Dear Gino, Scott, and all of Watford Football Club,
“Rest assured, we will do everything in our power to take Watford Football Club back to the Premier League, something we all believe we can achieve,” is what you said on July 27th, 2020, following our relegation from the Premier League.
At times, to many supporters, that statement did not appear true. Other Championship clubs signed players we were supposedly linked with. Luis Suarez, Pervis Estupinan, Gerard Deulofeu, Roberto Pereyra, Abdoulaye Doucoure, and many more left in the summer transfer window. Although an exodus of players was expected – especially considering the turbulent financial climate – it was still disappointing to see such talent on its way out.
Vladimir Ivic was appointed as head coach. At first, his appointment seemed a positive one. The high-octane attacking football he successfully deployed at Maccabi Tel-Aviv promised an exciting campaign. Despite picking up seven points from the first nine available, it quickly became clear the expectations for his style of play – from the fans’ perspective at least – were the opposite of what he demanded. He nonetheless laid the groundwork and discipline for one of the best defenses the Championship has ever seen.
By the time we were spiraling downward and lost 2-0 to Huddersfield and on the brink of falling out of the playoff places, it was clear change was needed, whether it be the players’ fault or Ivic’s. At the time, when he was replaced with a 40-year-old Spaniard who had hardly any head-coaching experience, the sacking seemed even more peculiar, and in a way, unjust.
Quickly, skepticism from supporters started to die down after Xisco Munoz’s inaugural match in charge, the first 1-0 triumph over Norwich City. But then the January transfer window came and went. Etienne Capoue departed. Instead of securing a what-appeared-to-be-imminent signing of talented Rennes midfielder James Lea-Siliki – a direct Capoue replacement – we settled for Dan Gosling.
As the second half of the season progressed, what felt like a poor transfer window proved to be perfect business (as Gosling, for example, rarely put a foot wrong when on the pitch). Xisco’s appointment as head coach could not have been any more ideal. At times, Mr. Pozzo and Mr. Duxbury, your ideas seemed unjustifiable, but in the end, you were right, as you have been so many times before. And for those times we doubted you, well, thank you for not letting it affect your planned path.
As supporters, we do not have to agree with all of your decisions. We can formulate our own opinions. But what we have to do, and as this season proved yet again, is not let differing views affect our passion and pride for the Club. Once more, you have shown us why we should always back you, even when times are tough and choices are questionable.
Now that we are back in the Premier League following a remarkable end to the season, we have a stronger foundation than before, a firmer identity, and new hope. So many times, your decisions that drew disagreement proved to be masterstrokes. Automatic promotion to the Premier League with two matches to spare in an ever-improving, extremely difficult second-tier is tangible proof that you doing everything in your power did not always take the form we wanted, but at the end of the day, it was exactly what we needed.
Perhaps many of us supporters focus too much on the bad. Not enough credit is given to the Club for being able to keep hold of Ismaila Sarr (for which Sarr himself also deserves tremendous praise and admiration). Joao Pedro’s rise to the spotlight felt expected, but we need to remember the tremendous scouting and job it took to sign him in the first place. The typical transfers with Udinese proved to be far from random, as it gave birth to a beyond-formidable center-back partnership of William Troost-Ekong and, remarkably, Francisco Sierralta. How you uncovered the managerial gem of Xisco is beyond our imaginations.
Through all the criticism, you stayed firm to what you believed, and more importantly, you ensured the club stuck to its values. In given moments, it is hard not to speak up against what the Club is doing. But in the end, your direction is exactly what we needed. For the times we doubted you, we could not be more glad to be proven wrong.
So thank you Gino, Scott, Xisco, all the players, everyone who works at the Club, and even Vladimir. It has been a hectic season, but in the end, sticking by you was beyond worth it, as has always been true, and as will always be true.
We can rest assured, as you indeed did everything in your power to take Watford Football Club back to the Premier League.
Words alone cannot describe how thankful, grateful, ecstatic, and proud we all are of our wonderful club.
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