradition and personality because we care.

Watford’s former owner, a local “businessman”, bought the club for £440,000. My mate Daz and I reckoned if we’d have both taken out another mortgage we could have picked it up. Unlike us, though, he was a bankrupt who kept changing his name every time he set up a new business. Once the Guardian‘s David Conn starts writing about your team, you know there’s trouble. We featured on his laptop a lot. There were strange goings-on, unforgivable public fall outs with Graham Taylor, hissy fits with fans followed by silence; the police were even called when a staff member refused to hand over the keys to the safe! It was like a nightmarish episode of Dream Team. Amazingly, though, the owner had started to deliver on promises. The pitch was re-laid, the pub over the road from the ground was reopened and we also had our best league finish for five years, although we continued to sell our best players and our managers moved on to Destination Clubs (© Brendan Rodgers).

The Pozzos (Italian “businessmen”) are talking a good game: investing in the youth academy, rebuilding the ground (four sides, anyone?), running the club as a not-for-profit social enterprise and entering into a partnership with their other teams, Granada and Udinese. Their long-term strategy has worked in Spain and Italy, where both sides were floundering but are now in the top flight. But at Watford they began by sacking Dyche, the man who with good grace, honesty and hardly any resources picked up the pieces and made our disparate group of players into a team, rather than up sticks with Malky Mackay and move to Cardiff. He stayed with us. Now he’s gone. If we didn’t have a manager, then I’d be chuffed to have Zola, but not under these circumstances. But as I said, for them it’s business. For us it’s more than that.

We are a community club; we promote youth players and enjoy them before we sell them on and watch them throughout their careers. I’m sure Alan Green wouldn’t understand, but sometimes football isn’t just about winning. It’s about pride, affection and emotion. It’s about liking your club. A couple of seasons ago we gave a professional contract to a lower-league left back. Rumour has it we’ll have a young Brazilian loanee in that position soon.

It’s not the Watford I know, and that may be no bad thing. I’d rather listen to Otis Redding on a tinny transistor radio than an X Factor performer singing the same song in surround sound. It’d be nice to be in the Premier League again, but not at any cost. I hope my club can retain some of its soul.

And if it does, then the Hornets’ potential is arguably there. Situated in a populous part of the country, Watford would need to win over those supporters seduced by the allure of north London pair Arsenal and Spurs, but the Pozzos have the requisite experience to make the long-term project work.

As for Dyche, he can consider himself extremely unfortunate to have been the fall guy and shouldn’t have to wait long for another management opportunity. Lanterne Rouge’s money is on a return to Chesterfield, a club he served with distinction as a player in the early to mid 1990s. May saw the Spireites relegated back to League 2 after a solitary campaign in the third tier, and current managerial incumbent John Sheridan will be under pressure to get off to a good start. If he doesn’t, we could be hearing that distinctive rasp back on The Football League Show sooner rather than later.

Ben
Ben is a long-suffering Newcastle Utd supporter (is there any other kind?) who co-founded and co-wrote Black & White & Read All Over, a blog that, over the course of a decade, chronicled the ups, downs, chaos and calamity of the club he has the misfortune to follow. Since the blog hung up its boots in May 2014 (note: not as a mark of respect for Shola Ameobi leaving St James’ Park), he has contented himself with sporadic, splenetic Twitter outbursts and shamefully rare contributions to The Two Unfortunates. He is currently haunted by visions of Joe Kinnear returning to the club for a third spell and pondering whether he’ll live to see another victory over the Mackems, but at least has a cardboard coathanger with Robert Lee’s head on it for consolation.

15 Comments

  1. Tom
    July 9, 2012

    Hard to disagree with a lot of the points raised in this.

    Every fan I’ve been in contact with over the whole affair is disgruntled that Dyche has been booted out so unceremoniously having done a terrific job. I for one find it hard to believe that Zola would have achieved 11th spot in the Championship given the circumstances and resources that Dyche worked with last season.

    However, the bigger picture is that Bassini is now gone, and if the terms of the Pozzo’s taking over were that we’d lose Dyche too, then that is just hard luck because getting rid of Bassini was the main thing. The Pozzo’s come with a proven track record and although they seem to think the answer lies in Zola, a man who has (like Dyche), one good managerial season to his name, at least we won’t go through the charade of waiting for the Pozzo’s to sack Dyche during the season as he isn’t their man.

    One hope, which I’m confident will be met, is that we don’t ‘do a Leicester’ and spends millions and millions trying to assemble a Championship-elect XI. That isn’t the Pozzo’s model which is good because that almost never works in this division. I would say that the Pozzo model of buying low & selling high a few years later (Isla, Asamoah, Handanovic & Sanchez) is very reminiscent of us already so that has to be a good thing too.

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  2. putajumperon
    July 9, 2012

    As usual a well written and measured piece…
    Its a huge change for our club and one we should stay calm about until the picture unfolds more. The track record for Udinese and Granada is ok which is a positive, but Duxbury’s insistence on calling the club a “project” is at best woeful. Still life goes on…

    Yours remaining cautious for now,
    A

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  3. Matt R
    July 9, 2012

    Good stuff. Completely agree with your “pride, affection, emotion” line, well put. No, football isn’t always about winning.

    In fairness, much as the Dyche sacking is hugely disappointing, I don’t think the Zola appointment is based upon the need for a high profile figurehead per se. Nani and Duxbury, who proposed the takeover to the Pozzos, worked with Zola at West Ham. That doesn’t mean that it will all work out fine, of course, but he’s a previous part of the team rather than someone they’ve cherry picked to massage their egos.

    West Ham didn’t go terribly well, obviously and some of the accounts of that are alarming, even in context (see http://moxycoxy.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/it-could-be-murder-at-the-vicarage/), but passing judgement on the whole thing at this stage feels a bit premature. Depressing as the Dyche dismissal was, it has to be set against the backdrop of the alternative, apparently, being the previous administration… which I would paint in less balanced terms than you (or Daz) have.

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  4. Greg
    July 9, 2012

    Would hardly say that Dyche was a “club legend”

    Reply
  5. Simon
    July 9, 2012

    Great piece Ben, (loved the comment about being the subject of a David Conn article!) and hard to disagree with anything. As seen from the respondents so far, the feelings on whether Sean Dyche was a club legend are mixed, although most agree he’s been hard done by. I think that some overlooked the incredible restrictions Dyche had to work under, they would probably fall into the same category as those who thought Ray Lewington’s dismissal was deserved. Others have a more realistic viewpoint and appreciate the talented line of managers Watford have had. Most seem to welcome the new owners, are cautiously optimistic about Zola being manager, and are a little more worried about the arrivals of Gianluca Nani and Scott Duxbury, who we hope won’t be spending money quicker than you say “Mark Ashton”….

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  6. Lanterne Rouge
    July 9, 2012

    I know I am being naive but this seems to be yet another case where football seems exempt from the usual standards of behaviour. Where else would someone who has over performed be asked to leave their post like this? It’s not as if there is anything on Dyche’s CV to suggest that he couldn’t have done even better with greater funds. Of course he’ll have received a better severance package than the average bank teller who is sacked but that still doesn’t excuse it.

    I’m a Zola fan and West Ham looked very silly in the wake of the Sardinian’s departure. The young players the club have coming through do provide much reason for optimism – especially Sean Murray. Tom Bodell is dead right that money shouldn’t be thrown at things – the parallels to the Vialli era might then become legion.

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  7. Smudger Jnr
    July 9, 2012

    Fans (of all clubs) will always go on about “pride, affection, emotion”, but never fail to be swayed by good results. Having proved many doubting Watford fans wrong (this time last year the jury was very much out on his appointment), Dyche is unfortunate to be the wrong man in the wrong place. It” s no surprise to me that they should appoint someone that can speak English and Italian.

    I have also seen a lot of negative scaremongering from Hammers fans about the people involved. But this seems to me to be another example of the negative ‘supporting’ that almost undermined their campaign last season. We should not listen without a pinch of salt, and certainly shouldn’t follow this example of arrogance and expectation.

    We have been using loan players (and embracing them if they perform) for years. From the reaction on the local paper message boards, it seems that some of our fans are more likely to want Tome Cleverly to do well for GB footy team than Marvin Sordell! We still hold affection for loan players , whilst bemoaning our own players that ‘abandon’ us for a better opportunity.

    I can’t guarantee that this will work anymore than the next man. Maybe the new owners/management aren’t aware of the competitive level of the champ (tho i doubt it is any better a standard than Liga Adelante, from which Granada CF were promoted). I can’t see it failing as dismally as the Vialli tenure, as these guys will not be signing old crap players on excessive wages. Personally, i am going to look forward to the best case scenario. Get fully behind the new owners, management and players (contracted and loanees), and enjoy the ride.

    Reply
  8. Mark
    July 9, 2012

    I do feel sorry for Dyche but that doesn’t mean I won’tgive Zola and the new owners my support.

    You just have to hope they know what to do under pressure as the fans will not accept a slow start having got rid of a popular manager.

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  9. Ben
    July 9, 2012

    Thanks for all your responses. Perhaps my reference to Dyche as a “club legend” was overstating the case – that’s what I assumed him to be, having captained the side as a player, but I must admit to being surprised to discover that he made significantly fewer than 100 appearances in yellow.

    I should add that a cock-up with my use of italics meant that it wasn’t clear what were my thoughts and what were those of the Watford-supporting friend I consulted, Jez. Article layout now tidied up for clarity – don’t want to be taking credit for his wise words!

    Reply
  10. Bringe
    July 9, 2012

    The King is dead! Long live the King!

    I freely admit I was no fan of Dyches appointment and I won’t lose too much sleep over his replacement but the lad done well, much better than I thought he would. If he can hold back from a lower league job he’ll be in great demand come october/november when some expensively put together Championship side needs rescuing.

    Ecstatic describes my feeling of the Pozzo’s takeover, mainly for the security it gives us. Whether we can hit the giddy heights SEJ and Taylor took us to is not important, not at all and naturally I’d take it but if we can follow Fulham’s example that’s plenty enough for me.

    Bassini take a hike, I hope your pub flounders and we can grab it back for peanuts.

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  11. Bringe
    July 9, 2012

    Those “worrying” about Duxbury and Nani … don’t because we won’t be buying any big names, only Pozzo’s young charges. It was after all these pair who brought the Pozzo’s to the club and not vice versa and tell your West Ham mates to try blaming their ex owners for going bust.

    Reply
  12. Jonathan Rodgers
    July 9, 2012

    This is a good balanced article article and I’ve also been impressed by the numerous comments (not seen an article that has prompted so many comments for a while).
    As a bit of an outsider looking in (I’m a Derby County fan but probably watch more Watford games every season) I certainly feel bad for Dyche being dumped after such heroics last season. I don’t think the club’s statement about his departure was particularly fulsome in its praise for him but, having said that, he left with his reputation intact and I have no doubt he’ll secure another decent job soon.
    As for Zola, it was obvious that the Pozzos were going to want to appoint their own man (as another poster has said, someone who is Italian and speaks English fits the bill perfectly) and I reckon he had an impossible job at West Ham. I’m willing to keep an open mind about him.
    As for the Pozzos, I’ve read a hell of a lot about them in the past month and have not seen anything that gives me any concern whatsoever.
    In any case, the alternative was highly likely to have been the club slipping into administration or at the very least limping on for a season under the rather suspect ownership of a certain Mr Bassini.

    Reply
  13. Juan Cornetto
    July 9, 2012

    I think all WFC fans need to take a deep breath and be realistic about what happens at the Vic in the next couple of years. A play off place this season is a realistic goal and if we get lucky, well then lets take it.and build on that. If we are to assume a similar role as our two other sister clubs, then we can expect a fair number of comings and goings in the meantime. it could well be a roller coaster ride, but certainly an exciting one!

    Reply
  14. Steve Wright
    July 10, 2012

    The sacking of Dyche was disappointing but predictable really, I shared your distant anger at the news as a football fan with no connection to Watford FC. Your friend Jez is a man after my own heart and I hope that the things that make Watford an admirable club are preserved, but I acknowledge that I am an incurable romantic when it comes to football.

    Reply
  15. Stanley
    July 10, 2012

    “I’m sure Alan Green wouldn’t understand, but sometimes football isn’t just about winning. It’s about pride, affection and emotion. It’s about liking your club.” As eloquent a summary of what football should be about as I’ve ever read.

    Interesting to read the mostly pragmatic views of Watford fans in the comments above. I’m not so sure that I would be so cautious if my club were to become a satellite of another, near or far. In short, I can’t help but feel an affinity with Jez’s forlorn idealism. A football club can, and should, be more than just a vehicle for profit and promotion. It seems to me that any number of Brazilian wonderkids arriving on loan won’t make up for an erosion of integrity and identity.

    Reply

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