It has been three months since Gianfranco Zola resigned as Watford head coach. The Italian still doesn’t know if quitting the club was the right decision and admits it was “very painful” .
Zola spent 18 months in charge of the Hornets and led the club to the Championship play-off final in his first season.
It was a campaign that ultimately ended in disappointment as the Golden Boys lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace at Wembley.
The promotion charge in his first season came as a surprise but it was expected during the current campaign.
After an encouraging start, the Hornets’ form stuttered. And after a 1-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday at Vicarage Road, Watford’s fifth consecutive home defeat, Zola decided to resign.
Zola, who was speaking about his departure on Sky Sports’ Goals on Sunday, explained: “It has been very painful because I enjoyed my time there and I enjoyed the company of the people I worked with.
“But obviously something had to be done because it wasn’t clicking.”
He continued: “I think there were things that didn’t work out the way we wanted. We lost players from last year that were very important players.
“The players that came in to take their place were unfortunately not able to fill the gap. So they were a big miss.
“We had players that didn’t play much but were so important within the team, for example John Eustace.
“There were other players that didn’t play much but they were also so important. I have to say it was a big mistake and I put my hands up.
“In the case of John, we could have kept him. There were some questions about his physical condition and he hadn’t played much for me because of that reason.
“So there were a few things that didn’t go the way we wanted.”
While the play-off final defeat was a disappointing end to Zola’s first season in charge, the campaign had been a positive one.
Zola had faced several questions throughout the season about the number of loanees the Hornets had obtained from fellow Pozzo-owned clubs Udinese and Granada.
He believes the links between the teams did give Watford certain advantages but stresses the high turnover of players made it difficult to build a side. Several of the loans were turned into permanent deals last summer and further players, such as Lewis McGugan, were added.
It was anticipated the Hornets would be one of the front runners for promotion this season and Zola believes that the increased expectation didn’t help his squad.
“We are a very young team and last year we were faultless,” Zola told Goals on Sunday. “We enjoyed it, didn’t think about the result and just performed.
“This year many players didn’t complete their maturity. It’s one thing playing for nothing and it’s another when you’ve got to perform all the time. That takes time and we didn’t have that time this year.”
He added: “Of course I made some mistakes and I take full responsibility for that. Some of the things could’ve been done in a different way.
“The club have obviously made some mistakes as well, so it is something that we all have to share.”
Zola’s final game in charge was the 1-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday on December 15.
He resigned three days later and says he felt he was doing the best thing for himself and the club.
“I didn’t feel like it was right for me to stay and I couldn’t do more than that,” Zola said. “Whether it was the right thing for me to do or not, I don’t know.
“But I said in that moment that I felt that something had to be done. It has been very painful but I had to do that.
“I don’t want to get too much into that because it might take me to a place where it makes me sound like I am making excuses or accusing people.
“Sometimes in football things don’t go the way you wanted and it is not his fault or my fault. It is the way it had to be.
“I feel for the players and I feel for the supporters because this year we wanted to see things go in a different way.”