Time to focus on Cup: Flores

Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores celebrates with his players after the 1-0 Premier League win over West Bromwich Albion last weekend.
Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores celebrates with his players after the 1-0 Premier League win over West Bromwich Albion last weekend.PHOTO: REUTERS

Watford boss' future overshadows team's bid to reach first FA Cup final for 32 years

LONDON • Quique Sanchez Flores will ignore mounting speculation about his future as the under-fire Watford manager tries to save his job with a win over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup semi-finals today.

His team are looking to reach their first FA Cup final for 32 years, but reports that Watford's owners are unhappy with their poor recent form threaten to cast a shadow over the big day at Wembley.

Despite securing Premier League survival and enjoying a fine Cup run, Flores' hold on his position suddenly appears tenuous after just three league wins this year.

The Hornets' owner Gino Pozzo is not averse to changing managers, with Flores his fifth appointment in the space of 12 months when he was hired last year to replace Slavisa Jokanovic.

But the 51-year-old Spaniard insists he has tuned out the rumours to focus on how to beat Palace.

"This is the time to talk about Watford, to talk about Watford fans and how important this match is for this club," Flores said.

A PAT ON THE BACK

He's an outstanding manager and for what he has done as a foreign manager in his first season in the Premier League, it's an outstanding job.

ALAN PARDEW, Crystal Palace manager, on how Flores has done a good job at Watford.

"It is not the time to talk about me. The only thing I am worried about is this match."

Flores' fall from grace is surprising after he was widely praised in the first half of the season for quickly establishing Watford as a competitive force in their first season back in the top flight.

Palace manager Alan Pardew, for one, believes that the Spaniard ought to be rewarded by his club with a new, improved contract.

"He's an outstanding manager and for what he has done as a foreign manager in his first season in the Premier League, it's an outstanding job," Pardew said.

"They should give him a pat on the back and a bumper new deal. And I'm sure they will."

Palace are favourites to progress to the final in part because of Pardew's experience in taking West Ham United that far in 2006 and because he played for Palace at Wembley in 1990 against Manchester United, scoring the winning goal in the semi-finals.

"I'm hoping I don't need my experience," the former Newcastle United manager said.

"But don't underestimate my rival. What I really admire about him is that he's embraced the English game.

"He hasn't tried to force the Watford team to do something they're not used to doing. They play a British way, he's stuck with it and not tried to alter it and that's been their strength."

Watford, though, have lost four of their five previous FA Cup semi-finals.

However, Pardew is wary. He said: "It's going to be a tight game. Their front two (Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo) can do such damage they can make up for any deficiency they have defensively."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 24, 2016, with the headline 'Time to focus on Cup: Flores'. Print Edition | Subscribe