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ANDY DUNN: Shrugs over Mazzarri sacking reflect this sanitised era of football

Date Posted,May 18, 2017

Tactics on the back of a fag packet, the English-speaking skills of Manuel from Fawlty Towers, training sessions more suitable for a chain gang, an ongoing ruck with the captain, it is a wonder Walter Mazzarri did not have Watford relegated by Christmas.

Instead, he had them safe with a good month to spare and they were only in the bottom three at a time so early in the season that league tables should not even be published.

Yet Mazzarri’s departure had been inevitable for some time.

He will not be missed by Watford’s supporters, clearly, and his impact on English football will not even make a footnote.

If he is remembered at all, it will be as a lookalike.

His team had its moments, notably wins at home to Manchester United and away over Arsenal .

First-year boss Mazzarri had Watford safe from the drop weeks ago… (Photo: CameraSport via Getty)
…but their form since then, in terms of results and goals, has been dismal (Photo: Reuters)

They could yet add the scalp of Manchester City in what will be a slightly bizarre final game for Mazzarri, a manager sacked but asked to hang around for a formal good-riddance.

It has seen some emotional times, Vicarage Road, but Sunday and the Italian’s farewell is unlikely to be one of them.

Like most, this is a set of supporters probably longing to embrace a manager, but Mazzarri seemed pretty impossible to embrace, for fans and players alike.

In isolation, this sacking is understandable, but it is also a very modern, a very Watford, dismissal, based on the notion that a manager is a cog in the machine.

An important cog, yes, but a cog.

Southampton chairman Ralph Krueger has indicated Claude Puel ’s position will be come under ‘review’ after the final game of the Frenchman’s debut season.

Oh, when the Saints, go marching out… nobody is particularly surprised (Photo: Getty)

To the outsider, that ‘review’ is simple.

Saints are in the top half of the table, were magnificent and unfortunate in the EFL Cup final defeat and play some decent stuff for a club that regularly sells its best players.

But if the board believe they can get someone to do the job better than Puel, it is their prerogative to make a change.

In the cases of Watford and Southampton, what is important is the stability of the club, not in the manager’s office. What is important is a sound structure, of which the gaffer is just one other part.

All well and good, but when taken to an extreme level it dehumanises the role of the manager.

Puel’s debut season with Southampton has seen a rare trip to Wembley… (Photo: Action Images via Reuters)
…for a controversial EFL Cup final loss to Manchester United (Photo: Action Images via Reuters)

The team is, of course, the important thing. The players are the heroes or villains, but there remains something special about a bond between a manager and the supporters.

That is why outsiders look at the relationship between Burnley fans and Sean Dyche (formerly of the Watford parish) with affection. Ditto for Bournemouth and Eddie Howe.

If either of those two were sacked, there would be an outcry even beyond their towns’ borders, yet a lot of people will have greeted the news of Mazzarri’s fate with a shrug — There go Watford again. Foreign owners ditching another foreign manager who kept a lot of foreign players in the Premier League.

It does not tell the story.

It does not reflect the positive strides made at the club.

It does not remind you of the place Watford were in half a decade ago.

A Watford fan displays a farewell message for Quique Flores
Watford are sacking Mazzarri exactly a year after Quique Sanchez Flores got the boot (Photo: Getty)

It is pretty clear Mazzarri was not the right man for the job. It is less obvious to see, but maybe Puel is not the right man for the Southampton job.

And a business model of changing your manager even though results are not catastrophic can clearly work, but football surely has to be more than just about business at some stage?

Maybe they have tried. Maybe they thought Mazzarri was THE one. But maybe this time owner Gino Pozzo and Watford should try just that little bit harder.

Unless they are happy for the fortunes of a smashing club to be acknowledged with just a shrug.

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