Forest Green furious as Watford appoint Rob Edwards as manager

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  • Forest Green say negotiations held ‘behind our backs’

  • Edwards to replace Roy Hodgson at end of season


Watford have appointed Rob Edwards as their next manager amid complaints from Forest Green Rovers that negotiations were held “behind our backs”. The League Two champions said the manner of Edwards’ departure had left them disappointed and accused Watford of “deceit”.

Watford claimed in response that Edwards’ contract allowed him to leave Rovers at any point and to discuss job offers, which Forest Green have denied. Watford have met what is understood to be a five-figure release clause even though Forest Green confirmed Edwards’ departure before a deal had been agreed.

Related: Forest Green Rovers’ electric ambition fuels promotion to League One | Ben Fisher

Edwards is to take over from Roy Hodgson, who will leave at the end of this season. The selection of the 39-year-old former Wales defender marks a significant change in the type of appointment typically made by Watford’s owners, the Pozzo family. He becomes the club’s ninth permanent manager in five years.

“Rob was a key part of the team that gained promotion to League One this season,” a Forest Green statement said. “We’re disappointed that our support, loyalty and honesty towards Rob has been repaid in this way – with negotiations taking place behind our backs. We had no contact from Watford, from whom we might expect less, but in any event this kind of behaviour gives football a bad name. We thank Rob for all his work at FGR – forgive him the manner of his departure and wish him well.”

Forest Green’s chairman, Dale Vince, said he had called Edwards on Tuesday evening as speculation mounted. “As soon as he started speaking, I knew that it was real,” Vince told Sky Sports News. “[He told me] that he had been in negotiations [with Watford] and felt it was a great opportunity for him.”

Watford responded in a statement by saying: “Rob had a contractual provision allowing him to leave Forest Green Rovers at any time to discuss employment opportunities at other clubs and the Hornets are delighted to confirm our discussions concluded today.”

Vince tweeted just over an hour later: “Watford can’t read a contract or are careless of the truth – there is no such provision – and how would it even make sense to leave a club before going [to] talk to another? He negotiated in secret and then left once he had the job. Watford are scrambling for cover, but there is none.”

Edwards coached Wolves’ Under-23s and England’s Under-16s before being given a chance by Forest Green to manage in the EFL and guided then to the title in his first campaign. He recently won the EFL League Two manager of the season award and said before the club’s final game of the season, at Mansfield last Saturday, that he saw himself staying to lead them into League One.

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Watford’s relegation to the Championship was confirmed last Saturday. “If there is karma in football, we will meet Watford in the Championship in a few years’ time,” Vince said.

Forest Green said before they appointed Edwards that they were open to having a female coach or recruiting “the kind of person perhaps that hasn’t been recruited before”. In 2019 they made Hannah Dingley the first woman to manage a men’s academy. “We have got a shortlist already and will just crack on with it,” Vince said.

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