Bringing in 16 new signings, the majority of which are foreign imports, was always going to cause problems but Watford’s longest-serving player and another of the side’s ever present players this season insist the dressing room has not become divided as a result of the huge transition.
Watford’s togetherness and team spirit is one of the primary reasons they have remained a mid-table Championship club in recent years, despite having one of the smallest budgets in the division.
Malky Mackay and Sean Dyche both focused on creating unity in the dressing room and tried to ensure the whole squad were ‘pulling in the same direction’.
A combination of financial problems and personal choices ensured Watford had a smaller collection of experienced professionals compared to the majority of other clubs, with the Hornets relying on younger players more than most; albeit to a lesser extent last season.
This summer’s takeover by the Pozzos has seen the direction of the club drastically change and it is unlikely to ever be the same again.
In recent years, the Hornets have named ten or 11 players in a match-day squad of 18 who spent time with the club’s academy; it is fair to say those days are unlikely to be repeated, especially after the decision to downgrade the academy to category three status.
The Pozzos’ extensive scouting network and large pool of players mean Watford will never be short of loan players from every corner of the world, and so far there have been 12 new arrivals from Udinese and Granada.
There have been murmurs of possible discontent coming out of the club and that was always likely considering the complete overhaul of how the Championship outfit is being run, both at the training ground and the offices.
Injuries and fitness concerns mean we have only seen four or five of the summer signings at length but if they all show the same application as the likes of Daniel Pudil and Almen Abdi, then the Hornets could mount a play-off challenge as hoped.
One of the main problems for Gianfranco Zola will be keeping his large squad happy, at least until more players are moved on.
The Italian has admitted it is a concern but this week has seen another three players leave the club on loan and more are sure to follow.
But with 16 new signings, ten of whom are from the same club, has the previously close-knit dressing room become split?
“No, it does not bother us,” Lloyd Doyley insisted. “It takes time because a lot of people have come from Italian and Spanish football, which is different to the Championship.
“But the ones that have been playing have been doing really well. A team takes time and that’s what we are working on.”
Mark Yeates has been part of a central midfield trio which has started every league game this season and while he accepts the new arrivals generally do spend more time with each other, the Irishman insists it is not an issue.
Yeates said: “Obviously these lads have been at Udinese together so they are friends and you can’t call it clique because they all know each other in the same way the English and Irish lads do; we all knock about together.
“So there are no cliques in the dressing room and as a footballer, you know what you have to do on the pitch, and to be fair, they have all settled in well.
“They are all good characters and the more time we spend together, it will only benefit the group. Games bring players together and if you are winning games then it makes it that much better.”
Zola has previously admitted the large squad and unusually high number of signings is not ideal but Yeates hopes things will improve with each week that passes.
Yeates said: “It will take them [the deadline day signings] time to settle in and they are all young boys to be fair so they have to get used to the mentality over here.
“But they are all talented lads – they wouldn’t have been sent over here if they weren’t – so I am sure with time that they will have time on the pitch to show people what they are capable of.
“We are doing all we can to help them settle in. There has been a lot of change and everyone is trying to go with it at the moment.
“Things will settle down more in the next few weeks. When the games come, they bring everyone closer together. So in a few weeks it should be more positive for everyone.”