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Championship - Football: Watford decide to turn to Slaven Bilic

Championship promotion hopefuls Watford have parted ways with head coach Rob Edwards and appointed Slaven Bilic as his replacement.

Former West Ham and West Brom boss Bilic has signed an 18-month deal with the Hornets, who opted to terminate Edwards' contract after only 11 matches in charge and with the club sitting just a point off the play-off places in the Championship.

Watford were relegated from the Premier League last season and are 11/4 to be promoted back to the top-flight at the first time of asking, but will Bilic be given the time to mastermind a return to the promised land?


Stoke City v Watford


bet365 Stadium, Stoke


12:00, Sunday 2nd October 2022

How to watch

Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football


Stoke 11/8, Draw 21/10, Watford 21/10 

Edwards the latest Hornets sacking

When Watford parted ways with Roy Hodgson over the summer he became the 13th permanent head coach or manager to leave the Hornets since Sean Dyche's departure in 2012.

Owner Gino Pozzo has certainly developed a reputation for being trigger happy, although his approach has brought relative success, as Watford have enjoyed two promotions to the Premier League, a five-year stay in the top-flight and also reached an FA Cup final over that period.

However, after last season's relegation it appeared a new longer-term approach was to be adopted at Vicarage Road following the appointment of Edwards, who joined the club after helping Forest Green Rovers to the League Two title last term.

Watford's chief executive Scott Duxbury said at the time that the club would be supporting Edwards through thick and thin, but less than two months into the season, the 39-year-old has been relieved of his duties.

Edwards leaves Watford sitting 10th in the Championship after winning just three of his 11 matches in charge, although the Hornets have also only lost twice in the league under the former Wolves defender, who would surely have been granted more time at most other clubs.

This is Watford though, and they have opted to pull the trigger in their attempts to earn promotion back to the Premier League. The Hornets are nine points behind leaders Sheffield United and priced at 16/1 to lift the title.

Bilic has proven pedigree

Watford appeared to be changing their approach in more ways than one when they appointed Edwards, as it was the first time in over a decade that they had dipped into the EFL to find their next head coach.

However, with that experiment being cut short, it seems the club's hierarchy have turned their attention back to appointing a more proven coach and Bilic certainly fits into that category.

The Croatian has plenty of experience of English football having played for both Everton and West Ham, while he also managed the latter for two-and-a-half years, helping them to a 7th-place finish in 2016 - at the time that was their highest league finish in almost 20 years.

Bilic also spent time in charge at West Brom and notably helped them to promotion from the Championship during his one full season in charge.

Albion finished second under the 54-year-old during the 2019/20 season and Watford are 5/1 to secure a similar top-two finish this term.

That is likely to be the main objective for Bilic, who also enjoyed six years as head coach of the Croatia national team between 2006-2012, while he was most recently in charge of Chinese Super League outfit Beijing Guoan.

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Promotion or bust for Bilic?

Bilic looks set to face a baptism of fire as Watford boss, as the Hornets will play 11 Championship matches between now and the middle of November, when the division breaks for the World Cup.

First up is a testing looking trip to the bet365 Stadium to take on Stoke City this Sunday, a match Watford are priced at 21/10 to win, while the hosts are 11/8 and the draw is 21/10.

There is also a clash with second-placed Norwich City set to come at Vicarage Road on 15th October that Bilic will already have marked on his calendar, although the only other team from the current top six who Watford will face between now and the World Cup will be Reading - on home turf on 8th November.

This could well prove a season-defining period for the Hornets and Bilic will be determined to hit the ground running.

They are 5/6 to finish the campaign in the top six, but that may not meet the minimum requirements of an expectant hierarchy at Vicarage Road.

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