Beppe Sannino says it is a dream to manage players who are "born wearing the shirt" after Watford defender Lloyd Doyley made his 428th senior appearance for the Hornets on Tuesday night, moving him up to joint seventh on the club’s all-time list.
Doyley, who joined Watford’s academy at the age of nine, came off the bench in the first half against Birmingham City to put him level on appearances with former Hornets midfielder Kenny Jackett.
Now 31, the fans’ favourite could still feature in Watford’s first team for a few years yet and climb above the likes of Arthur Woodward (432), Tommy Barnett (442) and Duncan Welbourne (457).
With football now extending its reach all round the globe and Watford increasingly entangled with its own European connections, Doyley’s achievement appears all the more remarkable.
"It’s fantastic," said Sannino, Doyley’s ninth boss at Vicarage Road.
"My dream is always to have the kind of players that are born wearing the shirt of the club.
"These days football is more business than soul and it is difficult to see this kind of soul in the football world now.
"My dream is to have the chance to manage players like Lloyd Doyley who is born with this club and is a part of this club."
It’s pertinent that Sannino, raised in Southern Italy and speaking with the help of a translator, has been so passionate about retaining Watford’s local identity and insistent on cherishing those players who come through the club’s youth system.
Nineteen-year-old academy product Luke O’Nien is one of those to receive regular adulation from the Hornets head coach while home-grown duo Sean Murray and Jonathan Bond have also been singled out for praise in the past.
"There are also players like Luke O’Nien who is a young player, he is the same as Lloyd in terms of belonging to the club and showing a desire to play for the club, and Sean Murray as well," Sannino continued.
"Lloyd is a great, great man and a great, great professional - he is a gentleman, he is a professional and he is always ready whenever I call upon him."
Doyley's crowning moment in a Watford shirt arguably came in 2009 when he scored his first of two goals for the club with a spectacular diving header against Queens Park Rangers.
He made his Hornets debut nine games into the 2001/2002 season when Gianluca Vialli had just been appointed manager and was flooding the squad with various tropical names from abroad.
Since then, Doyley has won promotion to the Premier League under Aidy Boothroyd in 2006, played in two Championship play-off finals and come off the bench in an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United.
Sannino pointed to the success of United, who famously brought the likes of Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs through their youth team in the 1990s, as a shining example of why home-grown players remain as relevant as ever.
"The strength and the history of Manchester United can teach us," he said.
"They were able to grow and bring through players from their youth team and they were one of the most successful teams in the world."
He added: "It a coach’s dream to manage players like Lloyd who have come through the academy and spent their whole career at the same club."
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