So last week I posted about the firing of the Premier League’s best-looking coach and how I understood where the club was coming from. At first, the overall narrative seemed to track with the club’s claims. However, a different strain emerged quickly saying that Silva had been treated unfairly.
One such argument was put forth by none other than Paul Merson, who has done a complete 180 from his bizarre xenophobic rant when Silva was appointed at a different English club a year ago. In a recent Daily Star column, Merson argues that even with Watford’s recent poor form, results should still be good enough to keep the club in the Premier League and that you don’t see clubs in similar positions in the table even dropping hints about firing their coaches.
Merson points out that Watford’s current owners have a history of being a tad trigger-happy when it comes to firing coaches, and while the club and its fans might trot out justifications for each one, it’s perfectly reasonable to wonder if there isn’t some pattern in place responsible for Watford getting in this situation over and over again.
It’s a bit like someone who keeps dating horrible people and then dumping them upon realizing they’re horrible. If you continually attract the same “bad” people, at some point, you have to ask yourself what your role in that process is.
That said, it’s hard for anyone to argue with the firing of Silva’s predecessor at Watford, an Italian named Walter Mazzarri. He didn’t really speak English, and more importantly, he didn’t get along with the players. The club tumbled to a 17th-place finish, and I can understand how that might feel a bit too close for comfort, even if they finished 6 points ahead of the club in 18th place. It made sense to end his time at Watford after one season.
Sánchez Flores was hired at Watford, then newly promoted to the Premier League, to replace the coach who got them promoted, a Croatian by the name of Slaviša Jokanović. To be clear, Jokanović wasn’t fired, at least. His contract expired at the end of the season, and the club wasn’t willing to pay him what he wanted for a new contract.
So how did Sánchez Flores do? Watford finished 13th in the table, which is perfectly respectable for a newly-promoted club. He also guided the team to a semifinal appearance in England’s main domestic cup competition. So why was he fired? According to The Times of London:
The club felt that he switched off completely after guiding them to the FA Cup semi-final and began to enjoy his social life in London too much for their liking, and opted for a parting of the ways at the end of the 2015–16 season.
Is this starting to sound a bit repetitive to you now? It is to me.
So why have I gone with “Love Lies Bleeding” as my main title? Astute observers may know it’s the title of a song by Elton John. It just so happens that John is a lifelong Watford fan who owned the team at one point and still maintains some investment in the club.
While I don’t claim any special insight into anyone’s mind, for me the song is about two people who tried to compromise who they were so they could be together. That doesn’t work in the long term, and much of the song follows the narrator picking up the pieces after the other person has left.
Again, I don’t have any special insight into Watford’s owners or Marco Silva, but it’s not a huge stretch that something similar could have happened here. Yes, Silva could have been more discreet, but I also think Watford panicked at the first sign of behavior they didn’t like.
Robbie Earle pointed out that when Watford rebuffed Everton’s approach for Silva, the club could have shown support in ways like improving his contract or offering more money to sign new players in the next transfer window. Instead, the club’s rhetoric was basically like, “Nope, he’s under contract and you can’t have him.” It’s almost like at that moment the owners lost any trust they had in Silva. I know I wouldn’t feel valued if my employer talked like that. Maybe performance went downhill because Silva saw his backing vanish overnight. That’s just as plausible an explanation as the claim he threw a hissy fit when he couldn’t go to Everton.
To go back to the relationship analogy, it’s like that person who keeps making bad choices finally chooses someone who seems different but at the first sign of trouble comes out with all these rationalizations why the new person is just like all the others. If you keep treating your coaches like they’re disposable, you’re only going to attract disposable coaches. You can’t be mad when you aren’t shown loyalty that you haven’t shown yourself.
My advice to Silva’s successor, Javi Gracia: save your money and don’t get comfortable. You’ll probably be looking for a new job come summertime.