Beppe Sannino has not given up hope of reaching the play-offs but passionately stated Watford’s supporters – and not a top-six finish – should be the players’ motivation heading into the crunch game with Ipswich Town.
The Hornets are seven points below the play-offs with five games remaining. But the form of the sides around them and the fact they have a game in hand means the dream of a top-six finish is still alive, just.
Tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) opponents, Ipswich Town, are eighth in the Championship, level on points with Reading who occupy the final play-off place.
Watford would be sixth on goal difference had they not conceded after the 85th minute in four of their last eight matches.
Sannino made no secret of his frustration at Saturday’s injury-time goal against Millwall, which cost them another two points, after conceding late against Burnley, Blackburn Rovers and Doncaster Rovers in the last five weeks.
The Italian was still noticeably annoyed when he spoke to the media yesterday (Thursday) afternoon ahead of the Ipswich game, with Vicarage Road expected to be a sell-out.
Sannino was asked if reaching the play-offs was being used as motivation when addressing his players.
He responded with: “My players must have the motivation of thinking about how many goals we have conceded late in matches, although we are still in contention. This is a motivation.
“For me, I am not the kind of person who gives players the reasons for motivation and by talking. I would like them to watch the situation and feel the situation.
“One of the motivations should be that our stadium will be full. This [the supporters] is motivation,” Sannino stated loudly as he thumped the table.
The corresponding fixture with Ipswich on December 21 was Sannino’s first game in England.
Tractor Boys manager Mick McCarthy was impressed with Sannino’s passion during their first meeting and defended the Italian when the fourth official complained about the Hornets boss straying from his technical area.
Sannino stated McCarthy’s welcome was his overriding memory from his debut match in charge of the Golden Boys.
He explained: “I met Mick McCarthy that day and I have a good memory of that because he welcomed me into the Championship.”
Sannino went on to add: “I am perfectly aware that we now face a very good team on a very good run and they are battling for a play-off spot.
“But we are still in contention for a play-off spot until the mathematics tell us otherwise.”
Ipswich will be without their top scorer as David McGoldrick, who has netted 16 times in all competitions, had a cartilage operation yesterday and has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
McCarthy says Aaron Cresswell will be fit enough to return to his regular left-back role but Tommy Smith, Paul Anderson and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake all have niggles. Jack Marriott has been recalled from his loan spell at Skrill Premier side Woking. Watford’s injury news can be seen below.
The Hornets also travel to fourth-placed Queens Park Rangers on Monday, with kick-off at 3pm, and have five games remaining.
“Honestly, I don’t think about five matches. I think about one match; the next match,” Sannino stated when asked if his team needed to win all of their games to finish in the top six.
“But I am perfectly aware that if we win all five matches then we have a chance and if we only win three then it is unlikely.”