With lots of rumours circulating around the next Wolves owner, Wolves fan with an interest in Watford, Ollie Floyd tells us why having an owner like the Premier League side might not be a good thing despite the recent success of The Hornets.
In the summer of 2012, when Steve Morgan was first being fixed firmly under the microscope of Wolves fans, following our relegation from the Premier League, we began to try and size up our potential promotion rivals for the season ahead. Most of the names on fans lips were the likes of Cardiff, Hull, Leicester, Nottingham Forest, perhaps as you’d expect. However, a club that escaped mention by pundits and punters alike was that of Watford FC, who had recently been taken over by the Pozzo family. Watford are unique in the way they are run, however this has proved to be a successful formula, meaning it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to me if our club ultimately ended up in the hands of owners with similar plans.
Being as they are my closest club to home, I am intrigued by the way in which they operate. For those who don’t know, the Pozzo family also own Udinese and Granada, who both sit comfortably in the first divisions of Italy and Spain respectively. Watford have benefited immeasurably from being a member of this triplicate: a primary example being the fact that nine of last season’s first-team squad had previously been on the books of either the Spanish or Italian club. It was these players, none of whom technically cost the club a penny in transfer fees, who helped guide them to promotion last season.
Although this form of arrangement appears attractive, it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. Some of these drawbacks would surely infuriate the more traditional supporters amongst us, who couldn’t cope with seeing a squad lacking that ever so familiar homegrown feel, where a pack of Wulfrunians put their bodies on the line for the badge on the shirt. Despite their Premier League Status, not a single homegrown Watford player has taken to the pitch for the hornets this season, something which couldn’t be further from the case up at Molineux these days.
Although the vast majority of Watford fans don’t see this as a problem, I can’t help but think many of the hardline supporters would be opposed to such a scheme, especially if success didn’t come with some immediacy. This is where our second money-saving scheme can come into play. Since obtaining Category One academy status back in 2012, we have seen sixteen players break into the first team from the academy, all to differing extents. With the infrastructure in place, Wolves are now able to attract incredibly talented players from around the world.
Our league position maybe doesn’t present an opportunity for us to show off just how talented our youth products are, there is no doubt that they have had a massive impact on the season for us, with our current back five all having been through the academy. With Jordan Graham and Kortney Hause sidelined and the likes of Bright Enobakhare and Niall Ennis also waiting eagerly in the wings, there is no doubt that the future is looking bright for Wolves, once these academy graduates can get a decent number of games under their belt and bed themselves into this young side.
The potential benefits of Watford’s ownership structure are clear to see. If managed in the correct way, this system seems relatively foolproof and has definitely been able to exploit a massive loophole in financial fair play, basically side-stepping it completely. In the early days, before rules on loaning players were adjusted, Watford had free reign over how many players they wanted to ship over from Udinese and Granada and throw them straight into the team, without any transfer fees. ]
More recently, the same objective has been achieved by agreeing ‘permanent’ transfers that take place without a transfer fee. However, if you think Watford have only achieved what they have as a result of their two foreign feeder clubs, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Something which perhaps escapes the mention of pundits when talking about Watford’s rise to the Premier League is the magnitude of their scouting network. The Pozzo family’s scouting network operates on a global scale, covering literally every significant football competition around the globe. When I say significant, an Under-17’s regional competition in Colombia is apparently considered to fall in that bracket. This kind of commitment to snuffing out global talent before any of the other top European clubs is without doubt one of the main contributing factors to Watford’s success and make Kevin Thelwell’s scouting trips to Warsaw and Heerenveen look pony. If and when a new owner comes in, this would be the first department I would like to see revamped, as I believe that, in an age where money means almost nothing to some clubs, it is of paramount importance that we can sign talent before others can blow us out of the water with the big bucks.
Although people may look at the title of the piece and scoff, I very much believe that, in the right hands, our club can achieve great things regardless of how much financial backing our next owner(s) brings. I now know that, if and when Steve Morgan passes on the club to a new owner, they have a club with an incredibly loyal and passionate fan base, a stadium and facilities that are worthy of the Premier League and a youth academy from which we must place some deal of reliance upon. In an age where the amount of money in football is running out of control, I personally would be more in favour of a sustainable and calculated approach towards success, rather than just an owner who throws money around.