I agree, but he also took up FGR with record points and won L2 manager of the year, all in his first job, so that has to count for something. Indeed, it obviously did in Watfords case because they hired him - it's rare to see any manager move from L2 to a club pushing for the PL, especially one with the resources they have.Coaching kids is very different from being a success at this level. I am quite adept on google but still can’t find mch. We will be taking a massive risk if we bring him in. A job for the boys springs to mind.
I'm not advocating him as the best choice, I'm not convinced if I'm honest, but it remains that his reputation is that of a forward thinking, modern young coach.
I've had a quick look and found this on The Athletic, which is always reputable I think, after he was appointed by Watford.
As Watford’s squad prepared at the team hotel for Wednesday evening’s match against Everton, the club’s hierarchy were finalising who would succeed Roy Hodgson. It was a day of negotiations that quickly gathered pace and ended with the appointment of Forest Green Rovers head coach Rob Edwards.
The day included grievances aired by the 39-year-old’s former club, where he’d recently secured the League Two title and been named manager of the season, which clouded a move that one of Edwards’ former team-mates says his entire career has been “geared to”.
The bone of contention between the two clubs was whether a clause existed in Edwards’ contract — which ran until 2024 — allowing him to leave if a club from the Championship or the Premier League came calling. If that scenario occurred, the premise was that the new suitor would pay Forest Green a compensation amount equal to six months of Edwards’ salary.
Watford insist the clause did exist and reflected their belief in their official announcement. It’s understood that the effective six months’ notice payment has to be paid within 30 days. Forest Green dispute that this is the case, even though owner Dale Vince alluded to a compensation fee equivalent to “half a year’s salary” that the club would be due when he carried out a series of media interviews.
Edwards informed Vince of his desire to leave on Tuesday evening, before Watford emailed Forest Green on Wednesday morning to instigate negotiations over the settlement figure. The newly promoted League One side appear to have been more upset about the manner of Edwards’ acquisition. “This is not about compensation. That isn’t the bit Dale and the club care about. It’s honesty and integrity — Watford seem to possess neither,” a source at Forest Green reiterated after Watford’s official announcement. “Integrity and honesty is in our contract.”
Negotiations had accelerated with Edwards after Forest Green’s final match of the season, a 2-2 draw with Mansfield that secured the League Two title, with meetings taking place with Watford’s hierarchy to discuss the deal. Edwards’ energy, general positive demeanour and hunger to take — as one source put it — “a big opportunity” during meetings is said to have impressed the hierarchy. Once he was on board, it’s understood Forest Green assistant head coach Richie Kyle also agreed to join due to a similar agreement in his contract.
Kyle was previously first team coach at Blackpool and coached in the England set-up with Edwards. They both worked as in-possession and out-of-possession specialist coaches — “a strategy recognised by many experts and pundits as a key factor in the national team’s improved performance at youth level”, Forest Green explained when the pair were appointed in June 2021. It was then introduced into the club’s training philosophy.
At the time, Forest Green director of football Richard Hughes said that Edwards already had “a great coaching pedigree and is recognised for his progressive views on the future of the game”. Vince, meanwhile, felt the former Wales international and his assistant were “at the cutting edge of the game” and had “an understanding and openness to all aspects of coaching — like sports science and analytics”.
The proposal from Watford to Edwards, which was eventually agreed and signed, was a two-year contract with the option of a further year. Watford wanted to close the appointment not only to beat other interested parties — at least three other clubs were also keen — but also to try and give fans something to look forward to. After their 1-0 defeat at Selhurst Park on Saturday, the aim was always to try and have someone confirmed before Wednesday night’s game against Everton.
Rob Edwards, Forest Green
Watford’s new head coach Rob Edwards is held aloft by his players after securing promotion to League One with Forest Green Rovers in April (Photo: Simon Galloway/PA Images via Getty Images)
In the match programme, chairman/CEO Scott Duxbury’s column highlighted that target. “The announcement of the appointment of our new head coach, who will lead us from the very moment the final whistle blows next week at Chelsea, is something that marks out a future path.” The lack of Edwards’ name in the column stuck a flag in the fact that the programme went to press before a final decision was made.
Edwards found himself in the final two shortlisted candidates alongside former Watford captain John Eustace. The Queens Park Rangers assistant manager and his representatives also held a series of meetings with Watford’s hierarchy, and a deal is understood to have been agreed in principle but negotiations ended on Wednesday morning when the decision was made to opt for Edwards instead.
It’s understood that talks broke down due to an issue with the contractual terms, which ended up being a deal-breaker for both parties. Sources at QPR confirmed to The Athletic that Eustace is still on the list of candidates to be interviewed for their now-vacant managerial role after Mark Warburton’s departure.
The end game was the result of a process that had begun in mid-April, with the club’s focus shifting onto recruiting a young, up-and-coming British head coach. Watford’s hierarchy began a search and long lists of candidates were drawn up. Sporting director Cristiano Giaretta is understood to have taken a leading role, reporting into owner Gino Pozzo, but there was also input from Duxbury in addition to former sporting director Luke Dowling, who acted as a consultant, as well as other backroom staff.
Behind the scenes, due diligence was carried out on a number of candidates, including speaking to players and colleagues that could give insight into the pros and cons of those in the mix. Agents were sounded out to discover what level of compensation may be due.
For the first time in the Pozzo era, Watford accepted that to get the right candidate, they would need to stump up some cash. That said, sources close to Eustace intimated that even though the 42-year-old may demand a higher salary having come from a Championship club, QPR were unlikely to ask for compensation if the club-to-club negotiation stage had been reached.
Watford wanted a head coach that would be able to make the transition to a more possession-based game, which will naturally come in the Championship. Edwards’ body of work at Forest Green, often using a back three with wing-backs (in a 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 formation), with a high press and a large number of crosses into the box, were analysed. Edwards ability to quickly engender confidence in his squad whilst building a camaraderie with players and staff were also seen as being positives.
Although other candidates were looked into, including MK Dons’ Liam Manning and Swansea’s Russell Martin — two candidates that would have certainly commanded higher compensation figures — it was deemed that Edwards’ progressive philosophy would be malleable enough to suit the current squad, which may struggle with an extreme shift to a totally new way of playing. One source within the club advised that it could take a couple of transfer windows to accompany a more gradual change in playing style.
Although it’s known that the Watford hierarchy have built the current first-team squad to predominantly favour a 4-3-3 and particularly be built around Ismaila Sarr on the right, with the Senegalese expected to leave this summer, they may tailor it be able to adapt to a selection of approaches. “All the signals are good,” explained one source close to the process. “Now the club needs to follow through with it.”
Having had the majority of his playing career in the Championship, and having coached in the division, were seen as additional ticks in boxes for Edwards. Those factors were described by one club insider as positive because he knows the terrain and the long-distance race that needs to be negotiated. His recent fourth-tier success and his experience as a No 1 also worked in his favour.
Rob Edwards, Blackpool
As a player, Edwards (centre) won promotion to the Premier League with Blackpool via the Championship play-offs in 2010 (Photo: Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images)
“They’ve appointed a very talented young coach; I know exactly what he’s done at Forest Green,” said outgoing manager Roy Hodgson. “I know the success he’s had there and that will be a good move for the club.
“I haven’t had any input in the direction that the club should take. All I can do is wish him well and if he’s seen the game (against Everton), he would have seen enough in that group to believe that (he) can get them back into the Premier League.”
Edwards’ first coaching role in senior football came in 2015 when, after impressing as Wolves’ under-18s boss, he was handed a first-team coaching job under former Watford manager and player Kenny Jackett, and his assistant Joe Gallen.
Edwards was only 32 at the time but soon made an impression in his role working with Wolves’ back line, trying to improve their defensive application and distribution.
“The players respected him straight away and it was seamless for him,” Jackett tells The Athletic. “What stood out with Rob was he was very clear and concise in his communication. He had a good way about him in terms of delivery. He was definitely ambitious to do that and go as far as he could in his coaching career.”
Edwards had a book he would constantly make notes in: on training, on methods and what worked well or not at Wolves. “He was extremely enthusiastic, full of energy, and he had progressive ideas on the training ground,” Jackett’s assistant Joe Gallen explains. “You could tell from day one that he wanted to be a manager… mostly because he kept telling us! Literally every day. I would just tell him to shut up.”
“We had a great working relationship and it was clear he was very ambitious and had a lot of self-belief, which he carries well but he can laugh at himself, too. He was always picking Kenny’s brains. I don’t know if I’ve got any brains but he was trying to pick them anyway. You could tell he was building for the future.”
Watford are a club Jackett knows well. Living just a stone’s throw away from the training ground, he won’t be far away to lean on either.
“Rob has now worked at under-18 level, under-23, as a first team coach, a non-League manager, a League Two manager, and he’s got his experience with the England youth set-up,” he says.
“That’s a really good grounding and he’ll now sum up the Championship pretty quickly. He’ll get good backing inside the club and from the crowd, who will be ready to get behind him, a young, fresh manager. It’s good to see someone from League Two given this opportunity. He’ll embrace the step up in standard.”
When Jackett and Gallen left the club in 2016, Edwards was retained as part of successor Walter Zenga’s staff, a request of the club, who could see the young coach’s potential. Then, when Zenga was sacked three months later, Edwards was suddenly put in temporary charge of the first team for matches against Derby and Blackburn.
“He completely changed things,” former Wolves midfielder Dave Edwards says. “He knew he had one crack at being in charge and playing the way he wanted to… honestly, the training sessions were incredible.
“He had two games in charge and the first was against Blackburn at Ewood Park; we absolutely battered them, created a hatful of chances, and all of the patterns of play were off the back of three or four sessions at the training ground.
“If he was manager full-time, we’d have been a top team. It was just unfortunate, the Derby game a week later, we conceded some goals and a lot went against us. We lost 3-2.
“But he was so impressive as a coach. The way he wants to play football is very intelligent; attacking, pace, through the phases, but wants to keep the ball as well.”
Paul Lambert replaced Zenga and, again, Edwards stayed in the first-team coaching group, only leaving to take his plunge into management with Wolves’ feeder club AFC Telford United when Lambert was sacked in 2017.
Rob Edwards, Kenny Jackett, Wolves
Edwards worked as first team coach under Kenny Jackett at Wolves and also had a spell in caretaker charge of the club (Photo: Sam Bagnall – AMA/Getty Images)
Having kept in touch with Edwards, Jackett and Gallen came up against him on the touchline last season when Forest Green played Leyton Orient.
“At Forest Green, he really added a lot to what was a good set-up and a decent side,” says Jackett. “They’d fallen a bit short under Mark Cooper. He tweaked it slightly and added clarity. He had them very well set up, strong defensively, played it out from the back three. You could tell a lot of time and effort had gone into it.”
Gallen says Edwards’ experiences with Telford and England held him in good stead.
“The football they played (at Forest Green) was a credit to Rob. He made a good decision going there and now Watford, with a big budget for the Championship, is another good move for him,” says Gallen.
Dave Edwards calls the new Watford boss a “proper student of the game”, who has been heavily influenced by Pep Guardiola.
“He loved Pep. The amount of times he’d come up to me and say, ‘You have to watch the Man City game back’,” he says. “Every time somebody had a game plan to play against Man City, Pep would have the next plan ready to counteract it so other teams didn’t do the same. Rob loved that; out-thinking your opponent, the chess game, staying one step ahead.
“But he also loved the way Pep played; wingers high and wide, playing out from the back. In the short period he was (Wolves’ interim) manager, he had Matt Doherty and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson as full-backs playing in central areas when we had the ball, then the DM (defensive midfielder), Conor Coady, dropping into the back line to form a back three. Then me and George Saville were the two No 8s — really high, just like Man City.
“I remember those sessions and games so vividly. It was so new to us. He’s attacking, he wants goals and he wants to entertain.
“A year or so later, I was at Reading playing under Jaap Stam and I had Rob on the phone four or five times in the first couple of months I was there. Jaap’s football was out of the ordinary and he wanted to know everything about how he worked, gaining as much information and knowledge as possible.”
The pair have kept in touch and spoke at length on the phone recently before former midfielder Edwards commentated on a Forest Green Rovers game.
“Everything has been gearing towards this for Rob,” he adds. “Wolves, Telford, England, Forest Green… nothing will surprise him too much now. He knows how to work with big characters. His knowledge of football is incredible. He looks at how other coaches work, he reads articles, books; he’s indulged himself in football.
“That can be the one positive of having to given up a football career so young. He’s been studying and coaching for so long now, he’s effectively a 45- or 46-year-old in coaching terms. He knows football but delivering those ideas on the training pitch is something else, and he’s pretty unbelievable at it.”