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Will Watford follow similar path as Pozzo-run Granada?
11:23am Wednesday 20th June 2012 in Sport
Watford fans are already discussing what will happen to their club should the Pozzo takeover go through. Many have used Spanish side Granada CF, who were bought by the family in 2009, as an example of what the future may hold.
Granada CF reporter for El Centrocampista and Inside La Liga, Heath Chesters has written an article for the Watford Observer on the how the Pozzo family run the Spanish club to give an insight into what the Hornets fans could expect.
"Granada CF were once a permanent fixture amongst the Spanish elite, during the 1960s and 1970s. There was a cup final appearance in the 60s and regularly in the top-half of the table. When I first started watching them in 2005 though, they had fallen a long way from those lofty heights.
A promotion from the fourth tier of Spanish football, to the Segunda B4 at the end of the 2005/2006 season was a glimmer of hope. For another three years though, they would struggle not only on the pitch, but financially too, plunging further and further into the red.
Foreign ownership can often generate mixed feelings amongst fans. Especially when little is known about the new owners, or perhaps more importantly, their intentions.
Crippled with debts and struggling in the dungeon divisions of Spanish football, and literally weeks from closure, many fans of Granada CF had considerable doubts when a delegation from Udinese arrived in the city.
Things began to change very quickly. Quique Pina, their Spanish representative, was installed to run things as club president. In the background but ever busy was Gino Pozzo, the son of Udinese supremo Giampaolo Pozzo. Debts were quickly cleared and the books were balanced, a good sign for starters.
Shortly after, Granada CF were loaned numerous players from Udinese, including several "investment" signings, bought specifically by Udinese to send to their new affiliates. The rapid changes were impressive off the field, but on the pitch, things weren't as impressive as hoped to begin with.
With the target an immediate promotion to Segunda, manager Miguel Ángel Álvarez Tomé was dismissed midway through the season, with the team struggling to stay near the top of the table. His replacement was Fabriciano Gonzaléz, a battler in the lower leagues, who would ultimately steer them to promotion at the end of the season. Back in the second tier of Spanish football, after an absence of 22 years.
The following season, there were more player changes and arrivals from Udinese, including more "investment" signings. The fans were euphoric with promotion the previous season, but at best, they were looking forward to a season of consolidation in the Segunda. A poor start to the season was perhaps predictable, with so many player changes once more.
The side started to gel and the stands started to swell at their Nuevo Los Cármenes home, whilst results gradually started to come. A fantastic home record saw Granada climb steadily up the table and end up clinching the final play-off spot. Whilst I'd certainly thought the team were capable, I don't think any of the fans could quite believe their fortune.
Proud to have reached the play-offs, the fans cheered their team past Celta Vigo in the semi-finals, after a penalty shoot-out victory, and went on to beat Elche in the final on away goals. For the first time in 35 years, Granada CF made their return to the Primera.
Back in the top flight, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid, some fans were perhaps a little unrealistic in their expectations. Many hoped for big-name signings. Indeed backed with additional financial support from the Pozzo family and their investors, Granada CF made ambitious approaches for numerous quality players. Sadly, having been outside the top-flight for so long, few of the big name players they approached, had faith that the "project" was anything more than a flash in the pan.
Key players from the promotion winning side remained, several of them contracted to Udinese, but the club also forged relations with Benfica, signing a number of players either on loan, or on free transfers. Whilst good additions were made, it was mainly the lack of attacking potency that made things difficult.
Struggling by January and in the bottom three, promotion-winning manager Fabri was relieved of his duties, in a move that genuinely split the opinions of the fans. Abel Resino was appointed with the task of keeping the club in the Primera and he made a great start. Ultimately a lack of fire-power couldn't lift the club clear of the relegation scrap. But Granada CF survived on the final day as Atlético Madrid sent Villarreal down.
With the new season beckoning and Granada CF having remained in the top-flight, the "project" looks set to continue growing. Quique Pina is to remain as club president, whilst in the background, Gino Pozzo guarantees further investment.
Having been sensibly managed financially, without overstepping their boundaries or risking debt, the club is now in a position to assemble a strong side for the season ahead. Romanian international Gabriel Torje, on loan from Udinese, amongst the first of the expected arrivals.
Meanwhile it's not just the first team that have benefited from investment. The youth system has enjoyed great support and development. The B side gained promotion to the fourth tier, where the first team were not so long ago. The youth teams at all levels have enjoyed excellent seasons and has focused principally on developing players from the province.
In Granada and Udine, fans of the respective clubs are already welcoming the latest "brotherly" addition to the "family" - Watford FC. Few can doubt what the Pozzo family have achieved at both Udinese and Granada CF.
Whilst many English clubs have experienced extremes of good and bad foreign ownership, with the Pozzo family and their investors at the helm of Watford, fans can be assured their club is in safe hands. These are passionate football people. Whilst it's fair to say that they will want to see a return on their "investments", they will want to ensure it comes in equal measure – on and off the field."
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