Watford’s chief executive has stressed the high number of loan players who joined the club this season are not “mercenaries” and he expects several of them to make the move to Hertfordshire permanent.

The Hornets signed 16 players in the summer, 14 of which were on loan and 12 were from the Pozzo family’s other clubs Udinese and Granada.

But Chief executive Scott Duxbury stated: “These are not normal loan players, they are players who passionately chose to come to Watford and they want to play here long term. It is just a matter of practicality because we came in very late.

“Gino Pozzo has gone on record as saying that he wanted to give Gianfranco the biggest pool of players possible with the window closing.

“The players wanted to come here and if everything works out and we want them to stay then we will make the moves permanent.

“We have options on all of them and it was purely a technicality when the window was closing.

“The game against Charlton away showed the passion; these players want to be here and they are not mercenaries who will suddenly go back. They want to stay and they are Watford players.

“The squad should be smaller, around 25 or 26, and next season that will be the case. But all the players who want to stay, and we want to stay, will stay.”

Duxbury was speaking at last night’s fans’ forum at Vicarage Road and was on the top table alongside head coach Gianfranco Zola, captain John Eustace and technical director Gian Luca Nani.

Nani added that the club consider Chelsea’s Nathaniel Chalobah to be their only loan player as he also reiterated they have options to buy the other 13 loanees.

Zola admitted training is very difficult with such a large squad and said it would be “the impossible job” if it wasn’t for the “wonderful bunch of players”.

The Italian said he was grateful to the work of Sean Dyche in relation to the squad’s attitude and added that he was pleased to see Dyche back in football at Burnley.

One of the issues raised last night was the independence of Watford and the influence that Udinese and Granada have over the running of the club. Duxbury stated the Hornets are completely independent of the Pozzo’s other teams and whilst Gino Pozzo is there to offer support and the Italian does receive regular updates, he does not interfere with the day-to-day running of the club.

Zola also indicated that Watford could end up becoming the Pozzos’ main priority, ahead of Udinese and Granada.

He said: “When I took this job, one of the first things I was told is that this club is going to become one of the top clubs for the Pozzos. At present the Pozzos own [Watford], Udinese, Granada and also another club I believe. They are planning to make Watford one of the top teams for them, if not the top.

“The reason being, the fan base over here is quite big and the importance of football in this country is huge.

“We have a lot of loan players at the moment but they are players that belong to Watford and if we believe they are good enough, then they are going to stay. If they are not good enough or they are not going to fulfil the expectation that we have, then they will go somewhere else.

“I am here not because, in all due respect, I want to spend my life in the Championship, which is a very high level. I am an ambitious manager and I want us to play at a higher level and at this club there are players who share my ambition.

“That is where we are heading to and the Pozzo family have no interest in Watford playing in the Championship for a long time.”

The fans’ forum had a good blend of serious answers and humour. The night started with a joke about the well-being of the panel, after Laurence Bassini’s no-show last year.

Zola’s poor memory was an on-going feature following his inability to remember John Eustace’s name, having to refer to him as “the skipper”.

Another funny moment was when a school teacher asked the panel what the club were going to do about the majority of his class supporting bigger clubs such as Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. Zola turned the tables by stating that he should give those children more homework.

There will be more from the fans forum published on our website early next week.