Watford FC: What The Pozzos Are Doing Is Not A Detriment To English Football

watford fc Ever since the Pozzo family acquired Watford Football Club from the hands of former owner Lawrence Bassini in June 2012, it seems there has been a never ending wall of criticism from most quarters of the game. Many have called it cheating, others have labelled Watford as some form of feeder club or more bluntly as 'Udinese B' - in reference to one of the two other clubs that the Italians own, the others being - as you may have guessed - Udinese as well as Granada who are currently members of La Liga. There is nothing illegal about what the Hornets have done, and in many respects the majority of the disapproval has largely come from misinformed Journalists who have followed the situation and the loan signings who included Almen Abdi, Matej Vydra, Cristian Battocchio and former Italian international Marco Cassetti, among others who went on to become key fixtures in the Watford side that made the Play-off Final. One of the biggest critics of this policy is Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway who labelled it "ludicrous" following their 2-2 draw at Vicarage Road in February. This led The Football League to vote unanimously in favour of closing the so called loan 'loop-hole' (which permitted the influx of players from both Udinese and Granada last summer) that now limits match-day squads to a maximum of five loanees, with four from any one club and moved the foreign loan rule in line with existing domestic regulations. However, in the modern climate where clubs often viciously overspend - particularly in the Barclays Premier League - in order to compete, and in the case of Portsmouth who have experienced several administrations since 2009, why are the Pozzo's in the wrong? Watford's owners are promoting financial stability with a model that is both successful and one that is also sustainable in the long term. One of the biggest criticisms is that it has the potential to hurt English football or that it is not in the spirit of the game. Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 22.55.10The latter I would certainly agree with to an extent. On the other hand, it is not inconceivable to think that the club would not have gone down the loan route had the embargo that was inherited from the previous regime been lifted earlier. This embargo was not lifted until July 30th 2012. The season itself began on August 11th. To assemble a competitive squad in such a short space of time would not have been feasible. Others would argue that the policy is severely hindering the emergence of up and coming existing youth players at the club, yet Watford still fielded eight home grown players including stalwart Lloyd Doyley, goalkeeper Jonathan Bond and defender Tommie Hoban, the second most in the entire nPower Championship last season only behind Middlesbrough! This disproves the theory that the Hornets long history of bringing through players from their academy would be compromised, particularly as several of those players had unquestionably played a crucial part in Watford's eventual 3rd place finish. The Pozzo's philosophy is something we in this country have never seen. Critics have labelled it a 'disservice to English football' or that the 'loans do not care' and that they would only be here for one year. This is simply not the case. You only have to take a fleeting look at Fernando Forestieri's Twitter account to witness the passion and love for the club and its supporters that he has. Forestieri himself became the first of the Udinese exports to sign a permanent deal at Watford, putting pen to paper on a five and a half year contract in January of this year. Then there is the dramatic end to the Play-off semi-final second leg against Leicester two months ago where several of the loanees celebrated with the supporters in Watford Town Centre. This month several of the players who arrived in Hertfordshire last summer will also agree permanent moves, following in the footsteps of Forestieri. The Watford Observer last week confirmed that Daniel Pudil has arrived from Granada, signing a contract until 2017 and Battocchio (who has signed a three-year deal) have already committed their future to the Championship club. The likes of Joel Ekstrand, Ikechi Anya, Abdi and Cassetti are also believed to be close to following suit. The detrimental impact on English football that this ownership is supposedly having largely centres around the belief that Watford have been denigrated from a club with a long history to one that is simply - as touched upon earlier - at the whim of the owners and is now a feeder club. What purpose would this serve to the Pozzo family if the 'Golden Boys' acted as a revolving door for loan players from the other two family owned clubs? Why would they want different players to be brought over every year? Aside from the fact that this would be hugely disruptive, it does not make any sense. The Pozzo's business model is simply about developing players that they can then sell on for large amounts of profit. They have done this to great effect at Udinese with the likes of Sulley Muntari and Alexis Sanchez, it is also what they are likely to do with Vydra in the future. The lucrative nature and lure of the Barclays Premier League - including the TV money that clubs get which is thought to be worth around £50 million (more than Serie A) would suggest that it is a great window for them to aim for. Investment in Watford is not a short term project. It is long term, and yet they still receive widespread condemnation for the way they have gone about their business. In the modern day where football is seen as unsustainable, where there are ownership's which encourage financial mismanagement and where there are several clubs who struggle to balance their books, why is it that the Pozzo's and Watford have been victimized? Is it because they are implementing something that we have not seen before? Is it because Watford traditionally have been viewed as a 'small' club? Whatever the reason - while some of the criticism is certainly in part justified - many people should be looking to the benefits that it will bring to the English game. They have a tried and tested way of encouraging progression in a way that does not necessitate overspending. Watford themselves were nearly driven into the ground by former owner Lawrence Bassini, who has since been banned from football for three years. A decade ago they were on the brink of financial meltdown in the aftermath of the troubled Gianluca Vialli regime. And yet now they are more secure than they have been for years. Some sections of the media seem to have a Watford agenda, perhaps spawn out of Ian Holloway's comments prior to their meeting five months ago. He may have had the last laugh in May as Palace secured promotion, but the future is undoubtedly bright for the Hornets, especially considering the success both Udinese and Granada have enjoyed under the control of a certain Giampaolo Pozzo.
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I am a hard working, versatile and enthusiastic writer who covers a variety of topics - mostly Sports related - including articles on Football, Cricket and the NFL. I have had experience writing for Northwood Football Club in the last couple of years as well, and I am somebody who is always looking to embrace a new challenge. Follow me on Twitter @Matt_Journalist