Belfast Telegraph

Watford coach Walter Mazzarri not worried about the sack after another defeat

Watford head coach Walter Mazzarri once again refuted the notion he is fighting to save his job after they lost for the sixth time in eight games at Stoke.

On the night Mike Phelan was axed by Hull, the favourite to be the next man sacked among his Premier League peers witnessed his team beaten 2-0 at the bet365 Stadium thanks to goals from Ryan Shawcross and Peter Crouch.

The Hornets slid down the table around this time last season under Quique Sanchez-Flores and fears of a repeat have increased the pressure on ex-Napoli and Inter Milan boss Mazzarri at a club where managers' shelf-life has been typically short under the Pozzo family.

Mazzarri had stated after Sunday's 4-1 loss to Tottenham that he did not fear his reign being ended in a similar fashion to his predecessors, and here he pointed to the fact he believes the Hornets, who have been ravaged by injuries, are for once looking at a long-term project with him at the helm.

"I don't feel under pressure because I speak with the owner every day," said the Italian.

"We know what our objective is and we're not only looking at the next five or six matches, we are looking at the next three years.

"When you look at all the injuries we have, it is difficult to get results in the Premier League. Now we have to take this occasion to look and work for the future.

"The important thing is to keep fighting for the next games. I liked the way our fans behaved because they understood the moment we're in and they supported us until the end and this is very important for us.

"There were only two incidents for them that changed the result because they managed to score both. We were not lucky."

From Stoke's perspective, it was a victory they ground out in robust fashion having finished 2016 by conceding four goals in back-to-back games.

Neither effort was particularly eye-catching either. Shawcross' first in two years and two days found a way past Heurelho Gomes at the near post before Charlie Adam's second-half cross somehow got past Sebastian Prodl and went in off Crouch, who is now two away from 100 Premier League goals.

"Let's hope he can get to the century, i t's something that's important to him," said Potters boss Mark Hughes.

"He wants to be one of the very few British players that have scored 100 Premier League goals and he deserves to get there because he's been a top striker for a long time at this level.

"This is my fourth season here and I haven't seen any diminishing of the qualities of Peter Crouch since I've been here and I don't anticipate we will see anything happening in that regard in the next 12 to 18 months."

The 35-year-old's deal is up in the summer and the discussion is now on whether he will stay on, even though he had not scored in 19 months before netting against Chelsea on New Year's Eve.

"We are speaking about it, we've got the option to do that and clearly when he's playing well and scoring goals that's helping his case," Hughes added.

"Pete isn't just in the squad because he's a good guy, he's in it first and foremost because he's a very good Premier League footballer. The bonus that he is one of the most popular guys in football is great.

"He's got no ego, he just comes in and does his work. He was frustrated. He's been in a couple of times and banged on my door and asked for the reasons why he wasn't playing.

"I just had to tell him he was a valued member of the squad and he would get game time and thankfully I have been able to back that statement up."

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