Earlier this week, Gianfranco Zola resigned from his post as Watford manager after a miserable run of form that saw the Hertfordshire club slide to 12th place in the Sky Bet Championship, losing 5 straight home games in the process. Giuseppe Sannino, the man tasked with getting the Hornets’ season back on track, picked up a point in his first game in charge away at Ipswich yesterday afternoon, but many fans will still be wondering who he is. Footy Blog takes a look at the passionate Italian and his career so far.
Guiseppe Sannino (or ‘Beppe’ as he is also known), was born in Ottaviano, a small town about 20 kilometres from Naples in the south of Italy, on the 30th of April 1957. The 56-year-old enjoyed a relatively unspectacular playing career as an attacking midfielder. In all, he played for 10 different clubs over 13 years, mostly in the lower reaches of the Italian football league system. He arguably enjoyed the best spell of his playing days with AC Voghera between 1979 and 1982, making 65 appearances for the club and scoring 18 goals. The last season of his career was spent with Virtus Entella, where he played 28 times and scored twice.
After retiring from football in 1988, Sannino took two years away from the game before making his first foray into coaching in 1990, when he was appointed youth coach of the U17 team at AC Voghera. Later, he took up another coaching role with a youth side, this time at Pavia, before securing his first managerial post in 1996 at amateur club Oltrepo, with whom he achieved a 6th place finish in what was to be his only season at the club.
He went on to manage 8 clubs over the next 13 years, with highlights including spells at Suditrol, Lecco Pergocrema and Varese.
At Suditrol, he led the club from the 5th tier of Italian football (Serie D) to the 4th (Serie C2), where they survived the following season. After a period without much success, he earned promotion with Lecco in 2006, taking them up to Serie C1. Sannino then left the club to move to Pergocrema, again succeeding in moving from Serie C2 to C1, before guiding Varese to two successful promotions, taking the Northern Italian club he began his playing days at to Serie B. During their first season in Serie B, Varese incredibly managed to finish in 4th place, earning them a shot at promotion to the Italian top division, but unfortunately they lost their semi-final tie against Padova.
Probably the highpoint of his career to date was the 2011-12 season which he spent with AC Siena in Serie A, taking over from Juventus-bound Antonio Conte. During his brief stint in charge of the Tuscan club, he guided the newly-promoted side to a highly respectable 14th place finish in the Italian top flight. They also reached the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia, where they were knocked out by eventual winners Napoli 3-2 on aggregate.
More recently Sannino has endured harder times. After his successful season at Siena, he agreed to take charge of fellow Serie A side Palermo in summer 2012, signing a two year deal. However, his time at the Sicilian club was to be extremely short-lived. Palermo earned just 1 point from their first 3 games of the 2012/13 season, and this was enough for Sannino to be shown the door. But, just a matter of months later, he was reinstated as manger of Palermo. Despite picking up a number of impressive results, most notably victories over Roma and Inter, his efforts weren’t enough to prevent relegation to Serie B, and he subsequently left the club.
His last post prior to being appointed as Watford manager was at Chievo. He joined the club at the start of July, but was relieved of his duties on the 11th of November, after a dreadful start to the season, which saw them pick up just 1 win and 6 points from their opening 12 fixtures in Serie A, leaving them bottom of the table.
Overall, Sannino’s managerial career has seen him take charge of 12 different clubs over 17 years.
Many fans have questioned why Sannino has been drafted in to replace Zola after being sacked 3 times in the last year, having no previous experience in England, and not being able to speak the language. His last appointment at Chievo lasted just over 4 months, with a poor start resulting in his sacking just over two months into the season. However, his two recent dismissals at Palermo should be taken somewhat with a pinch of salt. Nowhere is there better illustration of the short-term thinking that has come to characterise the 21st century football club than in Italy. Maurizio Zamparini, chairman of Palermo, is widely considered to be among the most impatient of chairmen alongside the likes of Massimo Moratti. Notorious for having very little patience, Palermo and Zamparini have got through a ridiculous total of 8 managers in the last two and a half years.
Much has also been made of the fact he was brought in so swiftly after Zola’s departure, with some claiming it was a hurried decision by the owners. Given the Pozzo family’s impressive achievements at their other clubs (Udinese in Italy and Granada in Spain), it is likely they had been considering possible alternatives to Zola for some time so as to have a contingency plan should there continue to be no improvement in results.
A large reason behind Sannino’s hiring by the Pozzo’s is thought to be his track record of gaining promotions. His teams over the years have also had a reputation for being disciplined and organised, an attribute that Watford could definitely make use of, having conceded 28 goals in their first 20 games this season prior to his arrival. In his first game in charge of the Hornets, he was tasked with a tough trip to Portman Road to face Ipswich, a game which they drew 1-1. ‘Beppe’ made 7 changes to the team that lost at home to Sheffield Wednesday last weekend, and also reverted to the 3-5-2 formation that served the Hornets so well last term in their agonisingly unsuccessful push for promotion via the playoffs.
For now the jury remains out on what Giuseppe Sannino’s tenure will bring for Watford, but what is certain is that change was needed at Vicarage Road. Watford fans must now get behind the new manager and hope for a considerably better second half of the season.