Watford head coach Rob Edwards is seeing his decision to take up the vacancy at Vicarage Road pay off.
The 39-year-old make the switch from Forest Green Rovers in the summer, after the Gloucestershire team took the Sky Bet League Two crown to ascend to Sky Bet League One for the first time in the Club’s history, catching the eye of EFL returnees the Hornets.
And the former England Under-16s coach, who had a spell as Wolverhampton Wanderers Under-23s coach, acknowledged the risk he took in taking his next steps in his managerial career.
“I thought life’s about living and you’ve got to take some risks, and I’ve taken quite a lot of risks actually in my coaching journey so far,” he explained.
“When I retired, I worked for nothing for a year and took a risk. I went to the FA on less money than I’d have been on at Wolves, but I’ve got to take some risks, and this will help me to where I want to go.
“This came along, and I thought, ‘why can’t we be the ones that get it going?’ I don’t want to live with any regrets and look back in a year’s time when somebody else takes the job and the Club gets promoted and I think, ‘that could’ve been me.’ If it doesn’t work out, it won’t be through the lack of trying. I’m going to give absolutely everything for us to try and be successful.”
The Hornets kicked off their Sky Bet Championship campaign with a 1-0 win over Sheffield United on home soil. João Pedro scored the only goal of the game as Edwards’ side claimed maximum points on Monday evening.
“Throughout the day, because it was an eight o’clock kick-off, I was more nervous the earlier in the day,” he said. “As the day went on, I calmed and grew to look forward to it more. When we came out, the atmosphere was amazing; the welcome we got from the supporters was incredible and it settled me right down.
“We’re lucky that we’ve got a really talented group, but we have got an X-factor about us at the moment in those areas of the pitch, and they showed it at times the other night. We know that with them, we’re certainly strong.”
It will be no easy start for Edwards and his team. Next up for the Hornets is a trip to fellow promotion hopefuls West Bromwich Albion before they host Burnley, who also suffered relegation from the top-flight last season, next Friday.
“They’re difficult games and we spoke about that after the game,” he added. “The obvious answer is that we know we play everyone twice, but we also recognise that they are big games, and we probably expect those teams to be up there at the end of the season. It gets the best out of us and our lads because they’ll be motivated.”
But Edwards highlighted the importance of recognising the human beings behind the footballers, which was how he got the most out of his promotion-winning Forest Green side.
“The most important thing are the people, and that’s where Richie [Kyle] and I have done well,” he continued. “We’ve been really open with everyone and the focus has been on the people, whether that’s the human side of the players and the staff at the Football Club, we want to try and bring people together.
“A lot of our lads are extremely normal lads who are very grounded and very humble, and I’m really lucky to be working with them – very much like our lads were at Forest Green.
“All of the players are motivated by improving and playing at the highest level, so how can I help them do that? Rather than flipping it around and saying, ‘this is what I want from you.’ The majority of the lads have talked about honesty and giving them our time, and that’s pretty much what all of them wanted and that’s what we try and do.”
Watford’s pre-season tour marked a turning point for the Club, who worked on their team bonding activity before the 2022/23 campaign got underway.
And the Telford-born boss is hoping that unity will shine through on the pitch this season.
“When we went to Austria, we did some kayaking down the river in the morning,” he said. ”I said to the boys, ‘I want everyone to be a part of this. We’ve talked about togetherness and spirit. It’s important that we all do it.’ At first, one or two of them were a bit unsure, but once we got there, we had a really good laugh.
“Then we went for a brilliant barbecue in the evening in the mountains and had a few songs. It was a bit different to what they’d done before, being able to switch off.
“Going into the season, there’s nothing better for that than winning football matches with results. You build on that with belief, and we’ve made a good start.”