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New Watford boss Valerien Ismael still looks out for West Brom's results

New Watford boss Valerien Ismael has revealed he still keeps an eye on Albion’s results after having support of ‘big majority’ of his former squad.

Valerien Ismael lasted just seven months at The Hawthorns
Valerien Ismael lasted just seven months at The Hawthorns

The Frenchman is back in English and Championship football for the first time since his Hawthorns axing in February 2022.

Between his stints at Albion and Watford Ismael, 47, was head coach at Turkish giants Besiktas, a role cut similarly short to his seven months in the Black Country.

Ismael won just 12 of 31 matches in his Baggies stint and was sacked well under a year into his four-year deal. Having previously shone so brightly at plucky Barnsley, who he led to the Championship play-offs in 2021, the former defender was unable to find consistent enough form at The Hawthorns.

Albion were fifth – in a play-off place – when Ismael was dismissed, but the head coach paid the price for an alarming run of form – just a single win in eight – and a style many saw as not easy on the eye. Long-term injury to key acquisition Daryl Dike, his former Barnsley striker, did not help.

Despite difficulties towards the end of his Baggies tenure, Ismael retains strong relations with ex-players and fond memories, though hinted support was not from every single squad member.

“The experiences were brilliant,” Ismael said. “I always look for Barnsley’s results, and for West Brom’s.

“I had a strong relationship with the players there. I stayed in touch with some players and this is a great feeling.

“It doesn’t mean that all 25 players always supported me but with the big, big majority we worked well together.”

Ismael was appointed in Istanbul less than a couple of months after his Albion exit but after eight wins, eight draws and three defeats and a poor run of form, one win in six league games, he was sacked last October.

He added: “One year in a club like Besiktas is like 10 years in another club with all the stress and the demands.

“It was a great opportunity. It was the right thing to do, to know another country, another culture, and the size of the club.

“I can really confirm that (Vodafone Park atmosphere). With my daughter, we bought some headphones because the noise is unbelievable. They start to whistle as soon as the opponent gets the ball. Even to speak with my players was so difficult.”

Ismael is the 19th boss appointed at Vicarage Road under the Pozzo family’s ownership since 2012.

While he has taken the plunge through the revolving Hornets door, the French coach will spend time in England alone, unaccompanied by his wife and two daughters, who are based in Munich, Germany, where exploring the surroundings and skiing are high on their agenda.

“We love the mountains, we love skiing, it’s the reason we live near the mountains,” he added.

“The girls are very good skiers. The older one won her first race in December.

“It is the only time when I can really switch off, with the girls, it’s the best time because you breathe the pure air, focus on the kids, focus on your safety (wellbeing), but I feel the difference as soon as I come back home, my brain focused on football, watch every game, UK, Europe, everywhere.”

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