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Adios Quique Flores but Watford Have Big Plans

13/05/2016 14:26 | Updated 13 May 2016

If it really is the Premier League's worst-kept secret, then it's a sorry curtain that descends on a great season.

Quique Sanchez Flores is a descendent of a famous ballerina. His godfather was the supremely brilliant Alfredo di Stefano. He knows what it takes to entertain.

On his CV are caps for Spain, many appearances for Real Madrid, a season managing Valencia and, most famously, the 2010 Europa League victory as gaffer of Atletico Madrid. But he was without a job for the start of 2015/6, and Watford could not meet the demands of Slavisa Jokanovic, who left in May 2015 after guiding Watford back to the Premier League.

Much has been written about the Pozzo era of Watford, starting from Martin Samuel half-correctly saying in September 2012 that their takeover was 'everything that is wrong with modern football'.

Only when Watford gained promotion could serious money be spent, but in the three years of paddling in the second tier, Watford fans saw some of the most technically brilliant players in their 130 years of existence.

Almen Abdi and Matej Vydra came, unknown, in 2012 along with at least fifteen other new players and a new manager, who was very well known. As Gianfranco Zola came within one game of promotion, Watford fans were dreaming, but a nightmare season followed. In the middle of an eight-game losing run, Zola departed to be replaced by the exuberant Italian Beppe Sannino.

A team including the likes of Pudil, McGugan and Forestieri - who are all right now preparing for Sheffield Wednesday's play-off semi-final against Brighton & Hove Albion - and without an injured Abdi and with a Vydra sitting on a bench at West Bromwich, struggled. The final game of the 2013/4 season, a 1-4 loss at home to Huddersfield, was, if you can imagine such a thing, ten times worse than the 2-4 loss at Carrow Road on May 11.

May 11 1976 was the day Elton John took over the club as owner. May 19 1984 was the day he cried at Wembley Stadium, Watford's first trip to the Twin Towers ending in a 0-2 loss to Everton.

By May 11 2016, the club had secured top-tier status. The squad Flores managed was probably the finest collection of talent, with an average age of about 28. Craig Cathcart and Miguel Britos were the centre-back pairing in front of Heurelho Gomes, whose saves and clean sheets won Watford as many points as the goals from Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo did.

Fans sang that club-record signing Eti Capoue was 'better than Zidane'. (He was, but only until about February.) Jose Jurado was a key presence out wide until his injury in midwinter and, before he faded, Allen Nyom was a super addition at right-back.

Nyom has played for all three clubs owned by the Pozzos. What's more, after competing concurrently for the first time in the top divisions in Italy, Spain and England, they all survived, ensuring that 2016/7 will have Udinese in Serie A, Granada in La Liga and Watford in the Premier League.

However, due to a worrying dip in results and in spite of a superb run of unconvincing wins in the Emirates FA Cup, Quique Flores has, it is strongly rumoured, exercised the break clause in his contract which will take him away from the Watford dugout. A charming man who carried himself well and popularised the word 'amazing' in his interviews, Flores is the most stylish manager since Sean Dyche took his hundred pairs of shoes off to Burnley after the Pozzos came into the club in July 2012.

Troy Deeney, in his first season as a Premier League player, has an impressive fourteen goals in thirty-seven games, with one dead rubber left at home to Sunderland. In three seasons in the second tier he managed twenty goals in all three. He is the most prolific and consistent striker over more than twelve months since his friend Tommy Mooney.

Troy is a galvanising force who unites the 1881 fan movement (the noisy bit of the home support) and the players at the club, be they English, Spanish, Romanian, Swiss, Ecuadorian, Moroccan, French, Scottish, Cameroonian, Nigerian, German-born Greek, Dutch, Belgian, Ulsterman, Austrian, Uruguayan or went to school in Watford ('that boy Sean Murray, he's one of our own!').

As someone who has spent four years trying to understand the pulling power of Watford FC, I am confident that they have had their best season in thirty years in the top tier (1987/8 saw the departure of Graham Taylor and relegation from the old First Division) and they will build on foundations which have led to only 38 goals scored but a commendable 48 conceded, and 11 of those came in three games (Norwich away and then home and away against the training-ground neighbours Arsenal).

With Flores gone in all but name (as of May 12), some fans have their wish, but they must be careful that they never lose sight of what the Pozzo family are trying to do: repeat their success with Udinese and Granada and help Watford become a stable, top-division club.

Maybe next season will bring another smashed transfer record, or Tim Sherwood as manager.

In Pozzo We Trust. Que sera, sera.

Jonathan's book Saturday, 3pm: A Modern Guide to Modern Football is out digitally on May 19 2016.

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