Ken Sema interview: Rob Edwards is trying to bring dressing-room unity to Watford... I’ve never had that here

·4-min read
Ken Sema tells Standard Sport why Watford’s dressing room has been revamped  (Getty Images)
Ken Sema tells Standard Sport why Watford’s dressing room has been revamped (Getty Images)

Ken Sema has been at Watford long enough to know how things work.

Players and managers regularly come and go and, while such a model has proved largely successful over the years, it makes it difficult to create a sense of unity within the squad.

Last season there was certainly very little of that as Watford were relegated from the Premier League. The club had three head coaches over the course of a turbulent campaign and midfielder Dan Gosling recently described it as “easily the worst dressing room I’ve ever been a part of”.

New manager Rob Edwards, however, is trying to change that and unite the squad.

Sema has been at Watford for four years and this summer was the first time he can remember taking part in team-bonding activities, with the squad going white-water rafting. Team dinners have taken place too and players have been urged to speak about life away from football, so they can build connections.

“We haven’t done it so much in this club because of the change of managers,” Sema tells Standard Sport.

“Sometimes people are here three months, and they don’t have time to do team activities because they’re focused on getting results.

“Rob is trying, but it will take time. You can’t think it will change today and all of a sudden everything is just amazing. But this way, it looks and feels like it’s the right way.

“It’s very important to not only have good players but have good people. It’s the person who makes the player, it’s not the player who makes the person, for me.

“You can have a player who is decent, but an amazing human being, and the player will grow. But if you take a player who is very, very good - but as a person he’s not really fitting the team - it will be like a bad apple for the group.”

Rob Edwards is the new man in charge at Watford (Getty Images)
Rob Edwards is the new man in charge at Watford (Getty Images)

Some of the difficulties in making a unified group come from players all being different nationalities. Sema admits players naturally gravitate towards those from the same place, but there is a sense that could be changing now after the pain of relegation last season.

“When you are in the Premier League again you have all that buzz, but then it was a really bad season,” he says.

“We had three coaches in one season, and you can’t really do that to get the results. You have to have one game plan, maybe two, but three is kind of a lot - and it was three completely different coaches.

“Xisco [Munoz] was energetic, smiled a lot, all about happiness and trying to be the best version of yourself. [Claudio] Ranieri was experienced, he’d won the Premier League before, he’d been around, and he was a little bit old school. It was a different path from Xisco.

“Roy [Hodgson] was also completely different to Xisco, but when he came, he came to try and save the team - but the team was in a bad place already.

Roy Hodgson (PA Wire)
Roy Hodgson (PA Wire)

“People were against each other. Some players that didn’t play were really angry. So, when he came in it felt like there was already a bad air and he was trying to fix it, but he was maybe too late.”

The mood has lifted under Edwards, who players have warmed to due to his personal approach. Sema says it reminds him of when Xisco was appointed, with the Spaniard particularly popular among the squad.

Edwards has also spent time drilling players on his football philosophy, with the young coach eager for Watford to be attacking. That will certainly be music to the ears of fans at Vicarage Road, who had to endure their side losing 15 of their 19 home games in the Premier League last season.

“It was bad. You can be honest, it was terrible,” says Sema, when asked about the difficult home form.

“I have been here a long time and the last time we played in the Championship; the home pitch was our ground. We couldn’t really lose at home. So, we knew at home we will beat all the teams with confidence.

I still believe our home is very special, we have to beat teams at home.

“In the Premier League it was the opposite, at the end of the season it felt like a bad air. You couldn’t do anything at home and home used to be our safe spot. But I still believe our home is very special. We can’t complain about anything, and we have to beat teams at home.”

The hope is that can change in the Championship, with Watford kicking off their season against Sheffield United at Vicarage Road on Monday night.

“Rob is a good guy, and he likes to create a group, who will try to come closer with each other,” says Sema. “He is trying to create something special.”