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Watford CEO claims Hornets will keep British core despite Udinese and Granada links
Watford’s chief executive has described Gianfranco Zola as an inspiration and expects the core of Watford’s side to remain British, despite the club being linked with a host of foreign imports.
Scott Duxbury worked on behalf of the Pozzos during the club’s takeover and was appointed CEO at Vicarage Road following its completion.
Duxbury and technical director Gian Luca Nani appointed Zola as manager of West Ham United in 2008 and despite the former Chelsea forward being sacked by the Hammers’ new owners following his second season, Watford’s CEO still holds him in high regard.
The Hornets have been linked with a number of foreign players since the club’s takeover and have taken three players on trial from Granada and Udinese, but Duxbury expects the side to keep its British core.
He said: “The thing about Gianfranco’s team, if you look at what he did at West Ham, he always has a core of good quality UK-based players, and usually young players, and that is how he likes to play football. The young players play without fear.
“He will evaluate the squad and he will be very conscious to ensure that the heartbeat is UK-based, and preferably local. Nothing gets the fans as excited as having good local players that have come through the academy and are making it in the first team. He is completely aware of that.
“The reason we hired Gianfranco at West Ham, and the reason we want him here, is because he makes players better. He is just a wonderful coach. He makes poor players good players and good players exceptional players. He can get the best out of any player. He just inspires them.
“If we never signed another player, he would just coach this squad and get the best out of them. He is just an inspiration. You need that inspiration, you need the disciplinarian and you need the tactician. He has built a support staff around him that will cover all of those areas. I am completely convinced that he will be a success.”
The Pozzos also own Italian club Udinese and Spanish side Granada and the family have made no secret of the fact they plan to use the Little Zebras’ vast, and highly-regarded, scouting network to Watford’s advantage.
Udinese duo Matej Vydra and Almen Abdi and Granada left-back Daniel Pudil have already joined the club and further players from both sides have been linked with a move to the Hornets.
But Duxbury stressed: “He has complete autonomy on signings but the three of us work so closely together that it is just completely transparent.
“I think what we [supporters] have to do is avoid this natural – almost British-like – assumption that because we have Udinese, it is a negative that we will be signing players from them. No it is not, it is a wonderful thing.
“We have access to some top, top players and the way we can get them is so easy that it would be silly not to. But we are using a whole network and if we see players in the UK or we see players at other clubs, then we will go for them. It is just that if they are there at Udinese, it is so simple for us to bring them over.
“There are not many clubs that have an ownership structure which gives them the advantage that we have, to just tap into that player resource with complete immediacy.
“There is a temptation to see it as a negative but it shouldn’t be, it is an absolute positive and if Gianfranco doesn’t want the players, then we won’t sign them. He decides who he wants and when he wants them.”
It was Duxbury who suggested buying Watford to the Pozzos initially and whilst the Italian family are the owners, most decisions will be made by the chief executive.
Duxbury explained: “The Pozzos’ whole philosophy is that they believe in the men they put in place and they are there to provide support. If we need their support with regards to money, we will get it. If we need their support with scouting networks, players, commercial or general know-how, then they are very much there in a supporting function, rather than in any way interfering with the day-to-day running of the club.
“They leave the management to myself, Gianfranco and Gian Luca, but we know they are always there if we need help and we need support.”
Zola’s appointment as Watford manager was expected for the two weeks before the announcement was finally made.
The delay was criticised by some supporters, especially after one of the owners, Giampaolo Pozzo, was quoted in the Italian media saying Zola would be the new Watford manager five days before it was confirmed.
Duxbury admitted: “The comments from Giampaolo were completely unfortunate. We hadn’t confirmed with Gianfranco and we certainly hadn’t agreed terms or had anything signed.
“Out of respect, we wanted to sit down with Sean Dyche first and explain exactly what was happening.
“There is no point in saying anything other than those comments were disappointing but we hadn’t concluded anything with Gianfranco. We wanted to do it in the right way which was to sit down with Sean, explain the situation and then sit down with Gianfranco, and that is what we did.”
Whilst Duxbury and Nani will be running the club on a day-to-day basis, and had worked with Zola before, Duxbury claimed it was the Pozzos who appointed the manager.
He stated: “The Pozzos appoint everybody. The fact that me, Gian Luca and Gianfranco work well together is absolutely part of the equation though. We suit each other, we know each other and we believe we can achieve success with all of our different qualities.
“We worked very well together at West Ham and it is not often in life that you get a chance to do it again and have an owner like the Pozzos, who are going to back your vision to achieve it.”