Head coach Valerien Ismael has said it is “unacceptable” that not all his players applauded the Watford fans who had spent most of Wednesday and a chunk of Thursday travelling to Sunderland and back for the 2-0 midweek defeat.

At the final whistle it was evident that while the head coach himself and a number of players acknowledged the hardy away supporters in the upper tier behind one goal, many others headed straight down the tunnel.

Official coaches departed at 11am on Wednesday and didn’t return until after 4am on Thursday, while other fans drove and some even stayed over in the area - a huge undertaking during a cost of living crisis.

“I went to the fans after the game, I saw a few players did,” said the head coach.

“But if it’s really the case that not all the players were there, then I will make sure that next time all the players will come to the fans.

“It’s unacceptable. We have to respect our fans. They made a long journey, like us, and especially when you don’t get the reward then you have to show togetherness and to say thank you for the trouble they have taken to be there with us.”

The Watford party did not return home after the game, instead relocating to a hotel midway between Sunderland and Cardiff so they could minimise travel and also more easily facilitate recovery and training.

They then headed to Cardiff today (Friday) and will stay overnight before tomorrow’s game.

Having been shown a straight red card at Sunderland, Ryan Andrews is now ruled out of tomorrow’s game and the first two back after the international break.

Ken Sema has trained this week, but it will be a late decision as to whether he can be involved at all tomorrow, while the club made it clear that Matheus Martins – who has suffered a family bereavement – will be given all the time he needs before he returns.

Below are the other questions I put to Ismael ahead of the game at Cardiff.

People say league tables don’t count until 10 games or more. We’ve played 10 games and we’re one point outside the bottom three. Are we in a relegation battle?

Ismael: “There is no reason to panic, we need to stay calm. We have 36 games to go, which means 108 points are available.

“To reach the play-offs we need 75 points – generally, round about that figure is what you need. We have nine points already, so that means from the 108 points available we need 66 points to reach that goal.

“For this reason there is no need to be panicking.”

You clearly care about results and performances. Do you believe the players share the same level of care as you do?

Ismael: “It’s my job to make sure we put the performances on the pitch and to win with consistency.

“At the minute I think we have a deeper issue to solve, a bigger challenge to solve to make sure that we can perform on the pitch.”

You’ve explained why we have a thin squad, and why the free agent market is generally not for you. Can the squad, as it is, wait until January for any reinforcements?

Ismael: “We won’t go into the free agent market because it is an unstable market, unless we have an emergency case like a player with a really bad injury who will be out for a long period of time.

“Otherwise, we don’t see the necessity to go into the free agent market.”

As a former defender, how would you feel about conceding some of the goals we have in the last few games?

Ismael: “The goals we have conceded were too easy.

“It’s all about the duals, and we have lost the important duals too easily. That leads to goals.

“We need to raise our concentration in all the duals to make sure we win the important ones, that will help us avoid conceding goals as well as help avoid us making mistakes.”

You changed shape to try and freshen things up. Are you considering giving players on the fringe a chance?

Ismael: “We need all the players in the squad. Everyone has to be ready.

“If we have to change something in order to make us successful then we will do that.”