Troy Deeney has counted them in and he’s counted them back out again. Since the striker arrived at Watford in 2010, 13 managers (one of them, Quique Sanchez Flores, twice) have come and gone, from the missed opportunities (Sean Dyche) to the not missed at all (Walter Mazzarri).
After Saturday evening’s victory over table-toping Norwich City eased Watford back into the play-off berths, the dressing room’s pivotal figure embraced yet another new dawn. The hard-driving Vladimir Ivic – sacked before the team returned to Hertfordshire after dropping Deeney for last week’s defeat at Huddersfield – was not to his captain’s liking. The latest incumbent, 40-year-old Spaniard Xisco Munoz, is cut from a more benign cloth.
“He’s got the boys onside again,” explained Deeney. “It’s the human element, connecting on a personal level and understanding the lads have family. He gave us Christmas evening at home, whereas normally we would be in a hotel. When he does you a favour like that, you want to repay him.
“We’d not looked like we were enjoying it and when we met him on Tuesday morning, he couldn’t understand why financially secure people like us were stressing over football. Before we went out, he put on Sweet Caroline to get us going: it felt like we were at Ally Pally.”
With Tuesday’s game at Millwall postponed, Xisco has a week to prepare his team for Saturday’s trip to Swansea. In contrast, Norwich, who remain four points clear of the Championship pack, host Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday evening. They struggled to deal with Watford’s thrust on Saturday and Ismaila Sarr’s winner underlined how acutely Tim Krul has been missed. The Dutch goalkeeper signed a three-and-a-half-year contract on Christmas Day and may return to face QPR.
“We lacked sharpness,” admitted Norwich’s Tottenham loanee Oliver Skipp, “but let’s not be too down on ourselves: we’ve been on a good run. We’ll be ready on Tuesday.”