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What next for Rob Edwards?

Rob Edwards was dismissed by trigger-happy Watford after just 10 league games
Rob Edwards was dismissed by trigger-happy Watford after just 10 league games

Rob Edwards is looking for work in management after being sacked just 10 league games into his Watford career.

The Pozzo’s had proclaimed their support for Edwards, who had led Forest Green Rovers to the League Two title in his only season in senior management, saying they would back him “through hell or high water”.

What did they experience in those 10 games that was worse than hell or high water? Perhaps they were saying they would back him through hell or high water, but not both. But then those in hell might welcome the high water to put a few fires out.

Either way, Edwards’ stock is unaffected by his short-lived tenure at Vicarage Road, because Watford have always had a reputation for changing managers often, and fans are frustrated: many golden boys and girls are planning peaceful protests against the ownership regime.

While the former England Under-16s boss may not have quite enough credit to go for a Premier League job, like Bournemouth, he could likely go back into the Championship – he’s not going to Colchester, realistically.

There are, however, two vacancies in the second-tier: Rotherham and Cardiff…

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Rotherham?

Before looking at the arguments for Edwards going to Rotherham, it’s important to consider the obvious detracting factors.

The first one would be that Mark Bonner didn’t end up moving, even though he had had conversations with the Millers and there was definite interest from their side.

If the only factor behind that move not going through was because Bonner didn’t want to leave his boyhood club, Cambridge United, and the people he knows there, it could be inferred that the interview wouldn’t have happened in the first place – or certainly not got to the stage where some claimed it was close to a done deal.

That then leaves us with the possibility that there is another factor that stopped a League One manager from going for a Championship club, that has lost just one of their first nine games.

The indications are that while one or two cited compensation as a stumbling block, that doesn’t quite add up because the South Yorkshire outfit received it themselves from Derby for Paul Warne, Richie Barker, Matt Hamshaw and Andy Warrington.

Plus, it’s unlikely that Bonner would have been put off by Rotherham’s budgetary limitations, because he has thrived against the odds previously and is a very flexible, pragmatic coach, who can adapt to his resources and circumstances.

That leads us to the possibility that Bonner wanted more from Rotherham, in terms of a strategy, a vision and a smart operation.

The 36-year-old speaks three or four times a day with Ben Strang, who is one of the top Sporting Directors in the EFL, and may have felt the Millers were missing an equivalent.

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Why is this relevant to Edwards? He, too, worked with a great Director of Football in Richard Hughes, which allowed him to focus on what he does best: coaching, and managing the first team.

Rotherham’s structure is different.

Rob Scott has done an excellent job as Head of Talent ID, because the Millers’ strong recruitment this summer has massively boosted their chances of staying up this time around, but there’s ambiguity over who takes on the responsibilities that would normally be handed to a Sporting Director, Director of Football or Head of Football Operations.

It could be that Bonner, and others who look at the Rotherham vacancy, want somebody who oversees the whole operation and keeps things running smoothly on a day-to-day basis.

From that perspective, it could be argued that the job might appeal more to experienced manager who wants a level of control, as opposed to a young, ambitious coach.

The other question mark around Edwards’ suitability for the job would be whether he is too tactically idealistic.

The 39-year-old had success with Forest Green employing an expansive, 3-4-1-2 formation with extremely attacking wing-backs, and he stuck to that system at Watford even though he didn’t have the personnel for it.

On the one hand, the board left Edwards with an imbalanced squad and should be blamed for that, on the other, he was unable to find a formula with what he had.

Rotherham’s squad has been assembled with a fraction of the budget of Watford’s, so there is the danger that Edwards would struggle to adapt, and perhaps that was why they wanted more of a pragmatist in Bonner.

At the same time, it’s also arguable that the Millers have a squad closer to what Edwards wants idealistically than some might assume.

Firstly, they have two athletic wing-backs in Brooke Norton-Cuffy, on loan from Arsenal, and Cohen Bramall, who have both had a great start to the season.

They have more ball-playing quality in their defence than they have had previously, thanks to the signings of Jamie McCart, Cameron Humphrys and, to an extent, Grant Hall.

Plus, Rotherham have a midfield playmaker in Dan Barlaser, as well as a pressing #10 – crucial to an Edwards side – in Oli Rathbone.

In fact, Rotherham have been playing largely a 3-5-2 under Paul Warne since the start of last season, or the occasional variation of that, so formation wise it wouldn’t take huge upheaval.

Plus, the fact the Millers are currently eighth in the Championship but not expected to challenge for the Play-Offs, means Edwards wouldn’t be walking into a relegation battle, nor would he be under pressure to deliver results from the get-go.

Cardiff?

Steve Morison was sacked as Cardiff manager just 10 games into the season, with his side in a respectable position after a summer overhaul.

The Bluebirds had accrued 11 points from those league encounters, and while they had not scored as many goals as they wanted – just the seven – they had been creating chances in some of the games and missed a clinical centre-forward.

From that standpoint, Morison’s dismissal seemed very harsh.

There may have been issues behind the scenes which led to the decision, extending beyond the evidence on the pitch: more to the story than meets the eye? Possibly.

Either way, Cardiff would represent an opportunity for Edwards to go straight back into another Championship job.

Football Tips

Plus, he would have the chance to work with former Crewe stars Perry Ng and Ryan Wintle, who would be perfect for his style of football.

Ng is a mobile, intelligent, technical outside centre-back who is ideal for progressing play from deep, while Wintle can run games in a deep-lying playmaker role, so could the more experienced Romaine Sawyers.

Edwards may be tempted to convert Jaden Philogene-Bidace and Callum O’Dowda, who operated wide in a midfield four in Morison’s 5-4-1, into extremely attacking wing-backs akin to Kane Wilson and Nicky Cadden at FGR.

Plus, he would be nurturing Premier League potential in Rubin Colwill, who could be granted a new lease of life under fresh management.

The other connection in Edwards’ favour is that he played for Wales 15 times due to having two Welsh parents, so should find it easy to settle in the capital.

On top of that, his knowledge of the youth circuit could benefit Cardiff in the recruitment process, as they look to rebuild under a talented, young manager – it could be a nice fit…

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