Can 'Tinkerman' Ranieri get the Hornets buzzing once again?

Can 'Tinkerman' Ranieri get the Hornets buzzing once again?

Italian coach Claudio Ranieri. (Photo: AFP)
Italian coach Claudio Ranieri. (Photo: AFP)

The autumn international breaks are traditionally a time when struggling Premier League managers begin nervously looking over their shoulders, and for good reason.

Even so, it was something of a surprise when Xisco Munoz got the axe last weekend with his Watford team a passable 15th in the league table.

But of course it is Watford and we have become used to the permanently swinging door at Vicarage Road since Gino Pozzo took over in 2012.

Under the Italian's reign, there have been 13 managerial changes, highlighted by Billy McKinlay who lasted just eight days in 2014. McKinlay was said to be "bemused" by the decision.

Despite the dismissal record, many were still surprised at the Munoz sacking, including Munoz himself, considering he had only recently won them promotion from the Championship.

Watford had also enjoyed a reasonable start to the campaign for a newly-promoted club including victories against Aston Villa and Norwich.

But the owner saw a "negative trend" in the team's performances. There was also an underlying feeling amongst Watford fans that the team was struggling and a change was needed.

That change has come in the form of the much-travelled Claudio Ranieri, who needs no introduction.

The 69-year-old Italian has been around a bit having managed more than 20 clubs in his time, the latest being a successful spell at Sampdoria.

He has signed a two-year deal with the Hornets, although few expect it to last the distance.

The appointment has been generally welcomed, not just amongst Watford fans but almost everyone who follows English football.

Most fans seem to have a soft spot for Ranieri, one of the more popular foreign managers in English football since his early days at Chelsea back in 2000. He even had a sausage named after him at Leicester.

However, some will note Ranieri's last stint in the Premier League a couple of seasons ago did not work out very well. He was sacked after 17 games and Fulham went on to be relegated.

Of course, that extraordinary 2015/16 season when Ranieri took Leicester City to the title against all odds (5,000-1 at the start of the season) will never be forgotten.

The moment he brought opera singer Andrea Bocelli to perform Nessun Dorma at the King Power stadium at the end of the triumphant season still brings tears to many eyes.

But it is more than that success with the Foxes. Ranieri is a charming fellow and has come across as a true gentleman, not only at Leicester, but also Chelsea and Fulham despite being sacked by all three clubs.

At Chelsea, his frequent rotation of players earned him the media nickname of the "Tinkerman" and he had to ask his English tutor what it meant. He later commented that he was a "thinkerman, not a tinkerman."

Ranieri's struggles with the English language while at Chelsea are legendary, but he worked hard to overcome them which was appreciated by the fans.

He even referred to himself as a "dead man walking" when he realised new Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was about to sack him.

Ranieri is a man of compassion and all proceeds of his book about his Chelsea days, Proud Man Walking, went to a children's hospital in London.

This does not mean that he is a softie and he will have to be quite ruthless and make tough decisions as he tries to sort out Watford's many woes.

When he was at Leicester, Ranieri told the players: "Even if you can't always play well, one thing I want is your character, your spirit." He is going to need all of that at Watford.

It is not going to be easy and the immediate fixture list is little short of a nightmare.

It begins with a visit by Liverpool to Vicarage Road next Saturday, with Everton away the following week.

A home game against Southampton could offer some respite but then it's away to Arsenal, home to Manchester United and away to Leicester.

If that's not enough, Chelsea and Manchester City also await.

If Ranieri comes out of that still smiling he will have done remarkably well.

Munoz is the first Premier League manager to be sacked this season and certainly won't be the last. There are several gaffers who must be feeling a little uncomfortable at the moment.

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