Slaven Bilic: Watford appoint Croatian after sacking Rob Edwards

Slaven Bilic

Championship club Watford have named Slaven Bilic as their new boss on an 18-month deal after sacking Rob Edwards just 11 games into his tenure.

He succeeded former England boss Roy Hodgson and became the Hornets’ eighth permanent manager since 2018.

Former West Ham and West Brom boss Bilic had been out of management since leaving Chinese club Beijing Guoan.

His contract was cancelled by mutual consent in January, after a year in charge, because he wanted to return to his family in Europe.

Owner Gino Pozzo said: “As with all decisions taken by the board, I believe this change to be in the best interests of the club.

“We felt Rob had enough time to show us the identity of his team, however performances haven’t reflected our hopes and ambitions.

“Now we must move forward, and, in Slaven Bilic, we have secured the services of an experienced coach who has recent experience of promotion to the Premier League.”

Edwards move angered Forest Green

Rob Edwards

When Edwards was appointed, it triggered a furious response from Forest Green, whose chairman Dale Vince accused Watford of going behind his back to complete negotiations.

At the time, the sense was of Watford taking a different approach to hiring and firing of managers.

Chief executive Scott Duxbury told the Watford Observer: “We will be supporting Rob Edwards come hell or high water.”

But he has quickly gone the same way as so many of his predecessors at Vicarage Road, his final game was a 2-2 home draw with Sunderland on 17 September.

In a brief statement, the club said: “Watford FC has relieved Rob Edwards of his duties as head coach.

“The board wishes to place on record its thanks to Rob for all of his work since his appointment and wish him and his assistant Richie Kyle – who will also leave the club – all the very best for their future careers in coaching and management.”

Watford won three of their 10 league matches under Edwards, with five draws and two defeats, and were knocked out of the Carabao Cup by League One side MK Dons.

Revolving door at Vicarage Road

Xisco Munoz

Since Sean Dyche left in 2012, Gianfranco Zola, Giuseppe Sannino, Oscar Garcia, Slavisa Jokanovic, Quique Sanchez Flores, Walter Mazzarri, Marco Silva, Javi Gracia, Nigel Pearson, Vladimir Ivic, Xisco Munoz, Claudio Ranieri, Hodgson and now Edwards have all had spells in charge.

Of those, Jokanovic and Munoz both led the club to promotion to the Premier League, the latter in 2021 , but he was sacked six months later to make way for Ranieri.

The Italian, who guided Leicester City to the Premier League title in 2016, himself only lasted three months before Hodgson was brought in.

Bilic’s first match in charge will be a trip to Stoke City on Sunday.

The former centre-back had spells with Everton and West Ham during his playing career and since moving into coaching has worked in Russia, the UAE, Turkey and his native Croatia, as well as China and England.

He had a six-year spell in charge of the Croatian national team and led them to home and away wins over England in qualifying for Euro 2008, which brought about the dismissal of Steve McClaren.

Bilic guided West Ham to a seventh-placed finish in his first season in charge, in 2015-16, and steered West Brom to Championship promotion in 2019-20 before being sacked in December 2020.

Analysis – ‘Edwards’ Watford never really sparkled’

BBC Three Counties Radio sports editor Geoff Doyle

The decision to sack Edwards will annoy and frustrate the majority of Watford fans.

They had hoped he would be given time to mould and rebuild – especially after the comments from chief executive Scott Duxbury in the summer, when he indicated the club were striving for more stability – which seemed to suggest a move away from the hiring and firing culture.

But actions speak louder than words and after just 10 league games Edwards has gone.

Admittedly his side never really sparkled in that time and only picked up three wins, although they only lost two, and owner Gino Pozzo will have been concerned that the gap between Watford and the automatic promotion spots was already six points – and nine to leaders Sheffield United.

He will want an instant return to the Premier League and so has acted as he has done in the past and wasted no time. Slaven Bilic becomes the fifth head coach in a year and ninth in three years.

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