Football Manager’s head honcho Miles Jacobson has been a Watford fan practically all his life. Alongside his commitments at Sports Interactive, Miles takes himself down to Vicarage Road to watch the Hornets and now that they’ve returned to the Premier League, he spoke to us about the new season, new signings and the Italian revolution.
What have been your best and worst memories following Watford throughout the years?
The best – John Barnes making his debut as a teenager, Ashley Young doing the same, the promotions, the singing when in the Premier League first time round, Graham Taylor, Luther Blissett, Troy Deeney’s rehabilitation, Paul Robinson’s passion, Sean Dyche, and the Pozzo era which has, so far, been superb. Oh, and away trips with my mates which unfortunately we don’t all have time to do every week now.
The worst – the winding up orders and not being in a position to say or do anything much about the problems, the relegations, the sacking of Ray Lewington, Fulham away on Boxing Day (snowy and wet, lost 5-0, got a parking ticket).
Being a Watford supporter has certainly been a rollercoaster!
The club has changed a lot in recent years, foreign owners, foreign manager and a lot of foreign players, what do you make of the current setup at the club?
For 10 years I worried about whether I was going to have a club to support the next season. The finances were all over the place, mainly red places, we had boardroom battles which stopped things moving forward, then the “Bankrupt Baz” years.
Now we have a stable club financially, run by proven football people who have had success at other clubs of a similar size, with the right mix of people from the ‘old era’ who have Watford in their blood with new people who have experience and knowledge to run the club.
We’ve been a bit unlucky with managers – one wanting to go back to Italy, one becoming ill, one where the owner says he made a mistake and now Slava turning down a new contract – but have also made some great new signings for the new season. Our first season back in the Premier League where I’m quietly confident that we will stay up.
Yes, we do have lots of foreign players – but no more than other clubs in the Prem really. Our academy has just got Category 2 status, so we’ll have an under 21 side to help progress some of our younger players and gives a clearer approach to the first team.
We’re lucky that we’re part of a network of clubs so the players at those clubs can find the best place for them to play – this works all three ways in that players will move from Italy, Spain and England and not just from Italy to Watford. Two of our ex-players have gone the other way.
We do have lots of British and Irish players too – Anya, Bond (until yesterday), Hoban, Murray, Watson, Cathcart, Deeney, Doyley and the returning McGugan and Dyer. We also have some very good prospects coming through the academy in Obi, Lewis, Folivi, Zaineddine and others.
What do you make of the signings and the new manager?
Quique Flores is vastly experienced and players like Holebas have come from top European clubs, with more rumoured to arrive soon…
It’s exciting. I thought Slav did a fantastic job last season so I was sad to see him go – but Flores has a great track record of winning trophies and leaving clubs in a much better position that the one he joined, particularly in Spain.
We already had a squad better suited to the Prem than the Championship. So for that to be added to with the quality of Holebas (should he actually sign), Prodl, and a couple of the 60+ names that have been rumoured to be signing so far, we’ll have a strong squad. Some of the most important members of the squad have also agreed new deals, and Vydra has moved permanently – I thought last season’s squad was the strongest in the clubs history (if not the first XI – would be hard to beat the Barnes and Callaghan years for that), and now it’s stronger. Long may it continue!
It’s a very different league now, the TV money means even promoted clubs can outspend top European sides and with the likes of Santon, Perrotti and co mentioned, is the league going to be as competitive as ever?
For sure. There’s still a lot of business to be done this window by all clubs.
If the rumoured signings come off, they’d be quite a team to start as on FM 2016 wouldn’t they?
Ha – I’ve been testing that theory with some of them in the last week. Yes 🙂
In terms of other transfer so far this summer, which have stood out for you and which of them would make the best signing on a Football Manager game?
Liverpool have done well to get in early. Depay would be a typical FM signing for United. But there’s still too much paper talk and not enough action – I think things will really hot up over the next couple of weeks and we’re going to see some silly prices for British youngsters thanks to the home-grown rule.