People

Football: To Flores, football is about feelings too

Quique Flores
Quique Flores

LONDON • Watford's many-layered manager, Quique Flores, loves cinema and lists his three favourite films as: A Beautiful Mind, 21 Grams and Crash, complex studies in human nature garlanded with 16 Oscar nominations and seven eventual awards. What makes people tick fascinates Flores.

The Spaniard will have spent hours assessing Tottenham's strengths and weaknesses before the game at Vicarage Road today, preparing his Watford players meticulously in terms of tactics before then appealing "to their soul".

Cynics who would dismiss such emotional engagement have not seen the Premier League table, showing Flores' team just three points off the Champions League positions.

"It's about the skin, the feelings," the 50-year-old explains. "I give the players at Watford full, full, full tactical instructions but the most important thing is their heart. These players have soul and ambition.

"In terms of the heart and soul, I can't separate Odion Ighalo or Troy Deeney, Ben Watson or Miguel Britos, Ikechi Anya or any of the players here. All of them transmit spirit."

A SPECIAL CONNECTION

If we are attacking and we lose the ball, and we make high pressing immediately and recover the ball in seconds, we are going to create a very good emotion in the stands.We need to engage with the fans. We are playing for the fans.

QUIQUE FLORES, Watford manager

Hailing from a famous family of footballers, artists, dancers and musicians, he understands the mentality of the performer and the stadium as a theatre.

To him, Vicarage Road is the Old Vic (a famous London theatre).

"I can see the connection between art and football," he says.

"You are doing a show for the people. We are preparing our script, our plan every day at the training ground.

"We go to Vicarage Road, our stage, and try to transmit something special for the fans. For me, Vicarage Road is a theatre. We perform.

"We create a great feeling. If we are attacking and we lose the ball, and we make high pressing immediately and recover the ball in seconds, we are going to create a very good emotion in the stands.

"I tell the players in training, 'Come on, this is good for the team and it is very good for our connection with the stands.' I love repeating it. We need to engage with the fans. We are playing for the fans.

"Maybe we are surprising other teams. But I'm not surprised because I respect the attitude of the players from the start. They work to be complete professionals."

For Flores, the athlete is flesh and blood, sinew and sentiment.

He said: "If I feel something is wrong with a player, I have 50 years' experience of life, they have 20 years', so I hope I can help players overcome some situations in their private life.

"They are young players, they need to enjoy their free time but they have to be completely focused here, on work."

Watford is no Woodstock. Flores is no free spirit as a coach; he makes ruthless decisions. Players know where they stand: Work hard, perform or face exile.

Those who buy into Flores' managerial style get total commitment in return, benefiting from an intelligent man's knowledge of the human psyche shaped by formative years surrounded by celebrated performers.

His father, Isidro, played in the same Real Madrid side as Alfredo di Stefano, who became Flores' godfather. His mother, Carmen, was a singer and dancer. His late aunt Lola was a renowned Flamenco dancer in Spain.

"I remember how hard they prepared," said Flores.

"It is like when I was five or six and went to watch my father play football, always giving his best.

"The values my parents gave me were, 'To fight a lot' and 'Work hard and success will come'. They were famous but they worked a lot."

He has used the same principles throughout his football career.

After 10 seasons at Valencia, collecting 15 caps, Flores spent two years at Real Madrid, winning La Liga with Fernando Hierro, Michael Laudrup and Raul in 1994-95.

He has coached at Getafe, Valencia, Benfica and Atletico Madrid (where he beat Fulham in the 2010 Europa League final) and now wants "to make good memories" at Vicarage Road.

So, what can he achieve with Watford this season?

"To be happy. Transmitting happiness to the stands," he says.

"We need to keep staying in the league, because we want Watford to grow a lot in the future. This is maybe - maybe - the most important year in the history of Watford."

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 28, 2015, with the headline 'To Flores, football is about feelings too'. Print Edition | Subscribe